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March 1995, Week 3


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Meredith McMinn <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 17 Mar 1995 10:43:42 CST
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----------------------------Original message----------------------------
Two quick points on a complex subject.
One of the major critical writers on film (whose name escapes me for the
moment, I'm afraid) points out that film genres tend to evolve
cyclically through four phases: from "experimental"  through "classical"
and "refinement" to "baroque", in which it reflects back on itself.  But
old genres never die.  They may go dormant for a time only to reemerge, or
just transform without disappearing.  One of  the people on this net
noted a couple of silent movie parodies that did not kill the genres they
mocked.  Another is _Sherlock, Jr._ (Keaton again) which parodies the
detective thriller.  That genre didn't die, either, but transformed and
branched, submerged and reemerged, with or without the detective as
The other, somewhat ill-formed thought I'd like to share has to do with
the posts about imitation and heroes and non-heroes.  I think we can all
agree that the effect of violence on the screen on mature, thoughtful,
adults is not the evocation of imitation.  However, they are not the
people we all worry about.
The imitation of movie characters and stars
is hardly new nor very controvertible.  Even Sherlock, Jr., in fact, reflcts
this.  The
protagonist of the film, a lowly movie projectionist, dreams of himself
as the great detective, Sherlock, Jr., and  he even directly imitates
what he sees on the screen at film's end.  The off-the-rack fashion
industry has depended on it (though TV has taken over that function
largely).  Certainly violence is nothing new, either, nor, arguably, the
of non-heroes (using the term heroes in the sense of perfect and idealized
characters who behave in "heroic" ways--whatever those are--as opposed to
merely protagonists).  There may be a fine point of distinction between
protagonists who are anti-heroes and those who are non-heroes, but we've
had them around for a long time.  Aristotle , himself said that the
hero of a tragedy should not be perfect, nor should he be all bad.  Apart
from that, however, the protagonists' imperfections do not make them less
emulatable.  Perhaps for those who are a little screwed up or immature
themselves, they merely make these guys easier to relate to. ??
One last note and then I'll shut up:  I agree with David Smith that
(probably) neither Hitchcock nor Truffault
equated suspense with violence.  In fact when Truffault interviewed
Hitchcock, the latter made a point of saying that suspense was about
anticipation and that danger or harm did not have to be involved.
The anticipation of the answer to a question like: "Will the young man pop
the question? (likely followed by, if so, how will she respond?) is as
valid for suspense as "will the bomb explode?"  The actual explosion of
the bomb is not suspenseful at all.  (Obviously, I'm not directly quoting
Hitch here--don't have the book in front of me--but that's the gist and
tenor of what he said)
Sorry to go on so long on "two quick points."
Meredith McMinn