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Belton_Narration - [III/IIIIIIIII SELECT FILMOGRAPHY The...

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Unformatted text preview: [III/IIIIIIIII SELECT FILMOGRAPHY The Life of an American The Drive for Life (1909) Fireman (1903] The Lonely Villa (1909) After Many Years (1908) The Lonedale Operator (1911) Salvation Army Lass (1908) The Birth of a Nation (1915) SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY Bordwell, David, lanet Staiger, and Kristin Thompson. The Classical Holly- wood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960. New York: Columbia University Press, 1985. Bowser, Eileen. The Trausfonnalion of Cinema: 1907—1915. New York: Scribner, 1990. Brown, Karl. Adventures with D. W. Grifi‘ith. New York: Farrar, Straus 8r Giroux, 1973. Eckert, Charles. “The Carole Lombard in Macy's Window," Quarterly Revisit: of Film Studies 3, 1 (Winter 1978). Elsaesser, Thomas, ed. Early Cinema: Space, Frame, Narrative. London: BFI Publishing, 1990. Gomery, Douglas. Movie History: A Survey. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1991. . Shared Pleasures: A History of Movie Presentation in the United States. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1992. Gunning, Tom. "The Cinema of Attractions: Early Film, the Spectator and the Avant—Garde," and “Weaving a Narrative: Style and Economic Background in Griffith's Biograph Films," in Thomas Elsaesser, ed., Early Cinema: Space, Frame, Narrative. London: BFI Publishing, 1990. Hall, Ben M. The Best Remaining Beats.- The Story of the Golden Age of the Movie Palace. New York: Bramhall House, 1961. Hansen, Miriam. Babel 6‘ Babylon: Spectatorship in American Silent Film. Cam- - bridge: Harvard University Press, 1991. Kern, Stephen. The Culture of Time and Space, 1380—1918. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983. Koszarski, Richard. An Evening's Entertainnmnt: The Age of the Silent Feature Picture, 1915—1928. New York: ScribnEI, 1990. ‘ May, Larry. Screening Out the Past: Tlie_Birth of Mass Culture and the Motion Picture industry. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980. Mayne, Judith. "immigrants and Spectators," Wide Angle 5, 2 (1982). VIII/l- ' Mahogany. vulva mmmwdw.mmw.g_e__m r.‘é\(.tn¥n‘-'Jflfl fussy s‘s‘.‘ serum .= culirsn‘e (fljfifiCALHOUXMKXN) CINEMA: NARRATION A NATIONAL STYLE "The Temper of an Age . . ." A work of art is customarily associated with the nameof the artist, and the history of an art form is traditionally written in temLs of those names. Such a history assumes that individual artists either live and work in a social vacuum or so transcend the constraints of time and place that their work stands outside of social history. But if the individual artist transcends society, we should remember that society is also and above all within that artist and that every work bears at least two signatures—that of the artist and that of the world in which the work was created. In the field of art history, Heinrich Wolfiflin introduces the concept of “a history of art without names." Wolfflin writes that history in terms of a typology of artistic styles or "schools" rather than in terms of isolated, individual works. By subsurrdng the individual styles of the Great Masters within the larger styles of the school or country at that partiallar moment in history in which they work, he draws attention to the multifaceted nature of style, which becomes for him an "expression of the temper of an age and a nation as well as an expression of the individual tempemment." The history of the cinema that is offered to students in introductory film ' courses has traditionally been written as a history of names, as a history of actors, directors, producers, and writers whose works transcend the times and places within which they are produced. But in the American cinema, individual artistic styles exist within the context of a larger, "national" style. It is against the background of this general style, which has come to be known as "classical Hollywood style," that the distinct individual styles of directors such as John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, Howard Hawks, Josef von Sternberg, Orson Welles, Martin Scorsese, and others take shape. Every American film, from recognized masterpieces such as Citizen Kane (1941), which transcends stylistic convention, to run-oi—the-mill program pic- tures such as Andy Hardy Gets Spring Fever (1939), which merely observes convention, draws upon the fundamental stylich principles of classical Hol~ lywood cinema for its means of expression and, in doing so, conveys "the Musser, Charles. The Emergence of Cinema: The Ania-icon Screen to 1907. New temper of an age and a nation" as wall as that of the artists who produce it, York: Scribner, 1990. Yet every film also articulates this style in a diiferent way, inflecting the an 21 i 22 PM“ THE MODE OF PRODUCTION larger, "national" style with the individual accent(s) of particular studios, producers, directors, writers, stars, camerapersons, and