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Introduction of Genre in Cinema

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Good morning. So, today we are going to discuss what genres are; which specific reference to film genre.So, as a most of us we are know the genres, literally mean a category or a type.A typical genre is a collection of instantly recognizable stylistic features.In literature, for example you have, I am talking a very broadly now; literary genreof poetry or drama or fiction, a short story, a non-fiction, so these are the broad genres, the broad categories.You might very often come across the courses like, course in drama or a course inlet say in poetry or fiction.A sub category would be course in American drama or Latin American fiction;so those are sub genres which form an integral part of a broader category.Likewise in cinema also, we have genres someof the most recognizable or rather instantly recognizable genres are the western.We are basically talking in the American contex ‘the western’.So far we have been talking very often about western being an out and out American product,American creation or Hollywood creation.So, western and gangster they are the most popular genres of American drama.We also have musicals even in our country musical is the very popular genre.We have thriller and then we have spy genre which is a sub genre of a broader category like an action movie.We have martial art cinema; think Hong Kong cinema, the Bruce lee, Jet li,Donnie Yen kind of cinema so that is martial art cinema. But then we have is variants inevery part of the world, I mean Kill bill was good example of martial art cinema but,then Kill bill is a specific category, is in its specific category of its own.We also have a very popular romantic comedy the popularly called Rom-com,and then we have science fiction.We have already done films like Blade Runner and which was basedon ‘do androids dream of electric sheep?’ Philip K Dick’s novel and we have also done The Matrix trilogy.So, those are the popular genres of cinema. But, then we have many more,and we are going to look at how genres are define, and categorized, and analyzed.And then we will be discussing gangster as the popular genre, because gangster cinema is;of course is the Hollywood product but, then even in our own country it has becomea very important genre of cinema.And then we see our Indian cinema has interpreted and reinterpreted the genre of gangster.So, a genre usually what does it evokes?It evokes the look of the characters, physical environment and significant object.We are going to read that in details, what is the look of the character, what are the objects,how iconography is formed in genre. Genres identities usually, what purpose do they serve;the basic purpose that they serve to preserve a films’ integrity.In one of my earlier classes Swetha was asking,and she answer that she Rom-com happens to be her favorite genre.My respond is that was someone who is the follower or an admirer of a romantic comedy of a film genre,filmmakers usually make a movie to cater to that specific group of audience;but so the way the film is marketed, and advertised and projected its aim at theparticular group or subgroup of audience. So, let us assume a movie like Clueless,Alicia Silverstone, and we had the remake of that in Hindi Aisha. So, films like Clueless orAisha they cater to a particular group cater to a niche group; thus largely you knowfemale audience, girls who would be interested in may be you know lighter pursuit of life,The Devil Wears Prada. But, then think of another genre like The Bourne trilogy, James Bonds movies;these genres these groups of films they have the own fan following,that is what I mean when I say the genres preserve the films integrity and identity.Genres cater to the group of audience, and people go to a movie expect thing something out of it.So, followers of romantic comedy, they go to a movie like The Devil Wears Prada, a Cluelessexpecting something out of it. You have a movie like ‘The shop around the Corner’,Lubitsch’s movie which was remade as You have go Mail, Tom Hank's and Meg Ryan.a popular romantic comedy screenplay was by Nora Ephron.So, these kinds of films they have their own followers.When you advertise the movie like which is the remake of a very popularromantic comedy of the 40's The Shop Around The Corner, and then the audience of the 90's,they expect an updated version of the same film. For example, Clueless is advertisedas a contemporary updated version of J. Austen`s Emma, and Aisha is advertised in Indiaas an updated version of Emma, yes but also a remake of something like Clueless.So, the audience that go to watch those movies, they know what to expect, and genres really fails to live upto the expectation, sometimes they do but then another story.So, genres in other words allow for expectations where certain things can happen, and certainthings cannot, and when certain things happen out of the box, out of the, out of characterin a particular genre then that instance on genre bending, or genre blending and thatalso something we are going to look at today. Sub-genres, what are sub-genres?I was just talking about courtroom drama as a sub category of a drama. So, what is a sub-genre?Think a film like, James Bond trilogy, what is it? It is a subgenre of espionage thriller moviebut then again the broad genre would always we mean action adventure genre.And a detective or thriller genre or espionage becomes a sub-genre category.So, subgenre we were talking about sub-genre; is defined by specific characteristics.For example, you know you have a very popular category, horror