Examining a Contemporary Feature Film Term Paper

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French New Wave cinema was established by film critics, who founded the Cahiers du Cinema, whom felt cinema had become too commercialized, formulaic, and unoriginal. This group of critics would come to identify two major characteristics of the New Wave movement, which included the manner in which mise-en-scene was utilized in the film and how their auteur theory could be applied to work of art created. A contemporary film that incorporates French New Wave cinema elements into its production and design is the 2009 film District 9.

Among the major elements used in French New Wave film are loose story plots; improvised dialogue; erratic character behavior; unique use of jump cuts; and the use of natural lighting, location, and direct sound recording. District 9's unique documentary style and editing allows Neill Blomkamp to successfully incorporate these elements into the film's narrative while maintaining a cohesive feel.

Additionally, District 9 is a commentary on social issues of racism and social stratification. It can be argued that the commentary of these issues is a commentary on the institutionalized discrimination and racism (apartheid) that was rampant in South Africa from 1948 until 1994.[footnoteRef:1] [1: "The History of Apartheid in South Africa," accessed November 13, 2012, http://www-cs-students.stanford.edu/~cale/cs201/apartheid.hist.html]

District 9 is reminiscent of the sci-fi/film noir film Alphaville by Jean-Luc Goddard as it combines issues of unwarranted persecution and advanced, albeit alien, technology. Moreover, like Alphaville, District 9 comments on bureaucracy and how the government influences social behaviors.

Through its narrative style, social and political commentary, and genre, District 9 builds upon the foundations of French New Wave cinema.

I. Introduction

a. French New Wave origins[footnoteRef:2] [2: Keven Krasko, "La Nouvelle Vague (The French New Wave)," accessed November 13,
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i. Started by group of critics who founded Cahiers du Cinema

i. These critics considered popular films to be too formulaic and unoriginal

ii. Cahiers du Cinema identified 2 main characteristics of the movement

1. Mise en scene

2. Auteur theory

a. Celebrated directors who were auteurs such as Renoir, Hitchcock, and Welles

b. Major elements and characteristics of French New Wave cinema and how they relate to District 9. [footnoteRef:3] [3: Ibid.]

i. Loose story plots

1. Gives audience members the feeling that anything can happen in the film. Allows for open endings.

a. The development of the story and plot in District 9 is organic and allows the audience to see how circumstances influence Wikus van de Merwe (Sharlto Copley) and how these influences determine how Wikus interacts with those around him.[footnoteRef:4] [4: District 9, DVD, directed by Neill Blomkamp, (2009; South Africa, TriStar Pictures, 2009).]

b. The origin of the aliens in the film is unclear. They just appeared in Johannesburg one day in 1982.[footnoteRef:5] [5: District 9, directed by Neill Blomkamp.]

ii. Improvisation of dialogue

1. Most, if not all, of the alien interaction and dialogue with Wikus during the eviction scene was improvised by Jason Cope or the actor Sharlto Copely (Wikus).[footnoteRef:6] [6: Meredith Woerner, "Five Things You Didn't Know About District 9," accessed November 13, 2012, http://io9.com/5341120/5-things-you-didnt-know-about-district-9]

2. "So we would film the two of them and then we would go to a different shack. And he'd pretend to evict a new alien. Then we'd go somewhere else and somewhere else. So it was just the two of them. It's the conversations between those two, the actual dialogue and what actually came out of them was totally improved. Any details in words and the language between the two happened right there on the day of shooting. That what makes it feel like they are really communicating...


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