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November 1996, Week 3


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Meredith McMinn <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 14 Nov 1996 13:08:23 -0800
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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On Mon, 11 Nov 1996, Donald Larsson wrote:
> A much more complex question about the role of sound occurs in Coppola's
> THE CONVERSATION.  Many commentators have assumed that the new emphasis on
> a line in a taped coversation (from "He'd *kill* us if he got the chance" to
> "He'd kill *us* if he got the chance") means that the content of the tape
> has always been in doubt--but close analysis shows that the former emphasis
> is the correct one.  The second statement occurs through the new understanding
> acquired by Gene Hackman as he comes to understand the nature of the plot he
> was involved in.  But there are visual reinforcements of several types in
> THE CONVERSATION whose status is also questionable.
This is very interesting and made me think of a portion of a radio
interview I heard tonight regarding the recent Texaco controversy.
According to an investigator (hired by Texaco), the portion of the tape
in question was "enhanced" to make it "clearer" (his words), and he
argues that when the words are heard in this way, they are not what they
seem to be; e.g., where someone was thought to be saying "all the black
jellybeans agree" he was actually saying "we have no black jellybeans or
green".  In this case we have no image at all, but I suspect that if
the analysts could see the people talking, especially if they could see
the lips of the speaker, they would have stronger evidence, one way or
the other.  It might very well be that the image would make it no less
clear, but might it seem so?
Ooh, that reminds me of another "news" incident from some years ago, when
a "reenactment"  (or rather, a speculative enactment) was shown on network
news of a story of someone being accused of some kind of white collar or
political crime, with the news item narrated in the usual way.  The
disclaimer was not added until after the first showing of the film and
was printed in white in the corner of the image (if I remember correctly,
only for a few seconds at most).   The audience, naturally, believed the
false image was true and interpreted it from what was said.  I suppose
the question this raises is still one of which has supremacy, image or
narration, since most viewers assumed that if they saw the image, the
accusation must be a fact, yet the image was false.  This, of course, is
a bit different from a fiction film--or is it?  Most people tend to
accept both what they see and what they hear on news casts as "truth",
yet archival footage is used all the time when current footage isn't
available, just to give people something to look at besides the anchor.
The only way we have to interpret what we see on the news, however, is
the voice of the newsperson reporting.
A little more to chew on.
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