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 into breathtaking suspense thrillers. Yet unlike other, more self-etfacing directors, Hitchcock leaves his mark on the finished film, and his imprint becomes an integral element of the film's appeal, openly acknowledging its status as a conc0ction, that is, as a "slice of take.“ As a result, Hitchcock enjoys a Special relafionshipyith his audiences, who both 'lose themselves in the story that he tells and simultaneously derive pleasure from a recognition of how it is being told. Underlying Patterns The narrative patterns of mainstream Hollywood dnema are less clearly visible than the storytelling presence that can be found in every Hitchcock film; but, even so, they function to provide audiences with pleasure. But ‘ while the structure of a Hitchcock narrative lies more or less on or near the surface of the film, the structure in the typical classical Hollywood film is buried much deeper; it shapes audiences’ responses on a less visible level. PART I THE MODE OF PRODUCTION Audiences unconsciously sense the classic principles of economy, regu- larity, symmetry, and order which inform the most compelling narratives to emerge from this system of storytelling and derive pleasure from the order which these elements impose upon the entertainment experience. Any at- tempt to come to grips with the phenomenon of classical Hollywood cinema must therefore acknowledge the importance of these basic narrative patterns and examine the role they play in the overall effectiveness of classical Holly— wood cinema as a system. Average spectators are fully aware that the films they watch are con— structed out of bits and pieces of Celluloid that have been shot at a variety of different times and in an assortment of different settings and that have been assembled to tell a specific story in a certain way. Every time they watch a film, they are necessarily reminded of its artifice by a number of factors—not the least of which is the opening or closing credit sequence full of the names of those who worked on the film. However, spectators rarely experience films in this way. ANALYZING FILM NARRATIVES: SEGMENTATION Though 90- to llfl-u-iinute films consist, on the average, of 600 to 300 individ- ual shots and 5 to 40 separate sequences, audiences generally experience films as confinuous instead of fragmented, as seamless wholes rather than as a string of discrete episodes As we shall see in the next chapter, this illusion of continuity is the product of a body of stylistic practices which are specifically designed to conceal the essential discontinuity of the filmmaking process. In order to understand how narratives work, film studies has deveIOped an analytical technique designed to expose this underlying discontinuity. It breaks the film down into its basic narrative units. This process of structural analysis is known as segriiciimtion, which is a term that has been used in literacy studies to describe the process of dividing works into their constituent parts in order to study them in greater detail. Segmentation can be used in the analysis of single scenes, parts of scenes, or of entire films. Various criteria can also be used to organize the segmenta— tion, based on their appropriateness to the narrative structures of individual films. In general, the strategy involved in the segmentation of entire films is to break the films down into their largest units, which can then be subdivided into increasingly smaller units. These larger units tend to be based on the traditional drmnrztic unifies {as they are defined by Aristotle and others); that is, the unifies of action, time, and/or space. For example, Sophocles’ Oedipus the King possesses all three unifies: it consists of a single action—Oedipus’ investigation into the causes of the plague which besets Thebes; it takes place more or less continuously during the course of at single day; and it plays itself out in a single setting in front of the king’s palace at Thebes. Analyzed using these three traditional criteria, Oedipus would thus “break down" into only one segment. E l l l E l l g. Jessa-t ,éi "causes; “fit ‘2. a: CHAPIEI? 2 CLASSICAL HOLLYWOOD CINEMA: NARRAlION 29 Only a handful of motion pictures observe all three unifies as thoroughly as does Sophocles in Oedipus. Hitchcock's Rope (1948) is one of them. Rope is an adaptation of a play which is set in the living room of the central charac— ters’ apartment (unity of space). It takes place in real time; that is, without any abridgement or expansion of the time of the action (unity of time). And it traces the beginning, middle, and end of a singleacfion—a murder—which is committed, then concealed, and finally discovered (unity of action). Rope, like Oedipus, can possibly be segmented according to the arrivals and departures of various characters, but, in terms of its action, time, and space, it is not segmentable. Other Hitchcock films, Such as Lifeboat (1944) and Rear Window (1954), observe the unities of action, dealing with the survivors of a shipwreck and with a murder mystery, respectively, and of spacewthey are set in a lifeboat and in a Greenwich Village courtyard. But they do this without strict obser— vance of the unity