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July 1997, Week 2


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Donald Larsson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 8 Jul 1997 10:15:52 -0600
TEXT/PLAIN (38 lines)
This is another conversation I'm coming to rather late, so again my apologies
for its datedness:
Dennis Rothermel comments on GOODFELLAS:
"Goodfellas is a film of the remembrances of a gangster, but it does not
revert to facile flash-back or POV conventions in which the audience is
encouraged to believe that we now see what had once happened, just as it had
happened, or what the narrator factually sees, etc.  Rather, Goodfellas is
imbued with Henry=D5s cognitive presence, replete with the distortions,
syntheses, conflations, fixations, moods, and so on, of that presence."
This is an important recognition.  GOODFELLAS can throw one offtrack by the
voiceover narration, but in the respects cited above, it is similar to and
possibly more subtle than RAGING BULL.  One could notice other "
first-person" devices in other films than subjective POV shots: distortions
of sound and audio flashbacks in THE CONVERSATION or RUMBLEFISH (but also
in SHADOW OF A DOUBT and many other films.  On other hand, there is the
disjunction between narrator and what is seen in a film like OUT OF THE PAST
that is exploited much more openly by Godard in BAND OF OUTSIDERS, where
the third person narrator purports to give us the character's thoughts *and*
actions but the actions are often at odds with his discription.
Strict use of subjective POV shots as "first person" are problematic.  The
device works well enough in short takes--NORTH BY NORTHWEST is the classic
example, even more than in REAR WINDWO--but extended use tends to vitiate the
effect.  THE LADY IN THE LAKE and the opening sequence of DARK PASSAGE are
notorious as "interesting failures."
A better approach to the whole question is described by Seymour Chatman in
COMING TO TERMS.  See especially Chapter 9, "A New Point of View on 'Point
of View'."
Don Larsson, Mankato State U (MN)
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