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April 1991


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Christopher Amirault <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 15 Apr 91 21:40:04 CDT
<[log in to unmask]>; from "82 Malcolm Dean 213-5-5676" at Apr 12, 91 1:54 pm
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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In a discussion about happy endings,
> We all know this is not true, but on a deeper level, there IS
> some kind of "yearning" by audiences for satisfaction from seeing
> a movie.
In you?  OK, I can accept that.  In me?  In her?  In them?  Sorry.
> Tonight I'm taking Jim Bonnet's course in universal
> symbolism in story structure (Campbell-haters take note!!) for
> the second time.
My notepad is at the ready.
> His theory is that audiences have a fundamental
> hunger for stories which articulate universal symbols and truths.
> An analysis of the great films (I remember someone challenged the
> concept of "great" a week ago, but _I_ believe in it)
I can see that we're not going to agree....
> shows that
> they portray architypal stories and symbols in a refreshing
> guise, thus helping the viewer to make some sense out of her/his
> reality. Jim's course is valuable not only to screenwriters,
> but also to writers in general, and those working with dreams
> and symbols in their own lives.
This kind of stuff seems a bit dangerous to me.  I mean, what "deeper
level" are we talking about here?  The pleasures of narrative structures,
like other cultural pleasures, are learned, not innate or whatever.
To speculate that there are "universal symbols" reduces the material
in other cultures to mere corollary.  Even Freud refused to make a
list of "universal symbols" in _Interpretation of Dreams_, although
he does come close enough.
And on the same note, you can keep your "universal truths," particularly
as they pertain to Hollywood film conventions, "great" films, and the
happy ending.  I'm quite sure that you and I have different notions
of what all three of those phrases mean.  For example: I thought that
_Ghost_ did not have a happy ending, because Whoopi Goldberg, Demi
Moore, and Patrick Swayze were not collectively dragged into hell.
THAT would've made me happy.  And my comments about _Dead Ringers_,
a film I truly believe to be one of the best in the last ten years,
didn't garner too much support; other people seemed to think it was
less "great" than I thought it was.
I suppose that you will now respond with some standard formalist
listing of what a "great" film is, or what exactly is "universal"
about these symbols and truths, but stuff about "death" and "auteurs"
and "cinematography" seems pretty darn relative to me.  And it all
smacks of you telling me what I think and feel, what everyone else
thinks and feels.  This sounds a bit too scary for my vote ....
On the other hand, perhaps the idea of the "great films" would make an
interesting discussion on the list.  I'd personally be interested to find out
	1) what films would be on this canonical list, and
	2) how other teachers feel about the construction, implicit
	or explicit of such a list.
Is there a film studies canon?
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