[Notes] Film Art by D. Bordwell & K. Thompson.

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  • “Horror classics have been remade (Cat People, Dracula), and the genre conventions have been parodied (Young Frankenstein, Beetlejuice). While the Western declined in popularity during the 1970s, the horror film has sustained an audience for over 30 years. Its longevity has set scholars looking for cultural explanations. Many critics suggest that the 1970s subgenre of family horror films, such as The Exorcist and Poltergeist, reflect social concerns about the breakup of American families. Other suggest that the genre’s questioning of normality and traditional categories is in tune with both the post-Vietnam and the post-Cold War eras: Viewers may be uncertain of their fundamental beliefs about the world and their place in it. The continuing popularity of the teenage -oriented slasher series during the 1980s and 1990s might cater to young people’s fascination with and simultaneous anxieties about sexuality and violence – enhanced by sophisticated special-effects capable of creating gory and grotesque scenes. By the late 1990s, horror-film conventions had become so familiar that parodies also became popular: Men in Black (1997), Men in Black II (2002), and the “Scary Movie” and “Scream” series. Whatever the causes filmmakers working in the horror film have maintained that dynamic of conventions and innovation that is basic to every film genre.” [Bordwell & Thompson.2003:123]
  • “Audiences know the genres of their culture very well, and so do filmmakers. The intriguing problem comes in defining just what a genre is. What places a group of films in a genre?” [Bordwell & Thompson. 2003:109]
  • “The word genre is originally French and simply means kind or type. It is closely related to another word, genus, which is used in the biological sciences to classify large groups of similar plants or animals; a genus usually consists of several species. Scientists can usually place plants or animals within a single genus with confidence, since a living thing’s DNA will determine what category it belongs to. Defining film genres lacks that sort of scientific precision. Instead genres are convenient terms that develop in an informal way. Filmmakers, industry decision makers, critics, and viewers all contribute to the formation of a shared sense that certain films seem to resemble one another in significant ways. Genres also change over time, as filmmakers invent new twists on old formulas. Thus, defining the precise boundaries between genres can be tricky.” [Bordwell & Thompson. 2003:108]
  • “Most scholars now agree that no genre can be defined in a single hard-and-fast way. Some genres stand out by their subjects or themes. A gangster film centers on large-scale urban crime. A science-fiction film features a technology beyond the reach of contemporary science. A Western is usually about life on some frontier (not necessarily the West, as North to Alaska and Drums along the Mohawk suggest).” [Bordwell & Thompson. 2003:109]
  • “Quite early the central theme of the genre became the conflict between civilized order and the lawless frontier. From the East and the city come the settlers who want to raise families, the schoolteachers who aim to spread learning, and the bankers and government officials. In the vast natural spaces, in contrast, thrive those outside civilisation – not only the American Indians but also outlaws, trappers and traders, and greedy cattle barons. Iconography reinforces this basic duality. The covered wagon and the railroad are set against the horse and canoe; the schoolhouse and church contrast with the lonely campfire in the hills. As in most genres, costume is ichnographically significant, too. The settlers’ starched dressed and Sunday suits stand out against Indians tribal garb and the cowboys’ jeans and Stetsons.” [Bordwell & Thompson. 2003:119]

 

Bordwell, D. & Thompson, K. (2003) Film Art: An Introduction. McGraw-Hill Company: New York.

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