of time: Lifebant's action occupies roughly a week, Rear Window’s approximately four days. Most films, however, violate the traditional unifies. They lend themselves quite readily to segmentation, and the process of breaking them down into large units quite ofteri reveals crucial elements of their dramatic structure. This structure, in turn, can be "read" in terms of the role it plays in shaping the film's thematic concerns. In other words, segmentation Serves as a poten- tially producfive first step in the larger process of film analysis. A CIRCULAR PATTERN: CHAPLIN’S THE GOLD RUSH Charles Chaplin‘s The Gold Rush (1925), if broken down into spatial units, proves to be a paradigm of classical narrative construcfion. A segmentation of the film into large units, organized aIOund its various locations andfor set~ tings. discloses the following seven-part, circular pattern: I. Prologpe (journey to the Alaskan gold fields by Charlie, the lone pros- pector II. The Cabin (Charlie and Big Jim take refuge in the outlaw Black Larsen’s cabin during a snow storm; Larsen leaves to get help; Charlie and Big Iim enjoy a Thanksgiving feast of "boiled boot"; the storm subsides and they set off on thtfir separate ways) III. The Dance Hall (in town, Charlie discovers Georgia and falls in love with her at first sight, though she ignores him) IV. The Cabin in Town {on New Year‘s Eve, Charlie prepares dinner for Georgia and her girlfriends, falls asleep when she stands him up, dreams that she is there, and performs "the dance of the rolls" to entertain her) V. The Dance Hall (Georgia apologizes to Charlie; Big Jim rediscovers Charlie and “falls in love with" [pursues] him, much as Charlie had pursued Georgia earlier) 30 PART l THE MODE OF PRODUCTION Courtesy of Li'mlcd Artists The Cabinu-Charlie tries to prolect himself from Big Jim, who is crazed With hunger in The Gold Rnle VI. The Cabin (Charlie and Big Jim return to the cabin—4111's time with plenty of food—in search of Big Jim's claim; another snow storm; the storm returns Big Jim to the exact spot where he was at the start of segment ll) VII. Epilogue (Charlie and Big Jim, having struck it rich, return by boat to the States; Charlie is reunited with Georgia who mistakes him for the lone prospector whom she met in segment III) Symmetry Chaplin's narrative observes a strict classical symmetry. The Prologue (1), in which Charlie travels to Alaska, is answered by an Epilogue (VII), in which he returns to the States, cash'ng the narrative in the form of a joumey. An initial cabin sequence (II) introduces the characters of Big Jim and Black Larsen; Big Jim reappears in the final cabin sequence (VI). The first cabin sequence also in troduces the characters' fixation upon material or physical needs (the desire for gold, then for food), which is answered in the final cabin sequence when physical survival once again becomes paramount as the cabin is blown about treathstwwmgwmm ;=t fixe-i‘sltki‘r.‘ . ‘24-“; ease-e? W In?" CHAPTER 2 cmsscn HOLLYWOOD CINEMA: NARRAWON 31 in a blizzard and finally settles on the edge of a cliff where it teeters precar— iously. By an uncanny coincidence, the wandering cabin ends up at the exact spot where Big Jim is introduced discovering gold. Thus the pursuit of wealth, which motivates Charlie’s journey to the gold fields in the Prologue and which is echoed and “doubled” in the figures of Big Jim and Black Larsen whom he meets in the cabin (ll), finds resolution in segment VI in which all these elements reappear. If the search for gold structures the overall narrative, other goals emerge to give shape to the central section of the film, which is set in the town rather than in the wilderness. These three segments introduce another set of charac- ters and a second body of thematic concerns. This lime, Charlie interacts not with men but with women (Georgia and her friends), and his chief desire is not for gold or for physical survival but for more abstract needs—he longs for Georgia’s love. In this central narrative section, two public scenes in the dance hall (III, V) frame a more private sequence (IV) in the cabin which Charlie is taking care of for a friend. The film's two fantasy or dream sequences, which provide one of the film's many parallel or paired scenes, underscore this thematic turnabout. During Thanksgiving at the wilderness cabin, Big Jim fantasizes that Charlie is a chicken, turning him into food. On New Year's Eve at the cabin in the settlement, Charlie transforms food into a phantasmical person, combining his own head with dinner rolls on the ends of forks to produce the dance of the rolls. In the former sequence, physical appetite produces the fantasy; in the latter, romantic desire feeds Charlie’s imagination. The contrast be- tween the two holidays and the two settings is further driven home by another variatiOn on the film's central theme. In one scene, Charlie turns a boot into a meal; in the other, he turns food into feet, transcending the purely physical world of blizzards, hunger, and greed for gold with an escapist fantasy that celebrates imagination, creativity, and romance. At the Center: Imagination The film reveals itself to be a perfect example of the interdependency of form and function