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October 1997, Week 3


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Mike Frank <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 14 Oct 1997 19:51:20 -0400
TEXT/PLAIN (48 lines)
 an undergraduate friend -- who has done very little work in cinema studies
but finds film fascinating -- is planning an honors thesis based on film and
has sent me the following e-mail message . . . i made some suggestions but i'm
not sure how good they are and i am sure that they just skim the surface of
what he might watch or think about . . . so both of us would appreciate any
feedback from those of you who have thought about these matters more than i
with his permission i append the main part of his query below and i will
forward any responses, either on list or off, to him
mike frank
        I find that many American movies of the last twenty years or so,
which depict an encounter with supernatural phenomena (e.g., Close Encounters,
E.T., Contact, maybe 2001) tend to suggest the possibility of the supernatural
offering an experience of transcendent redemption:  In each of these movies
something fantastic arrives from far away, from the future, or from another
dimension, equipped with superior intelligence, technology,  and --more
important--sensitivity, and releases the characters in the film, and thereby
the audience in the theater as well, from the intolerable or meaningless
or repressive existence they have known. By contrast, encounters
with the supernatural in American films of the 1930s and 40s like It's
a Wonderful Life and The Wizard of Oz seem to convey the message that in
fact American life as we know it is just fine, and that when it comes
down to it there really is no place like home.
        Can you suggest any additional films that would serve as good
examples of this contrast, or, if necessary, films that tend to undermine it
and show that a desire for transcendence was as common fifty years ago as it
seems to be today?   In addition, do you know of any secondary texts
that explore this topic, or related topics?
        Michael Sugarman
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