cinema.Now horrorhas been interpretedin several countries in different ways.So, Psycho is generally characterized as a horror film.We also have a sub-genre of vampire films,vampire films,and then another sub-genre becomes a Slasher film.So, ‘I know what you did last summer’, ‘I still know what you did last summer’.So, those films become a sub-genre of the broad category horror cinema.So, they as we are talking about genres cater to a particular audience.And when you have a horror perhaps; it is catering to a particular group of audience,but when you have Slasher cinema or J-horror then the niche group gets more visible, moredefine, more redefine. So, you know that perhaps you are targeting and age group which is between 16 and 25,and then those are those are the age groups they generally enjoys J-horror and Slasher films.We have post-apocalyptic cinema which is a subgenre of science fiction.A movie like ‘The Road’, which was based on Cormac McCarthy’s novel, it is you can categorize it,as a subgenre of science fiction. Noir, we have already discussed noir at lengthy in our earlier classes.Noir is a category of gangster cinema, and we will see,how noir becomes a category of gangster cinema, and why it happens?We have already discussed Hay’s code to some extent.We have sports films, like our own ‘Chak De India’,it was a very popular sports film. Sports films in India unfortunately are not very popular,not very common but, Chak De India happen to be an exception,because perhaps, because of the presence of the star.So, sports films are very good example or of subgenre of drama category.So, there is lot of drama, there is lot of action as well as dialogue, and high conflict,a strong characterization; these are the features we discuss in one of ourearlier classes what are, how a movies make? We talk about a strong narrative, plot thenwe talked about characterization, and conflict. Conflict creates high drama in most sport movies.‘Money ball' yeah, Brad pit’s that is a very popular and successful example of a sport film and it is a drama.‘Any given Sunday’ Oliver stones’it is one of the most inspirational film of all time that is a sub category of drama.Then we also have courtroom dramas another subgenre of drama, ‘The Lincoln lawyer’, I think MatthewMcConaughey is a very popular. ‘To kill a mocking bird’ staring Gregory Peckwhich won him only academic award. To an extent, even a movie like ‘Scent of a women’which ends in almost like jury like setting; where the boy is on trial, he is about to expeland then Colonel Frank comes and defense him. So, those kind of Scent of a women is verygood example of typical drama, it has lots of drama, lot of conflict, it is also upcomingof age kind of film, especially for the boy. And it is journey which these two men takeand how they evolve over a period of weekend. Theoretically, lot of work has been done,there has been a theoretician; Dudley Andrews whose theories we are going to consider.But then very a recent book comes from someone called Rick Altman; who has written a book, 'Film/genre'it is not slash of film but, it is a film genre. So, what does he say?The gist of the book is that, the genre film uses the same material over and again,and it is not a certain in a derisive way, it is a very positive statement about genre films.Same material over and again. I do not know, if you remember those two words that we didin one of our earlier classes the concept of FubulaandSjuzet.Fubula is a story, Sjuzet is the way a story is told.So Fubula is the story;once upon a time something happened.Once upon a time in America, Sergio Leone’s film, it is a gangster film but, and it usesthe same material over and again, have you watch the movie Sandeep, in America, not?‘Once upon a time in west’, you have watched? Once upon a time in America is a supreme exampleof a highly successful gangster movie but, it does not it has all the tropes,it has the entire characteristic; the basic raw material is present, of a gangster movie.But then the Sjuzet, the way the movie unfold is something very different, then it doesnot follow the Godfather projector. The Godfather is a very classic linear kind of plot.It has identifiable characters, it has conflict, a kind of conflict where we root for the socalled anti-hero in spite of his weaknesses, in spite of its fatal flaws; we will stillroot for Don Corleone, we will still root for Michael Corleone in spite of their very obvious flaws.Once upon a time in America turns, takes all the tropes of a gangstermovie and them over again, what does it do?We do not have first, the first rule that he violets, Sergio Leone directed the movie.The first rule that he violets is of a linear plot. So the plot is anything but linear,it follows back and forth in time and very non-linear narrative.The first 15 minute are absolutely silent,is an extremely violent.Then, second element of plot is conflict;there is plenty of conflict and we have lots of violence,lots of bloodsheds on screen, but it is not the normal good versus evil.These people kill out of greed in the quest for power and ambition. So, again this kindof narratives will departs from the feel, essentially feel good element of the Godfather,after all no civilians are ever killed in the Godfather, but ‘Once upon a time inAmerica’ friends kills friends, brothers betray brothers because just for power,and we are not talking about vendetta, it is for naked, greed and ambition that crimes are committed hereThen we have characters,a movie like the Godfatherhas very relatable, very identifiable characters in spite of their essential flaws.However in ‘Once upon a time in America’, we do not have a single sympathetic