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October 2001, Week 2


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Donald Larsson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Fri, 12 Oct 2001 11:43:41 -0500
TEXT/PLAIN (44 lines)
Mike Frank wonders:

>      1.  can a film be "conventional" despite its       unconventional
>      use of the medium?
>      2  if so, what are the DETERMINING characteristics in a film,
>      those  decisive enough to lead one to call it "truly" unconventional
>      or revolutionary or radical or whatever other term of praise
>      one wants to use?

Doesn't the very notion of "conventionality" by definition depend on
what is accepted as more or less standard within any medium?  Henry
James' novels were "unconventional" in their use of limited focus but
that approach went on to become a major convention of the twentieth
century novel.  The re-appopriation of the 18th-century narrative
conventions (eg., the epistolary novel) becomes unconventional two
centuries later.

It would seem to follow that a film can be conventional or
unconventional in narrative form, stylistic uses of the medium, or
thematic issues being engaged and that any of those areas could be at
odds with the others.

The notion of convention would also seem to be bound by practices at a
particular moment.  In film classes, students justly wonder why anyone
raised a fuss about CITIZEN KANE or the Italian Neo-Realists when so
much what they (and many others) did have become so conventional.  On
the other hand, the most conventional silent films strike them as
strange because of the lack of sound.

Don Larsson

Donald F. Larsson, English Department, AH 230
Minnesota State University
Mankato, MN  56001

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