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June 1997, Week 4


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mike Frank <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 24 Jun 1997 17:22:49 -0400
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
TEXT/PLAIN (43 lines)
in response to my admittedly provocative assertion that films can't be/have
first person narratives [at least not first person narratives about a diegetic
character] molly olsen asks:
>   . . . what about a film like GOODFELLAS or any documentary
>  film where the filmmaker is also the narrator (i.e. SHERMAN'S
>  MARCH) -- are these not "first person texts"?
it's a good question . . . i'm not prepared even to try to answer the part
about documentaries, about which i've thought much too little [and to sloppily]
to have anything useful to say -- perhaps there indeed are first person
narratives in documentary film [although i would guess that in these films
the film-maker/narrator is not also the subject . . . but perhaps i'm wrong
about that]
in any case i was talking [or meant to be talking] about "fiction" films and i
think GOODFELLAS is a good example of what i mean . . . for it seems to me that
GOODFELLAS is far from a first person narrative . . .it's not only because
>   you could argue that, for instance, because the camera
>   is pointed at Henry Hill several times in GOODFELLAS, we
>   are not seeing the action through his eyes . . .
although that is at least part of it  . . . it's more that as i watch the
action of the movie i'm NOT constantly aware that what i'm seeing is
essentially a picture of henry's mind [what bruce kawin calls a
"mind-screen"] . . . instead what i register is that i'm seeing a transcription
of the "real world" [the fictional diegetic real world, of course] and that i'm
invited to consider how this world imposes itself on henry's life . . .
to some extent first person novel are ALWAYS and primarily about their
narrator and only indirectly [or instrumentally] about the world she describes
. . . while in film, the world being depicted is just too much with us . . .
the camera is always showing us "stuff," while the novel is inescapably
giving us nothing but words
mike frank
Screen-L is sponsored by the Telecommunication & Film Dept., the 
University of Alabama.