character,and we are talking about the presence of thestar of the sketcher of Robert de Niro, but then there is hardly a point when we rootfor the hero or when we relate the hero, because he is created in such unsympathetic tones.Whats happening? Now using the same material but, it is the way the story is told.It is all in the hands of the filmmaker, what he does with his material.Yes, it is a genre, it is a recognizable genre, a gangster genre.It fulfils your expectations but, then it is the treatment that differs in ‘Once upon a time in America’,and it prevents it from becoming a clone of the Godfather.So, that is the difference.Altman also suggest that genres are of repetitive nature, yes we know, and then repetitive natureseems to diminish the importance of each films ending along with cause and effect sequences.Now what does it mean diminishes the importance of each films ending?You know what Altman is try to tell us is that, genre films depend on the cumulative effect of the films oftenrepeated situations, themes, and icons. So, these are the take away; genre films dependon the cumulative effect of the films often repeated situations, themes, and icons and for example.We can take example like in gangster movies, invariably we never find the herowalking away in the sunset, the way we find in a western; there is also we know,western is also kind of a genre and there we know that the western hero will never settle down,he has to ride away, he has to restore balance equilibrium in a society which has been disrupted,because of some evil character, so the hero walks in restores and leaves; so that is becausethere some other town is waiting to be rescued, that is the idea. So, endings are often repeatedthat is what we mean when we say, genre films depend on the cumulative effect of the films repeated situations.So, we know this is what is going to happen in a typical western,this is what is going to, this is how a typical gangsters going to end.So, gangster hero how he dies on screen James Cagney, we are talking about the 30's ‘public enemies’,then Edward Robinson in ‘Little Caesar’, Paul Muni in 1930's Scarface.So, they have to die in the end.There is no hope or no life of promise and roses and wine ending for the gangster hero.So, what we are trying to, what Rick Altman is trying to suggestis that the genres prevent that element of surpass.Can you think of more examples Sandeep?Yes. Is there any gangster movie where you have seen the hero not die? Ok.Student: Kind of end of the movie he escapes, police try to catch him and in a way Good Fellas sense.In a way that sense, Goodfellas; it is quitedifferent in the sense that it is the life on the run he will never find peace,his the life worst than death where he lives the life which is he knows, that the some total ofhis life has come to nothing, he lives the kind of witness protection program,and it is always tragic, always lives under the looming shadow of threat. So, it is a very ingloriouskind of an end for that hero, really out of character. He is not, from way he started,and the way he end, almost ends in a whimper, not at the band, the way Scarface.And think Al Pacino in Scarface in 1983, I mean he ends with a band, have you watch the movie?That is the way gangsters are suppose to die, but again in ‘Once upon a time in America’,the ending is extremely ambiguous. There are two gangsters there; one is playedby James woods, and of course the leading man is Robert De Niro.We are left wondering at the end,whether the Di Nero’s character is dead or not, or whether he is just or whetherhe is already dead and dreaming the entire movie, its ends on a very ambiguous note.We just find a truck driving towards him and then it passes in by, and then he looks on;whether the idea that is that the if his life has been a garbage truck, you know that attruck that collect garbage takes away, is that what Sergio Leone suggesting or whetherhe has been mode over by that particular garbage truck and he is taken away, to be dispose,for his body to be disposed. So, you never know how it ends but, again it is a very inglorious ending.He does not die a hero’s death. How does Johnny Depp dies in public enemy?He is shot to death.Outside the movie theatre? That they have taken from John Dillinger’s real life.So, genre production is allied with, againI am quoting Rick Altman; genre production is allied with decorum, nature science andother standard produced and defended by these sponsoring society. Now the other theoreticianthat I was referring to is Dudley Andrews, and he has written a book called ‘Concepts in film theory’.This is how he explains genres; ‘genres are a specific networksof formulas which deliver a certified product to a waiting customer’.So, that is what we have been talking about, you expect a romantic comedy; it is a certified product, and thereis a waiting and willing customer for this kind of film.The other day, I was reading an interview by Ajay Devgan,and he has done remake of an 80's pot boiler ‘Himmatwala’.Now, he says that they are very few characters you can pull of a movie like Himmatwala,originally it is starred Jeetendra and Sridevi. It is a regular masala pot boiler and, but it wasmass success, it was like huge blockbuster and it is pond of a series of clothes,after that we would find the same pair in acting the same kind of dances and the same kindof you know the comic subplot and the same kind of comic villains. It was like an assembly line production.And now why go back to that genre of cinema, why go back to that Himmatwalakind of 30 years down the line? When cinema has progress so much, when people have makingfilms like Gangs of