in classical Hollywood cinema. The narrative organization of Gold Rush is designed around the central character, Charlie, whose goals the plot explores and whose personality serves as a barometer that governs the audience's perception of and reaction to the events which take place. Guar- lie's desire, feelings, and imagination stand at the literal center of the film— segrnent IV—in which he "realizes" his romantic desires through a fantasy sequence. This central sequence looks back to the physical hardship which precedes it in the Prologue and in the wilderness cabinsequence, and it looks forward to the Epilogue, in which this fantasy is made real. Charlie, now a millionaire but dressed once again in his Tramp’s outfit for news photogra- phers, is reunited with Georgia, who, unaware of his wealth, befriends him, much as he had befriended her in his New Year's Eve dream sequence. PARTI THE MODE OF FRODUCITON JOURNEY TO A NEW PLACE: SOME LIKE IT HOT Flight and Pursuit The orderly narrative patterns of classical Hollywood cinema are not always circular. The journey format often takes characters into new, unexplored terrains. That is, it takes them to a destination other than where it begins, as is the case in 5mm: Like it Hat {1959). The action of the film begins in Prohibition- era Chicago and follows its central characters, a saxophone player named Ioe (Tony Curtis) and a bass player named Jerry (jack Lemmon), on their journey to Florida in flight from gangsters who want to kill them because they are the sole surviving witnesses to the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. The narrative pattern of the film is simple, with the action falling under three basic spatial groupings which range from Chicago, to the train, and finally to Florida. The goals that drive the narrative are similarly simple, even though their comic realization seems a bit improbable. Joe and Ierry need jobs and to get out of Chicago if they are to escape “Spats” Colombo (George Raft} and his mob. Having no money, they are forced to take jobs impersonating women musicians in an all-female jazz band on its way to Miami. On the train to Miami, they meet Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe), the band’s lead singer, who is, like them, also in flight. However, the men she flees are hot gangsters but rather saxophonists, with whom she always falls in love but who always abandon her, leaving her holding what she describes as "the fuzzy end of the lollipop." In Florida, the characters‘ initial goals are modified; instead of focusing upon flight, they shift their attention to pursuit. Sugar hopes to change her luck and find a millionaire to marry. Joe, who has fallen in love with Sugar, concocts a plan that would permit him to become her millionaire. To do this, h0wever, he is farced into yet another impersonation—he plays the role of "Shell Oil, Jr." “Shell Oil, Jr." is the sexually impotent, millionaire yachtsman who seeks Sugars help in restoring his interest in women. Meanwhile, Ierry, masquerading as Daphne, enjoys unprecedented success as a woman. Slhe is romanced by a genuine millitmaire, Osgood, who showers her/him with expensive gifts and even proposes marriage. Inst as the characters are about to realize their romantic goals (even Jerry.l Daphne looks forward to marrying Osgood and then divorcing him for a nice alimony settlement), the gangsters reappear, having come to Miami from Jerry remove rather than put on (their) disguises; loe confesses to Sugar that he 15 not only Josephine, but “Shell Oil, Jr." as well; and Jerry informs Osgood that he cannot marry him because he is a man. The film ends with Osgood’s reply: "Nobody's perfect." Narrative Structure and Sexuality Some Like It Hot uses the journey format to provide a background for its central characters' sexual odyssey, which takes them from a comic-book world of serual stereotypes (Chicago), through a duplicitous, unstable world of dis- guise and sexual role-playing (the train, Florida], to an uncharted world where sexual differences no longer determine social structure (the boat trip in the last scene). In Osgood’s world, nobody is perfect; that is, no one’s sexuality is perfect and traditional notions of sexual difference no longer have any significance. As in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the film's characters sur- vive a harrowing experience and enter "a brave new world," having "suf- fer[edj a sea-change into something rich and strange." At any rate, they are not in Chicago anymore. Chicago emerges as the city of gangsters. It is dominated by male violence. "Spats" and his henchmen, ironically referred to as "all Harvard men,“ are caricatures of masculinity. They are twcwdimensional tough guys with too Cmtrlesy of United Artists Chicago for a convention of “The Friends of italian Opera." Pursued by "Spats" and his men, Joe and Jerry take refuge under a banquet table, where ‘, they once again witness a mob bloodbath. “Spats” is rpbbed out in retribution E; for his murder of Toothpick Charlie and others at the St. Valentine‘s Day . Massacre. Although "Spats" has been eliminated as a threat, Joe and Jerry 7; in Some Like It Hot, ]ocn']osephine (Tony Curtis} suddenly find themselves