other craftspeople who make them. A Norroiive Machine Unlike the periods of art history, such as the Comic, Renaissance, or Baroque, in which the overall stylistic features of each period are quite apparent even to the untrained eye, classical Hollywood dnema possesses a style which is largely invisible and difficult for the average spectator to see. Its invisibility is, in large part, the product of American cinema's proficiency as a narrative machine. Like the industry-based, assembly-line process innovated by Henry Ford and his peers in the business world to make the production of auto- mobiles and other consumer goods as streamlined and as economical as possible, American movies rapidly evolved during the 19105 and 19295 into a highly efficient mode of telling stories. Every aspect of the production opera- tion gears itself up to facilitate the smoothest possible flow of the narrative process. As a result, the narrative is delivered so effortlessly and efficiently to the audience that it appears to have no source. It comes magically off the screen as if spontaneously creating itself in the presence of the spectators in the movie theater for their immediate consumption and pleasure. But, in fact, it is created; it is made according to classical principles of clarity, simplicity, elegance, order, economy, and symmetry. Classical works thus traditiOnaliy avoid excess, Subjectivity, and undue emotionalism, striving for the Creel-c ideal of marten agnn, or "nothing in excess." EQUILIBRIUM AND DISRUPTION Narrative process follows an orderly pattern in which an initial state of affairs is introduced, after which something occurs to disturb this equilibrium. Subsequent events attempt to restore the original status quo, but this is repeatedly frustrated, and order is recovered only at the end of the film. For instance, Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window {1954) begins with a state- ment of the narrative status quo, presenting a survey of the courtyard within which the ac'a’on of the film will be set. The next few minutes of the film introduce the minor characters who live in the courtyard, as well as the film's major character, the news magazine photographer L. B. Jeffries (James Stew- art), whose point of view provides us with a perspective on the action that will follow. Once the world of the film is described, its equilibrium is suddenly dis— rupted with the introduction of a lovers‘ quarrel between Jeffries and his girlfriend, Lisa (Grace Kelly), and with a scream from a woman across the way, whom Jeftries subsequently suspects was murdered by her husband. The action which follows moves taward a resolution of the conflict between Jeffries and his girlfriend, toward the proof that a murder has taken place, Ll .l l i 'lm‘ A ' "ma...- 1mm sm‘ _ ...,-,.......,. k r... H. “- CHAPTER 2 CtASSiCAL HouMOOD CINEMA: NARRAIION 23 The narrative status qua—the courtyard within which the action of Rear Window is set in: toward a sdolutéot; a: that crime. With the completion of these actions r eris restore an t e 11:11 ' ’ revealing the new status Cluoconcludes With another survey of the courtyard, Classical narratives routinely begin with an act which dis ' ‘ state of things and which is answered, by the film’s end 323:3?ng which reestablishes the initial order or balance. Thus a'murcler myste whether a private-eye film of the 19405 (The Maltese Falcon, 1941) or an acdloyri picture of the 19805 (Beverly Hills Cap, 1984), will begin with the discover of a deaéinboddy and end with the solution of the crime. y a venture story or quest (Raiders o the Lost Ark, 198 ' ' the loss, absence, or lack of a desired objdcct' and concludes galfhlftflifimwggl (or at least discovery). A love story (Pretty Woman, 1990) starts with a chance encounter and culminates with a marriage. A monster (jaws 1975) or ho (Hallarueen,‘1978; The Silence aftize lmnbs, 1991) film begins with the death ofTaod innocent victim and ends with the actual or symbolic death of the thin which is routinely reincarnated for the sequel(s). g, in'between the begifmin g and the end of the film’s overall narrative action a senesof additional, smaller disturbances take place, followed b tentativ’ restorahons of order, with each scene or sequence recapitulatin ythe Ia: eE process of balance, disruption, and rebalancing‘ of the film as a wgole 1n fir way, the narrative moves ceaselessly toward closure, completion, conclusiori5 Courtesy of Paramount 24 PARTl THE MODE OF PRODUCTION CHARACTERS AND GOALS Problem Solving As David Bordwell explains, classical Hollywood cinema is primarily a charac— tar-centered cinema. lts characters are more or less stable, knowable, and psychologically coherent individuals who possess clearly defined, specific goals. Although this cinema is also a plot-driven or action cinema, characters stand at the center of the action and interact with events. Filmmakers use these interactions in accordance with the classical principles of narrative economy and efficiency to further the exposition of their