Wasseypur, a movie where Martin Scorsese has praised,and then why do we need the Himmatwala now? Because there is a set of audience willing to lap it up.The same kind of audience which exist for film like Singam or for a film like Dabangg or Bodyguard.So, I am not being derisive about the audience, I am saying that thereis a certified product which is delivered to a waiting and willing consumer and customer.So, every kind of a movie has set of consumer or customer.The other day we were talking about the end of new Hollywood cinema.Now, many people, many great directors of that period have lamented the factthat the movement might have died down;and there was so many reasons, and we have discussed those reasons but, it was notas if the audience has rejected the movement. They do blame the audience for lapping ofmovement like Star wars or closer encounters of the third kind, so, Jaws.So, perhaps these movies have cause I think, you use the word dumbing down of the audience.Perhaps, there is imbecile set of audience which will always there in majority in every society but,that does not necessarily mean that movie like American graffiti or American gigoloor Days of heaven would not find its audience. There would always the people who would be therefor that kind of cinema also. How I was trying to connect the whole thing is that,new Hollywood cinema also, those great filmmakers also felt that the movement died down,because of their own mismanagement and because of certain fault in the distribution pattern of cinema.There is always certain audience expecting a certain kind of cinema.You are a young man in your early 20's perhaps, what kind of cinema you waiting for?Student: Present I am waiting for the Nolan’s blockbuster’s ‘Man of steel’, those kind of things.Man of steel, that Superman? Because, it is produced by Christopher Nolan, so you will think,you assume that there going be an edge to the movie; it is not going to be there Sacred sweet,Superman kind of story. So, it is not going to be a repeat version ofwhat Christopher Reeves what all about but, because it has Christopher Nolan managing things,so something else would emerge out of it; so a more Dark Knight kind of superman.So, perhaps that is your genre of cinema. But were you waiting so eagerly for theJeremy Hammer version of Bourne Identity, though you may be a fan of Bourne trilogy?Really?So it is a number of things that make a genre and star presence becomes an integrant feature of a genre.So, therefore, Ajay devgan is right when he says, only few actors can pull off a ‘Himmatwala’.You see, even for that brand of cinema, you need a certain kind of star presence.Convince big enough who are enjoys that kind of fan following, which ensuresa kind of opening for that kind of cinema, which ensures backing of that kind of cinemaperhaps Salman khan can pull that off. But, if you look at certain heroes who are knowout and out only for very arti, very classy kind of cinema, they will never be able topull off the ‘Himmatwala’ genre kind of cinema. So, genres deliver a certified product.You know much of our pleasure of watching Bourne trilogy comes, they are very well madefilms and they; some of us who have read the original novel Robert Williams novel, we know what to expect.But then the second part and the third part they deviated from the original plot,and first plot was quite faithful to the novel and we know what to except, andof course the way Matt Damon has set the role; so much of the films pleasure came out of that but,when another actor reprise the same role, we feel that down no one was expect but,it is the same like you know, Stardom plays such an important part in making a genre.Can you imagine any other actor in Mission impossible series?You will feel terribly let down,terribly cheated if someone else, so genres have to satisfied certain expectations.Genres ensures the production of meaning by regulating the viewer’s relation to theimages and narratives constructed for them.Genres construct the proper spectator, their own consumption.So, that is what genres construct a kind of spectator and that spectator becomesa willing and regular consumer of that particular product, it is like creating a brand.You have so, I am just now at this point going to read you a quotation from this book byD. K. Holm; it is called Essential Quentin Tarantino’, and what does tell, because we have been talkingabout how genre function, how genres satisfies certain expectations.Genres are like brands, and they cater to consumers.So, it is like you know, you use a certain quality of brand of toothpaste,you would not go for anything else. So, perhaps the girl next door is not waiting for man of steel.She might be expecting Anna Karenina or the Great Gatsby. But, someone else heremight be expecting or awaiting breath for the next series of sequence of let say;the wise Christopher Nolan not making the Dark night series, what happen if someone elseto starts re-doing the franchise? That is the kind of audiences that we have.Now what does a Tarantino say,‘you know most movies that win a lot of Oscars I cannot stand’,that is Tarantino talking and then he gives you a list of movies and that is breathtaking,the kind of movie he cannot stand; Sophie’s’ choice, Ordinary people, Kramer Vs Kramer, Gandhi.He says these are the movies that win a lot of Oscars, academic awards,and I cannot stand because all that stuff is safe, generic, and coffee-table kind of stuffs.Now, why do we call genres safe? He says they are generic stuffs,Gandhi is a very safe bet, do not you agree? Student: Models on the trope of Bio-pic.It has a very universal theme individual against society; so is