Filmmakers From Two Different Eras Used to Essay

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  • Subject: Literature
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Filmmakers From Two Different Eras Used to Portray Subjects and Ideas

The focus of the research in this study is the techniques utilized by filmmakers from the classical and 'New Hollywood' eras of filmmaking. Towards this end, this study will examine the literature in this areas of inquiry.

Classical Hollywood Cinema & Narrative

The work of David Bordell (nd) examines classical Hollywood cinema and states that there are three views of narrative that are distinct from one another in that a narrative can be "studied as representation, how it refers to or signifies a world or body of ideas" and he states this could be referred to as 'semantics' of narrative which is exampled in the majority of studies on characterization or realism. As well a narrative can be viewed as a structure in the way its "components combine to create a distinctive whole." (Bordwell, nd, p. 17)

Narrative can be also studied according to Bordwell as an art "a dynamic process of presenting a story to a perceiver." (nd, p. 18) Bordwell states that this "would embrace considerations of source, function, and effect; the temporal progress of information or action and concepts like the 'narrator'." (nd, p. 18)

Classical Hollywood film is reported by Bordwell to present "psychologically defined individuals who struggle to solve a clear-cut problem or to attain specific goals" involving conflict between characters or with circumstances external to themselves and the story concluding with a victory that is decisive or a clear defeat or somehow otherwise resolved but always with an identified problem resulting in "clear achievement or nonachievement of the goals." (Bordwell, nd, p. 18) The principal causal agency in classical Hollywood film is therefore the character who is a distinctive individual "endowed with an evident, consistent batch of traits, qualities and behaviors." (Bordwell, nd, p. 18)

The work of Michael Kokonis writes in the work entitled "Postmodernism, Hyperreality and the Hegemony of Spectacle in New Hollywood: The Case of the Truman Show" that due to the tendency of individuals to adhere to tradition that in the view of films that "we tend to look for those classical values of 'development', 'coherence', and 'unity' in narratives however, what is found are "disappointments that narrative plots become thinner, that characters are reduced to one-dimensional stereotypes and that action is carried through by loosely-linked sequences, built around spectacular stunts, dazzling stars and special effects." (Kokonis,, p. 1)

Specifically the work of Buckland (p.166) reports that "Narrative complexity is sacrificed on the altar of spectacle as today's blockbusters turn out to be nothing but calculated exercises in profit-making, all high-concept, high-gloss and pure show." (Kokonis,, p. 1) Kokonis states that there have been "similar cries of warning about the loss of narrative integrity to cinematic spectacle…voiced at different periods usually at times of crisis or change in the history of the American cinema." ( p.1)

New Hollywood & Narrative

Kokonis writes that it is important to understand the changes that are dramatic in nature that the film industry in the United States has transversed through since World War II and which "culminated to a point of radical transformation in the post-1975 period, which has eventually come to beset warrant the term 'New Hollywood'. (Kokonis, p. 1) Bordwell notes that there is a debate centered on the term 'New Hollywood' but has been settled upon as the post-1975 era when the blockbuster mentality transformed the industry. Kokonis notes that there were similar protests concerning the loss of narrative integrity for example the displacement of classicism by the baroque style which served to mark what was the end of the classical cinema's "pure phrase." (Kokonis, nd, p.1)

Dissatisfaction was also expressed in the late 1970s at the time when Jaws (1975) and Star Wars (1977) cited the re-orientation of Hollywood's "aesthetic, cultural and industrial….towards movies with more emphasis on special effects and cinematic spectacle." (Kramer, 301 cited in Kokonis, p. 1) It was noted that stories were no longer refined but were instead "spicing up concepts, refining gimmicks, making sure there are no complexities to fur our tongue when it came to spreading word of mouth." (Kokonis, nd, p.1)

