Usually people tend to confuse film theory with film interpretation. They ‘re making a big mistake!
The use of technical language doesn’t transform the interpretation of individual films into theory. “Theory involves evolving categories and hypothesizing the existence of general patterns” (Noell Carroll).
Film theory should be a comprehensive instrument that is able to answer virtually every legitimate question about film. I doubt we have a legitimate instrument to study film. We have had so many different film theories, that we might come to think of film theory as a field of activity where many different projects at different levels of generality and abstraction coexist without being subsumed under a singular general theory.
Theories are framed today in specific historical contexts for the purpose of answering certain questions. In the 1970’s we saw the emergence of film-based semiotics, psychoanalisis, textual analysis and feminism; in the 1980’s post-structuralism, post-modernism, multiculturalism and the so called “identity politics” (gay/lesbian/queer studies). If we have so many approaches to film studies I would like to know why an inter-theoretical debate is so rare in the history of film theory !
How many film theorists can you name, who are noteworthy for their careful consideration of previous research? I can think only of Christian Metz. I hope you can prove me wrong soon!