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March 2002, Week 3


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Scott Andrew Hutchins <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 15 Mar 2002 00:59:48 -0500
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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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Shyamalan has explained in great detail why Malcolm doesn't appear like the
other spirits in his footage on the DVD, and he makes a lot of sense.

Scott Andrew Hutchins

Examine The Life of Timon of Athens at Cracks in the Fourth Wall Theatre &

"To destroy an offender cannot benefit society so much as to redeem
im."  --L. Frank Baum, _The Flying Girl_, 1911

----- Original Message -----
From: "Laura Jean Carroll" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Thursday, March 14, 2002 6:47 PM
Subject: Understanding the plot-'cheating'

> Drew,
> Clearly, I've not explained myself properly.  I shall now attempt to do
> "The Usual Suspects, Fight Club and Sixth Sense involve explanations that
> "cheat" ???
> C'mon: That's just ... wrong."
> (snip)
> First, I wanted to let Jane Mills know (because I thought it might be of
> some tangential interest to her) that the script for 'Adaptation' contains
> pretty pointed criticism of movies that establish a particular world, a
> of premisses, a mode of narrative/dramatic coding, and do not violate the
> contract thereby made with the audience until the last ten minutes or so
> screen time.  Then they introduce a new element which undercuts everything
> that has gone before, and cuts it off at the foundations.  In 'Fight Club'
> this is the revelation that Brad Pitt and Edward Norton are
> different/separate aspects of the same personality who inhabit the same
> body.  The movie just tells you that this is so - it doesn't give you time
> to think back over everything you have seen before & thought you
>   It doesn't allow you to think about why it has to be that way.  And I do
> not think the film ever gives the audience any of the tools it might need
> think about these two stars as 'one person.'  Similarly, in 'The Sixth
> Sense', the film establishes that the dead people Haley Joel Osment sees
> pallid & throw up everywhere.  But Bruce Willis is exempted, and instead
> explaining why, the film rather patronizingly assumes or forces our
>   ('The Others' is even more coercive in this regard.)  In all these
> respects the dice are loaded: the film holds all the cards.  Ok, 'cheat'
> too compressed a word for what I am getting at, but what you say here,
> about sums it up.
> " "cheating" suggests these films employ total contrivances, inconsistent
> with the whole filmic structure (when understood in their entirety), or
> inventions out of left field, to resolve themselves."
> (snip)
> "Told in another way, or from another perspective, but with all the
> narrative and formal properties exactly intact - absolutely nothing added
> subtracted - and these narrative would be as straightforward as anything
> else on the screen. No one would have any trouble following every nuance."
> I'm afraid I don't understand at all how one can ever tell a story
> way' and at the same time maintain 'all the narrative and formal
> exactly intact.'  However, that is the kind of false reasoning that films
> like 'The Usual Suspects' trade in.  The final revelation spells it out
> Spacey's character is a wilfully unreliable narrator.  Once you take that
> board, I don't think you can believe in or rely on anything else in the
> entire movie.  So we are left with a story that while it was playing was
> intriguing and coherent, but in retrospect, completely untruthful: this
> completely against what we feel about the reality (or plausibility, if you
> prefer) of what's depicted on film.  That's not the problem: the problem
> that in return for giving up our illusions the film gives us - nothing
> (except maybe that Kevin Spacey is shifty, and we knew that already.)
> the temptation to go away and 'reconstruct' a classical narrative from
> 'Suspects', 'Memento' and the like.  But the fact is, nothing in a film,
> any other fiction for that matter, can exist in any other form than the
> we have.  It could not happen another way without becoming also a
> object.
> I do know that many people feel the exact opposite about these kinds of
> movies.  But to return to the original point of this thread, I agree with
> Jane Mills that such movies are 'incomprehensible', because there is
> we are invited or permitted to comprehend.
> Laura Carroll
> English Program
> La Trobe University
> Melbourne
> Australia
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