characters. Plot expectations are set by the specific goals which individual characters possess or by the problems they are asked to solve. Over the course of the narrative, characters struggle to achieve their goals or solve their problems. They overcome those who stand in their way (such as the villains), triumph over adverse circumstances (such as physical disability, nature, or some other force), and/or transcend their own limitations (such as individual fears or weaknesses). The narrative ends with the character’s triumph‘or failure, with the resolution (or conclusive nonresolution) of the problem, and with the attainment (0r clear-cut nonattainment) of the goal. In Vertigo (1958), former detective Scottie Ferguson (James Stewart), who suddenly discovers that he suffers from acrophobia, becomes the unwitting victim of an elaborate murder scheme which takes advantage of his fear of heights in order to commit a perfect crime. Though Scottie’s larger goals in the narrative remain obscure, by the end of the film, his more immediate goals have been satisfied. He reestablishes the balance or equilibrium with which the film begins: he not only discoveres the deception and solves the mystery, but also cures his vertigo (although he loses the great love of his life in the process). I Much as classical mystery narratives, like Vertigo, enlist audiences in the process of problem solving, classical suspense narratives regularly take shape around the forward movement of characters’ attempts to attain goals and around the backward or sideways movements of the delays they experience in trying to overcome the various obstacles that stand (or are placed) between them and their goals. For example, the action in The Terrlrinotor (1984) is constructed around the efforts of a cyborg (played by Arnold Schwarzeneg- ger) who was sent back in time by a totalitarian regime in the future (ca. 2029). He has been programmed to kill a woman, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), in order to prevent her from bearing a child who is destined to lead a rebellion against that dictatorship. . At the same time, Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), a (human) rebel freedom fighter, is also sent-back in time to prevent the cyborg, or Terminator, from accomplishing its task. The dramatic structure of the film consists of alter— nating sequences in which each of these major characters sets about at— tempting to solve problems and to reach their goals only to discover that their attempts have been frustrated by the counter-effort of the other. Both Reese .. fififiéafiaaumenfisksfiinmymwsmmmfls. CHAPTER 2 CLASSICAL HOLLYWOOD ClNEMR NARRATION 25 and the Terminator pursue their goals relentlessly—to their own self-destruc- tion. At this point, the film concludes (with Reese dead but: victoriou's)—only to find its narrative resolution reopened seven years later in Terminator 2: judgment Day (1991). Through Time and Space Often the goals that organize a classical'l-l-ollywood narrative are given a precise temporal dimension—a specific deadline has to be met or a certain task has to be completed by a definite time. Near the start of Brewster’s Millions (1985), the sixth remake of a popular plot idea that first reached the screen in 1914, Brewster (Richard Pryor) is told by a somewhat sadistic philanthmpist that he will be given $300 million, provided that he can spend $1 million a day for 30 days without acquiring any tangible property or assets. The remainder of the film documents his efforts to meet this deadline. Buster Keaton also milks the inheritance idea for suspense comedy in Seven Chances (193), in which his character discovers that he will inherit $7 million if he can get married by .7 P.M. on his twenty-seventh birthday, which happens to be that very day. After getting a quick brush—off from his first Seven chances as possible brides, Keaton literally runs through the rest of the movie looking for someone to marry, racing against the clock to meet the 7 RM. deadline. in 48 Hours (1982), the deadline gimmick plays a central role in a plot in which a detective (Nick Nolte) gives a convict (Eddie Murphy) is hours to help him catch a couple of cop killers, promising to reward the latter with a parole if they succeed. In a similar way, stories e routinely designed along spatial lines, with their characters moving toward precise destinations or geographiml goals. Journeys and cross—country treks have served as the fundamental organizing principle for narratives since Homer’s Odyssey. The journey provides the basic structure for a number of extremely popular motion pictures, ranging from The Wizard of 02 (1939), Around the World in 80 Days (1956), and North by Northwest (1959), to 2001': A Space Odyssey (1968), Close Encounters of the Third loud (1977), Apocalypso Now (1979), and Thetzrm 6' Louise (1991). Even in those mstances in which the final destination is never announced, made clear, or even reached, the voyage becomes sufficient in itself to hold the narrative on course, giving it an all-important