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September 1996, Week 1


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Pip Chodorov <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 30 Aug 1996 12:21:32 -0400
text/plain (92 lines)
>If I understand you correctly, I do not think putting such large
>categories as Fiction and Documentary on the Form list would
>be helpful.  This would fundamentally change the meaning of
>Form away from "the basic categories indicating a moving image
>work's original exhibition and release parameters, and which are
>separate from its actual content, not necessarily implying a
>particular narrative construction.  Form terms include Feature,
>Shorts, Serials, Animation, and Television."  Following your
>suggestion, I'm not sure how Form could then be distinguished
>from Genre
I am not an expert on genre; I make no claims to understand implicitly genre
and form, and the dictionary is not helping me in this case, so I can only go
by the definition you posted. However, my point, I think, is simple:
For me, genre (in film) is a set of parallel terms -- horror, suspense,
comedy, biography... -- that help to loosely categorize the _content_ of a
film, the nature of the diegesis.
The terms fiction, documentary and experimental are not in parallel with
horror, suspense, comedy, etc., as they help to categorize more the _form_ of
a film, or the way in which the subject is treated.
In this way, fiction biography, documentary biography and experimental
biography are different and meaningful in the same way as feature drama or
short drama, if you see what I mean...
The lists you are building are extremely useful, but their greatest asset
will be clarity and logic. The terms need to be grouped together rigorously
and along precise lines so as to create paradigmatic relationships: in the
linguistic sense, that means the terms sit at the same level and can be
equally substituted. Any adjective can modify any noun; however, adjectives
and nouns could be grouped into conceptual sets to avoid illogical
combinations: grouping adjs and nouns by tangibility, to pick an example,
would avoid combinations such as "crunchy dream", "purple concept", "buttered
scapegoats" or on the other hand "abstract toast", "multitasked carpeting",
"psychological dogs", etc.
Maybe "form" is the wrong term, then, but I think fiction, documentary and
experimental should be pulled out of the genre list and put into a class by
themselves which in every case will be used alongside a form and a genre.
These terms in some way complete each other -- such as poetry, prose,
correspondance -- and together describe an aspect of a film that is
completely apart from the meaning of the film, even if it contributes more
than a little to constructing this meaning.
Here is how the Agence du Court-Metrage in Paris organizes their films: when
they ask for a new film the director or producer is asked to indicate how the
film should be categorized in their computer. The terms are obviously
completely different from yours and mine, but the idea of separating form
from content is there. The criteria are also necessarily over-simplified, but
here they are (translated from French):
  Literary adaptation, Dramatic Comedy, Musical Comedy, Romantic Comedy,
Fables/Myths, Psychological Drama, Horror, Fantasy, "Interactive" Film,
Humor, Burlesque Humor, Black Humor, Police/Intrigue, Portrait,
Research/Essay, Science-Fiction, Suspense/Mystery
  Adolescence, Food, Love, Architecture, Artisans, Suburbs, Countryside,
Cinema, Consumers, Couples, Dance, Delinquance, Desert, Drugs, Education,
Childhood, Eros, Ethnography, Exile/exodus, Anecdote, Family, Fauna, Flora,
Insanity, War, Immigration, Justice/Prison, Literature, Medecine/Health,
Medias, Ocean, Minorities, Fashion, Mountain, Death, Music, Birth, Country
(which?), Painting, Photography, Politics, Pollution, Racism, Regions,
Religion, Science/Technical, Sculpture, Sport (which?), Historical Subject
(which era?), Televions, Theater, Tourism, Traditions, Transportation, Work,
Aging, City, Violence, Other
  Fiction, Animation, Documentary, Docudrama, Filmed Performance,
  Drawn on paper, Claymation, Cut-out paper, Computer 2D/3D, Puppets, Cels,
Objects, Drawn on film, Pixillation, Other
(Notice there is no "other" at the end of their "genre" list.)
This may be a roundabout way to explain a simple idea but I wanted to make
sure you understood the problem I had mentioned before.
Pip Chodorov
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