pursued by a new mob for observing the murder of and lenyt’DBPhne (lack ten-imam) flee the 111319 world of ChICago gangsters for the female world "Spats." As Josephine and Daphne, they “elope” with Sugar and Osgood, fleeing to the supposed safety of the latter’s yacht. For this escape, however, Joe and of Sugar (Marilyn Monroe) and “Sweet Sue and Her Sodety Syncopaters." nig- Aeneas-2 34 PART I THE MODE OF FRODUCTlON many muscles and too few brains. In Chicago, Joe embodies male insen- sitivity, repeatedly taking advantage of women. He borrows money from the girls in the chorus without intending to pay it back and sweet-talks Nellie, an agent's receptionist, into lending him her car. When Joe and Jerry are forced to become Josephine and Daphne, they are plunged into the all-female world of “Sweet Sue and Her Society Syncopa- ters," where they find themselves on the other end of male insensitivity and sexism. This world is dominated by the “masculine” presence of Sue, the leader of the band, and by the efferninate presence of Mr. Bienstalk, the band’s manager. In Florida, the reversal of sexual roles continues. Gold diggers in the band, like Sugar, aggressively pursue local millionaires who, like “Shell Oil, Jr.,“ are inadequate as men; and millionaires, like Osgood, whose sexuality is similarly “abnorma ,” fall in love with men in drag, like Daphne. Joe’s creation of "Shell Oil, Jr." serves as an unconscious expression of his own sense of male inadequacy and as an indirect critique of the hypermasculinity which characterizes his own earlier attitudes toward wo- men as the womanizer, Joe. Resolution/[resolution The sexual confusion of the central section of the film is resolved by the reinstitution of clear-cut sexual differences, in the form of the excessively masculine gangsters, who, unlike Osgood, see through Joe’s and Jerry’s masquerades. Through their threatening presence, they force the reinstitu- tion of a simplistic sexual duality, whereby men are men and women are women. Yet the film suggests that their stereotypical male sexuality is inadequate, much as is that of Sugar’ 5 ideal man, whom she envisions as “gentle, sweet, and helpless.“ Sugar’s ideal proves to be pure fantasy, and she is ultimately f0rced to recognize and give in to her irrational desire for tenor saxophone ‘ players (Joe). On the other hand, it Daphne is Osgood's ideal, then Jerry emerges as the next best thing, as an imperfect Daphne. Some Like it Hot illustrates how the impossible perfection imagined in the romantic dreams and sexual fantasies of the central characters gives way to the more immedi— ate, concrete realities of their sexual desires. In other words, all of them, even Osgood, discover that nobody is perfect. NARRATIVE VIOLENCE: GOODFELLAS The narrative structure of a number of recent Hollywood films repeatedly violates the reassuring order and economic design of classical Hollywood cinema, but they still possess patterns that lend coherence to films that increasingly test the limits of the classical paradigm. Martin Scorsese‘s Good— fellas (1990), which documents the rise and fall of an actual New York gangster prIAI’IEK 4 Om.»le lthLIvthutJ gun-Jun. w—uuu—mvu v- named Henry Hill, reviews the major events of his life as a mafioso in an episodic series of scenes that are organized temporally. The film traces Hill's activities for over 25 years, from his first contact with the mob in 1955 until he leaves it to enter the witness protection program in the 19805. A temporal} Spatial segmentation of the film would look as follows: I. The Prologue/credit sequence. New York, 1970 {Tommy (Joe Pesci), Jimmy (Robert De Niro), and Henry (Ray Liotta) stop their car on a flighfipay and kill a man (Billy Batts) whom they have locked up in their on II. East New York, Brooklyn, 1955 (Henry becomes a member of Paul C1cero’s mob, cuts school, sells stolen cigarettes, and wins the respect of his fellow gang members by refusing to "rat" on them when he is arrested) III. Idlewild Airport, 1963 [Henry, Jimmy, and Tommy plan and carry out a robbery of Air France; Henry meets, courts, and marries Karen (Lorraine Bracco), who becomes accustomed to life as a mobster’s wife] IV. Queens, New York, June 11, 1970 (giving a context to segment I, seg- ment IV recounts Tommy's argument Billy Batts, who, as "a made man" or member of a Mafia family, enjoyed a special, “untouchable” status; Batts is murdered, and his body must then be buried by Henry, Imam and Tommy without the knowledge of their superiors in the mo a. Queens, six months later [Henry cheats on his wife with Janice; Tommy recklessly shoots Spider, a waiter at the mob's social club- Henry is sent by Pauli (Paul Sorvino) to Florida to collect on a debtj b. Tampa, Florida, two days later (Henry and Jimmy are arrested for threatening the debtor; Henry goes to jail and begins to deal drugs on the inside) c. Four years later (upon his release from jail, Henry is told by Pauli not to deal drugs, but continues to do so, using the apartment of another mistress, Sandy, as a distribution center; Henry, Jimmy, Tommy, and others engineer the famOus, multi-million-dollar Lufthansa heist; Jim- begins to kill off participants in the robbery, fearing that they