sense of forward movement. By the ends of these journeys, the characters not only move from point A to point Z, but they realize other nonspatial goals as well, making deadlines, solving mysteries, falling in love, discovering new worlds, and coming to terms with themselves andjor their fellow travelers. The purely physical movement of the characters through space provides a sense of narrative development that is inunediately coherent, no matter how obscure or inco- herent the logic of the dramatic action actually is (as in 2001‘). The journey film always looks forward to getting there; and, as a result, the spectator always does, even when the characters do not and even when "there" is only a hastily tacked-on title that reads “The End." 26 FARTI THE MODE OF PRODUCTION Courtesy of M~G—M A journey structures the narrative in 2001': A Space Odyssey. The Audience's Journey In the broadest possible sense then, every film is a journey whiph begins With the distributor's logo and the credits and ends with an end btle;_and every spectatOr is a traveler whose trip to the theater and whose short soyoum there takes him or her on a narrative journey that only ends when the lights come up. The popularity of goal-centered, deadline-driven, and journey narratives undoubtedly owes something to the ways in which these parlacular narratiye forms rework the all-too—familiar movie-going experience in the most exc1t— ing and pleasurable ways imaginable. The invisibility of the narralive‘patterns of classical Hollywood cinema remain indebted, in part; to such cloaking devices.” _ I Going to the movies becomes “going to the mOWeS.' 'What we see on the Screen is what we are doing at that very moment; that is, looking-for goals, participating in deadlines, and undertaking journeys. The mwsibihty of clas— sical Hollywood cinema is an integral product of Its transparency—4n both senses of the word. By concealing all signs of their artifice and constructed- ness, the movies encourage us to see through them, and what we see :5 what they are. They are us going to the movies; we identify w1th onscreen charac— ters who do what we do—who look for clues and solve problems; who look forward to, yet also dread, the deadline that marks the end of the film; and who reach our destination at the same time that they reach theirs. HIGH ARTIFICE. INVISIBLE ART Denial and Recognition Ironically, the invisibility of classical Hollywood cinema is the result of great artifice. Its tranSparency is only an illusion. Beneath the apparent artlessness of the surface lies a solid foundation of highly crafted narrative techniques that all share the same common goal and participate in the same dual rrussion. CHN’TER 2 CLASSIC-“J. HOLLYWOOD CINEMA NARRAIION 27 They function to deliver the story as powerfully as possible without interrupt- ing its flow with intrusive marks or signs that might betray the fact that the story is itself a product of careful construction. Most spectators are aware, either consciously or unconsciously, that films are not real—that is, that the blood they see in the shower sequence of Psycho (1960) is really chocolate sauce; that the dangerous stunt sequences in the Indiana Jones films are made using doubles; that the attack on the Death Star in Star Wars (1977') is shot using models and mirdahires at George Lucas’ special—effects house Industrial Light 8: Magic; and that no one really dies during the making of either of the Terminator films. At the same time, most spectators also deny—out of necessity—their awareness of this artifice, or the fiction of the reality, in order to participate in the reality of these fictions. Moviegoing engages audiences in what is known as a “willing suspension of disbelief”; and audiences are all the more willing to do this because the pleasures provided by doing so prove to be both rewarding and significant. Although a certain amount of denial works wonders in enabling audiences to enter into the onscreen fiction, considerable pleasure also derives from the recognition of the artifice. Audiences appreciate what they refer to as “partic- ularly good films," that is, technically well-crafted films or stories that are told in an e5pecially exciting manner; and they distinguish these works from what they consider to be "average" films. ' The pleasures of watching a Hitchcock film, for example, come as much from the audience‘s complicity with the storytelling interventions of the director, who repeatedly nudges his viewers to notice this or that important detail or encomages them to react in this or that specific way, as it does from their absorption into the fictional world of the narrative. Hitchcock describes his films as “slices of cake" rather than “slices of life." By this, Hitchcock means that his films are not merely transparent records of reality. Defining drama as "life with the dull bits cut out," Hitchcoek cuts those dull hits out with a razor—sharp narrative sensibility and rearranges the excit- ing bits that are left over i...
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