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November 1996, Week 3


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Donald Larsson <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 18 Nov 1996 16:17:16 -0600
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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Kendall D'Andrade comments:
" Now imagine an analog of
Murnau's comment near the end of _The Last Laugh_ to the effect that what
we are seeing is simply made up, could not have happened, and is tacked
on for those who prefer happy endings to reality.  While I know of no
films with this contrast between what is seen and what is shown, other
than Hollywood conservatism, I don't see why such a sequence would be
difficult for the viewers to interpret "correctly" . . . "
Something like that occurs in THE THREEPENNY OPERA, where Brecht's deus ex
machina arrives on a bike to ensure a happy ending that is otherwise
implausible.  I think the Pabst version of the play preserves that.
Kendall also notes:
"When the magician "shows" us sawing the person in half, most of us would
treat our neighbor's commentary "He's not really doing that," as more
reliable than what we "saw."  That no one on stage says this seems
But compare REAR WINDOW, which *seems* to make a case against "rear window
ethics" with Doyle the detective casting doubt on anyone's ability to fathom
the motives of others.  But the fact that Thorwald *did* murder his wife
undercuts that argument--and the vital clue, the wedding ring, is found
because of presuppositions about how people (especially women) are supposed
to behave--pretty flimsy evidence, that.
RW is further complicated because another apparently vital clue--a shot of
a woman leaving with Thorwald is seen by the audience but not by Jeff.  If
he had seen that event, his suspicions might have been laid to rest.
RW is an even trickier bit of audience hoodwinking than is first apparent!
Don Larsson, Mankato State U (MN)
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