Kokonis writes that it is the opinion of Warren Buckland that these arguments concerning the loss of narrative are "overstated and attempts to reverse the 'unhelpful and hostile evaluative stance' critics hold towards the blockbuster. The argument of Buckland, in part is that "historical poetics can account for the popularity of movies with such a broad appeal (and allows us to take them seriously as aesthetic, cultural objects)" because as stated by Buckland "especially because movies are examined in terms of their individuality, including their response to their historical moment, in which style and composition respond to the historical questions posed in the culture in which the film is made" (168-169 cited in Kokonis, nd, p.1)

It is not so much about the narrative's death according to Bordwell since it is after all "still alive and well -- but the emergence of a new kind of narrative whose meaning is conveyed not through traditional narration but by emphasis on spectacle and the visual impact of the pictures which provide additional narrative pleasure and have changed the patterns of viewer response." (nd, p. 1) Buckland's remark which concludes states "it is perhaps time to stop condemning the New Hollywood blockbuster and to start, instead, to understand it," carries more merit than we have been ready to admit." (Kokonis, nd, p.1)

The work of James Monaco (1981) "How to Read a Film" is reported to have "put forth the argument that economics and technology determine to a great extent the influence on or interrelationship of one art form to another, claiming that cinema had taken over the novel's traditional role as a storytelling art, driving the novel away from mimesis and toward self-consciousness." (Kokonis, nd, p. 1) Cinema is reported to have lost its spot as the primary entertainment form when television became popular and computer and digital technology has further been driven to adopt the "aesthetics of TV and move away from traditional narration to the sensationalism of grand spectacle and show-biz enterprising." (Kokonis l, nd, p.1)

Bordwell reports that the film 'Truman's World' opened with "documentary-like shots of the producer and the main actors of the show, offering behind-the-scene comments on the "virtues" of this extraordinary production, framing thus the main story about Truman's life. Simultaneously, there are inserts of the television show credits and its star Truman, as well as a time marker (Day 10909) like those dotting the expositional shots in some films. Thus Weir puts the film spectator in a privileged position allowing for multiple perceptual perspectives of both the diegetic and the hypodiegetic worlds, which accounts for the window within window stylistic approach and the film within film narrative structure. As a result, the film text acquires a metafictional character and its narrative strategy facilitates the foregrounding of ontological issues at the expense of the epistemological ones." (Kokonis, nd, p.1)

According to Kokonis this "transworld violation of ontological limits" is achieved by Weir "through distanciation devices such as frame-break and intertextuality, which are standard postmodernist practices. The integrity of the hypodiegetic narrative, that is, the maintenance of the illusion of reality in Truman's world is not retained because of the voyeuristic setting created by the organization of a number of scopic regimes. Weir has devised an enormous amount of visual tricks to suggest the "mobilized and virtual gaze" of the simulated, corporal world of surveillance electronics. His camera appropriates the most improbable and unusual focalization points or angles to simulate the 5000 hidden cameras on the 'set:' While there are some "objective" point-of-view shots, which, as in mainstream cinema, suggest the invisible position of an observer within the diegetic world (usually from the standard height of a person's eyes) -- for instance, showing Truman in front of his car greeting his neighbor; as well as some "subjective" point-of-view shots to designate the reciprocal or returned gaze of a diegetic character (e.g. Truman's neighbor), most shots adopt a completely unnatural and extreme angle, from below, from the top and sideways, that suggest the clearly voyeuristic gaze of the non-human, spying gaze of electronic surveillance devices." (Kokonis, nd, p.1)

Shots include those from a camera hidden in Meryl's necklace or cameras hidden in the rear-view mirror and dashboard or even through underwater-hidden cameras shot from the waves result in the rendering of Truman "the sole focal point of the gaze of three kinds of voyeurs: ironically 'the only true man' in this voyeuristic setting becomes the unwitting dupe of the show. That is, he becomes subject to the gaze of everyone else who is "in the know," the actors on the set (at the hypodiegetic level), the crew of the television production and the members of its audience (at the diegetic level), and the actual members of the audience in the cinema auditorium, made privy to a third, and hence more powerful order of the look, a…

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