might betray him; Tommy is killed in retribution for his slaying of Billy Batts) V. sunday, May 11, 1980 (over the course of a day, Henry runs errands in his car while being followed by a helicopter; he tries to deliver guns to Tommy; he picks up his kid brother at the hospital; he begins to cook dinner; he puts together a drug deal; he sets out to drive the courier, his babysitter, to the airport, and he is busted by the police) VI. The Aftermath (unable to get help from Pauli and afraid that Jimmy will kill him, Henry decides to enter the witness protection program and to testify against Jimmy and Pauli, who are sent to prison; Henry ends up 11vmg more or less anonymously under a phony name in the suburbs) 36 PAR“ THE MODE OF PRODUCTION Rising and Falling: A Quest for Identity The narrative of the film follows, in fairly strict chronological order, the rise and fall of Henry Hill, who narrates most of the story from a point in the recent past {that is, from the end of segment VI),- Henry’s wife, Karen, narrates part of segment Ill. Henry's goals are clearly stated in his voice-over narration at the end of segment I: “As far back as I could remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.” Segment 11 documents his initiation into “the life,” that is, the world of power, wealth, and privilege enjoyed by members of the Mafia. For Henry, being a gangster means, as he puts it in segment II, being “somebody in a neighborhood full of nobodies." Over the course of the film, Henry evolves from a nobody to a somebody (a kid working at the cab stand, a member of the mob, a participant in the Lufthansa heist) and finally to a nobody (“Today, everything is different. . . . I’m an average nobody. I get to live the rest of my life like a schnook.”) The film's narrative structure traces out Henry's quest for identity, outlines its construction in segment II, its Living “the life"—-—Henry (Ray Liotta) gets his cut of the Lufthansa heist from Jimmy (Robert De Niro) in Goedfclfns. Courtesy of Warner Bros. Kai-W|Ll\‘ vu .mm............--- _..... .. . confirmation in segment III, its hour-by-hour dissolution in segment V, and its disappearance in segment VI. Henry’s identity is rooted in this membership in the Mafia; the major phases of its evolution can be gauged in terms of his relation to the mob, which is, in turn, marked by his various arrests. His arrest at the close of segment 11 seals his membership in the mob. His arrest in the middle of the film—in segment IVb—leads to his movement away from the family as he begins to deal drugs in jail against Pauli’s specific orders. His arrest at the end of segment V finalizes his break with the underworld through his deliberate violation of the code of silence which he had observed at the end of segment II. With this breach of mob ethics, Henry's original desire to be a gangster takes him full circle; in order to survive, he is forced to rat on his friends and to leave “the life.” Henry’s nostalgia for “the life” dominates segments [1 and III, in which vast periods of time are condensed into a dreamlike flow of images evoking the "golden age" of organized crime—that is, the predrug era of the 19505 and 19605 when mobsters "were treated like movie stars with muscles" and "had it all just for the asking.“ By the 19705 and 19803, however, all of that has changed. In segment V, time is no longer condensed in vibrant memory images of grandeur. Instead, the clay is broken down into an episodic laundry list of unbearably tedious and, mundane errands, which Henry performs almost mechanically while high on cocaine. The turning point for Henry proves to be quite literally in the center of the film—in segment IV, where Henry, Tommy, and Jimmy violate one of the taboos of the underworld by killing a “made man” (Billy Bette) and concealing this fact from the mob. Indeed, the entire film grows out of this "original sin.” The film starts with this sequence, then flashes back to Henry’s youth. This violation of the otherwise strict chronology followed elsewhere underscores its centrality in the narrative. It is what prompts Henry's flashback, serving as a point of departure for the story of his fall from gangland grace that follows. Unconventional Gangsters AlthOugh Goadfellas observes the rise-and-fail narrative pattern of the tradi- tional gangster film for much of its course, it departs from it in several key ways. Its gangster hero is neither killed {as in The Public Enemy, 1931; Little Caesar, 1930; and Scarface, 1932) nor catapulted to a position of leadership at the end (The Godfather, 1972; or Mobsters, 1991) 5 he simply walks away from it all. Indeed, Goodfelles’ conclusion violates a central precept of classical nar- rative—its invisibility. When Henry, while continuing his voice-over narra- tiOn during the final courtroom sequence, rises from the “fitness stand, walks toward the camera, and directly addresses the audience, he calls attention to both the camera and to the convention of voice-over narration, exposing the essential artifice of the narrative process. ...
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Belton_Narration - [III/IIIIIIIII SELECT FILMOGRAPHY The...

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