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April 2008, Week 2


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"Larsson, Donald F" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Sat, 12 Apr 2008 01:07:18 -0500
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One example of what you seem to be after might be Gregory Ratoff's 1949 BLACK MAGIC, which opens with Alexandre Dumas, pere (Berry Kroeger) congratulating Dumas, fils (Raymond Burr!) on the success of his play Camille, then admitting to his own writer's block.  He's been trying to tell the story of the 18th century charlatan Cagliostro. We then see the story of Cagliostro (Orson Welles!) unfold.  The film ends with a closeup of the author signing his now-finished manuscript.

If you want to stretch a bit, the last twenty minutes of Welles' own F FOR FAKE might qualify.

THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN might also fit.  It opens with Lord Byron and the Shelleys, and Mary confessing that she has a sequel to her now-famous novel about the monster.  The new story of the doctor, the monster and their respective brides follows.

Not quite the same thing, since the literary text has already been created within the diegetic framework of the film, but the 1949 MADAME BOVARY has James Mason as Flaubert, defending his novel in court with dramatization of his retelling the story.

Something that might better fit your criterion of a critical or commentary function relating to the rest of the narrative is the "Gotta Dance/Broadway Melody" extravaganza from SINGIN' IN THE RAIN.  Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) is explaining a new musical number he's come up with for the new film musical that he's starring in.  The story--of a naive young hoofer going to Broadway and eventually rising to success, despite a broken heart--very loosely parallels Don's own rise to film stardom.  Moreover, we realize after seeing the sequence that what we've been seeing is the number as Don imagines it--it has yet to be filmed.

A couple of sequences in Fosse's ALL THAT JAZZ, notably the long "Bye-Bye, Life" number at the end, seem to fit.

There are several Warner Brothers cartoons that have Porky or Daffy trying to sell one or more plot lines to the producer that allow us to see what they are envisioning.

A more problematic recent example is STRANGER THAN FICTION, where Will Ferrell comes to realize that his own life is being narrated and written by Emma Thompson, and that she's planning to kill her character off.  Marc Foster, who directed, also directed FINDING NEVERLAND, where Peter Pan takes on a life of his own, based on real characters that James M. Barrie (Johnny Depp) meets.

Don Larsson
"When something is empty, fill it.  When something is full, empty it.  When you have an itch, scratch it."   --Dieter Dengler

Donald F. Larsson, Professor
English Department, Minnesota State University, Mankato
Mail: 230 Armstrong Hall, Minnesota State University
        Mankato, MN  56001
Office Phone: 507-389-2368
From: Film and TV Studies Discussion List [[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Barry Langford [[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Friday, April 11, 2008 11:13 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [SCREEN-L] Metafictional Movies

I'm searching for examples of a rather specific kind of "metafictional" movie:
where a fictional narrative which either has been, or is in the process of being
created (written) by one of the characters features directly in the film, i.e. as
an interpolated dramatised sequence, or sequences. I'm not after backstage
musicals or plays-within-films (e.g., Bullets Over Broadway, Shakespeare In
Love) but fictions whose dramatisation occurs so to speak extra-diegetically.

I'd expect that the fiction-within-the-film would have some critical or
commentary relationship to the frame narrative. However, I'm not looking for
literary pastiches where a given fictive mode is adopted wholesale in a
narrative ostensibly centring on a writer identified with that mode (e.g.
Hammett), but texts where the boundary between reality and fiction remains
clear if porous.

The writer who obviously and consistently explores the kind of thing I'm
interested is Dennis Potter (The Singing Detective, Karaoke, etc.). The "Happy
Endings" sequence in New York, New York offers another take on the principle.
But I'm keen to accumulate further instances - suggestions gratefully received.

Thanks in advance, Barry

Dr Barry Langford
Senior Lecturer in Film & Television Studies
Royal Holloway, University of London
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