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March 2006, Week 3


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Warren Buckland <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 15 Mar 2006 12:11:36 -0500
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I can think of two sources of research on opening credit sequences, 
both with different agendas:

Edward Brangian, Narrative Comprehension and Film (Routledge, 1992), 
Chapter 5.
In Chapter 4 Branigan develops a sophisticated theory of the levels of 
narration in a fiction film, each controlled by a different agent 
(historical author, extra fictional narrator, nondiegetic and diegetic 
narrators, characters, focalizers). In Chapter 5 he then analyzes in 
minute detail the credit sequence of Hangover Square (John Brahm, 
1944), showing how it gradually moves down the levels of narration. 
This process operates in most credit sequences, since the aim of the 
filmmakers is to transport the audience from their real space to the 
imaginary, fictional space of the film. Credit sequences are designed 
to effect that transition.

Tom Conley's book Film Hieroglyphs (University of Minnesota Press, 
Conley offers interpretations of the presence of alpabetical writing 
within narrative films - including their credit sequences. Here's a 
taste of his analysis; he is discussing the opening credit sequence of 
White Heat (Walsh, 1949):

The head lamp [of the approaching train] moves toward the majuscule O 
of the name Virginia MAYO adjacent to that of James Cagney. The phallic 
drive of the train approaches the name, as if seeking to penetrate the 
O of Mayo. When it almost touches the circle, the locomotive thrusts 
out of the tunnel, blast a jet of steam upward, and suddenly WHITE HEAT 
replaces the names of the two leads. (p. 182)

I personally prefer Branigan's narrational model, although Conley 
playfully opens our eyes to reading credit sequences in a completely 
different manner to how we normally read them.

Warren Buckland
Editor, New Review of Film and Television Studies:

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