January 08, 2020
Film-maker and theorist whose groundbreaking textbook was instrumental in launching a new academic disciplinePeter Wollen, who has died aged 81 after suffering from Alzheimer’s, did much to launch film studies in the UK and US. In 1967 the pioneering teacher Paddy Whannel invited him to join the British Film Institute’s education department, and while working there he wrote Signs and Meanings in the Cinema (1969). It has remained in print in successive editions since, and provided a basic text for the new academic discipline.
Peter Wollen obituary
The book contains essays on the director and theorist Sergei Eisenstein, rescuing him from the reputation of being Stalin’s propagandist and placing him among the avant-garde artists of the early Soviet era; on auteur theory, already proposed by French and American critics, underpinning the idea of tracing a consistent signature within routine commercial filmmaking; and on semiology, the study of signs, applied here to the language of film.
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