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October 1995, Week 3


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Dandrade Kendall <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 20 Oct 1995 00:38:00 EST
text/plain (57 lines)
         Various different answers to the question of how to identify the
authoritative title of a film might be seen as referring to different "owners"
of the film.  Thus what is shown in the opening credits could refer to the
maker's intentions, whether this is an individual, such as a director, or a
group or corporate entity.  The title on the shooting script might privilege
the screen writer (or the person or group who ordered him to use that title).
Publicity citing the title -- advertisements and press books are two good
candidates -- gives the power of naming to the person, or group, preparing
that advertising.  As with both of the possibilities above, that could be the
director, perhaps the producer, perhaps some other individual within a studio,
even an advertising person with no other contact with the film.  It is even
possible for the distributor to put a title on the film anywhere after he has
received it.  (I suppose individuals in a single theatre could do this as
well, although the acts of a single theatre would not have much impact on
others, unless they decided to follow.)  The most recent suggestion, that the
title was the one registered with a central registry of productions, clearly
privileges the studio which did the registering.  That approach seems
consonant with the view that the person who owns something, in the sense that
it is his, hers, or its legally recognized private property, has the right to
name it whatever he, she, or it wants to.  Presumably that's part of the
concept of ownership, or at least original ownership.  Question, does the new
owner have the right to rename an artwork, whether a film or a painting, in
the same way that the new owner has the right to rename, say, a boat?
         But all these possibilities may be irrelevant if we are searching for
that metaphysical entity "the REAL title."  Perhaps there is no such thing;
or, if there is, it is of relatively little interest to others besides
antiquarians.  The "title" of one famous painting is "Whistler's Mother."  Of
course that's not what Whistler called it, it's just how most of us would
identify that painting, and what we would call it in most contexts if we
wanted the person hearing/reading us to know what we were referring to with a
minimum of fuss.  That suggests that there may be two titles.  One given by
the creator(s), however we identify that entity, one given by common usage as
a means of referring to it for most practical purposes.  For example, the
popularity of ELVIRA MADIGAN temporarily made Mozart's 23rd piano concerto
"the music from ELVIRA MADIGAN."  Which name is right?  I think it all depends
on the purpose we have.
         Since films are subject to so many changes, its reasonable to imagine
that the title could change too.  When literary works are changed we often
mark that fact by referring to separate editions.  But there are so many
editions of a film, especially earlier films, that this looks like a hopeless
task.  Until we can identify what is to count as THE authoritative version of
the film, identifying THE authoritative title seems impossible, especially if
all we want to do is refer to this film unambiguously.  A fair reply to that
last claim is, What is THE film we are referring to (for example, which
version)?  Perhaps we should ask what purpose is served in seeking THE
_AUTHORITATIVE_ text of anything, especially a film?  Should we find such an
entity, what will be better about having it, and having it identified for what
it is?
Kendall D'Andrade
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