SCREEN-L Archives

August 1994


Options: Use Monospaced Font
Show Text Part by Default
Show All Mail Headers

Message: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]
Topic: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]
Author: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]

Print Reply
Donald Larsson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 17 Aug 1994 08:12:24 -0600
text/plain (36 lines)
Dan Gribbin writes:
"To sum up, several SCREEN-L correspondents have
pointed out the existence of admittedly trivial background references, but it
seems important to be mindful of the less obvious referencing to previous
works, myths, and archetypes that customarily feeds our art."
Your point is well taken.  Without giving too much to T.S. Eliot, we can
acknowledge that all art steals from/builds on/reacts to other works of
art more or less overtly.  There is often, if not always, also a range of
built-in references to "real life," whether in the form of historical/
political backgrounds or the social contexts that are simply taken for granted
by artist and audience alike.  In general, this is what Bordwell and Thompson
call "referential meaning" (distinct from but overlapping with implicit
meaning, explicit meaning and symptomatic [ideological] meaning."  It is
always present, but sometimes more important as part of the film's overall
structure than others.  As a couple of examples, ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN
might be viewed strictly as a fictional work by people who are completely
ignorant about Watergate and Nixon, but those political events are part of
the film's structure.  WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT and SINGIN' IN THE RAIN both
can hold their own for someone innocent of any film history but they are
filmed with allusions that make the films more enjoyable to those who get
 the references.
My initial question, though, was prompted by LETHAL WEAPON III and the
background references to animal rights that are completely extraneous to
the plot (except, perhaps, as an ironic commentary on the foregrounded human
violence).  Outside of deliberate spoof films, like the Crosby-Hope ROAD TO
films and the Zucker-Abraham films, it's hard to think of films that use
such off-the-wall referentiality.
A related point is the question of reception.  If a reference is made and
no one has the models to decode or access the reference, then is the
reference a part of the film's structure?
--Don Larsson, Mankato State U., MN