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March 2002, Week 2


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Drew Perry <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 14 Mar 2002 11:06:20 +1000
text/plain (69 lines)
And another thing ...

Peter Greenway made the astute observation that, if film aspired to the
status of the other major arts (literature especially), why should any
complex, multi-levelled filmic text be absolutely comprehensible in one
viewing? If you read and re-read Joyce and Dostoevsky, discovering new
insights, more depths etc on each return to the text .... why shouldn't a
film aspire to the same level of complexity? And hence: necessitate the same
level of 'reading' ?

And please note: what you are calling "incomprehensible" is, especially in
the films being discussed here, more frequently "complexity" or "ambiguity".
Which is NOT the same thing at all.

You should read Sven Birkerts' The Gutenberg Elegies. It is primarily about
the demise of literacy in the print media. But many of his observations seem
profoundly true of visual literacy also. We keep getting told that today's
generation of non-readers (a generalisation, I know, but strikes me as a
plausible characterisation) are just literate in a new way - they're
visually literate.

But then you keep hearing about how film or television texts that stretch
the conventions one iota (convoluted narrative styles, profound existential
subtext, allusive or open closures, symbolic imagery etc) are
incomprehensible, unfathomable. That The Matrix (for e.g.) is just sill
sci-fi stuff that 'makes no sense' ... just get into the special effects.

So: Visually literate ?
I seriously doubt it.

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----- Original Message -----
From: "jane mills" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Wednesday, March 13, 2002 5:21 PM
Subject: Understanding the plot

Understanding the plot.

Apologies for cross-listing

Un chien Andalou, The Big Sleep, Seven, The Usual Suspects, The Matrix,
Velvet Goldmine, Gummo, Mulholland Drive  all films that have incoherent
or, to some, incomprehensible plots and storylines. (For some reason I am
always completely baffled by films about counter espionage.) Does it matter?
Do we need to understand the plot of a movie to enjoy it? Could you let me
know more titles of incomprehensible films, any academic articles on the
subject , and your views on the subject?

Jane Mills
Honorary Associate, The University of Sydney;
Senior Research Associate, Australian Film,Television & Radio School
27 Dudley Street, Bondi, 2026
Tel: 9300 8836
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