Lincoln.Lincoln, again goes back Spielberg’s tried and tested formula, in spite of its greatness what is Lincoln?One man against society, a loner against society, a person you know who has come up against all odds,and that man against society. So, the sympathy factor for the hero is always there,and thus typically Spielberg, you see it is all there. But, then again if you comedown come to a movie which defies genre like; ‘Once upon a time in America, what happento ‘Once upon a time in America’ when it was first released, it was a terrible, terribly, sounding flop.Why? All these three things; the defied category, it defied genres,so the non-linear plot, absence of a very palatable conflict, conflicts is there but,it is not the kind of conflict we expect, the good versus evil kind of conflict,individual versus society kind of conflict, that is missing, and unidentifiable characters,those things are just not there. These people are extremely selfish, and theonly ambition in their life is to further their own goals, further their own ambition.So, therefore they are not that typical feel good kind of heroes, they are not the kindof heroes who are out to change the society; they are not the Gandhi or the Lincoln,they do not or even Don Carleone. They do not satisfy any kind of demand. Although the movie youif you watch it today, it has become a classic, it may not figure on Roger Ebert’s top and list ,it may not be a canonized movie, but it is a classic. If you watch it, it has thekind of movies which has become a cult. Cult which has all the elements in the right place,and it is a very careful crafted magnificently acted movie. You can see lot of attentionhas been paid to every single detail is that kind of movie.Now, coming back again to Rick Altman and his film genre; so he gives us 10 tendenciesof film genres, and what are those tendencies. He says that genres have a distinct border,and can be firmly identified. A typical genre he talks about and these genres have a distinct border,and can be firmly identified. Genres theorists are seek to describe the already existing genres.The internal functioning of genre text is considered entirely observableand objectively describable, internal functioning of genre.Can you think of certain example Sandeep?Internal functioning of genres are observable and describable?How genres, how the discrete items exist?I will just give you a very good example, how will a typical gangster hero dress up?Student: SuitSuit. Always even if you look at a very popular recent 2009 movie ‘Public enemies’,black coats as dark as crows feather, they are all there, the creamy cars.So, the iconography so well established; these are an observable item,that is what we mean, internal functioningof genre text is considered entirely observable. You can see, they come in those hats andthose suits with overcoat, designers odd, certain kinds of cars, and certain kinds of settings.These tropes can are describable, you know that this is what you expect.Now will you find the same tropes in the romantic comedy?Student: Not much You will find that, the more attention isgiven to the girl’s clothes, the boy can be dress anyhow; I mean if it is rich boyor may be a tycoon kind of a hero, he will be dress likewise but, the girl is equally important.So, in a plenty of attention is paid to detailing the girl’s character,girl is a very integral part in a romantic comedy. Women is a, girl or a women, a femalecharacter is extremely important in a romantic comedy, and these can be described.So you know, can you give me some very good examples from a typical romantic comedy?I give you one example, ‘You got mail’, ‘Sleepless in Seattle’.Student: As good as it gets? As good as it gets. And the recent one forwhich Jennifer Lawrence won her academic award?Student: Silver Linings playbook. Silver Linings playbook.So, do you think thus the good example of romantic comedy?Now do you think enough attention is given to both leading characters?How to lose a guy in 10days?So, both male and the female leads are given equal importance, and thesefilms they have a standard mise en scene. What is mise en scene? The way people dress,the sound track, the lights, the setting; they are of certain kind, which are observable and describable.So, ‘you got mail’, such a feeling good movie, and are you going tofind interplay of lights and shadows there, in ‘you got mail’ like a noir?No, but in a typical noir and typical gangster, you will find. Instantly a recognizable featuresthat is what we mean describable. You look at certain kind mise en scene, and you say,oh, this is our romantic comedy! You watch a melodrama, the other day we were talkingabout Douglas Sirk’s ‘Written on the wind’, ‘All that heaven allows’ when we discussingclassic Hollywood, and we said melodramatic womens' picture, the melodramatic womens' picturewill also have certain kind of mise en scene which is instantly recognizable.You will have statue of Venus at one end and statue of Cupid, a little Cupid marbles, and cupid at another end.Will you find that in a gangster movie, Cupids and Venuses? No, you will findwhatever is the latest the guns or the drugs deals. So, those are the standard observable features.Rick Altman further says, the text with similar characteristics systematically generate similarreadings, similar meanings, and similar uses. So, again we are talking about genres,and genres or text with similar characteristics;they generate similar readings, similar meanings, and similar uses.So, when you talk about an action genre or subgenre; in the superhero movie, and super hero movie can be described, and be compared only with another super hero movie,you cannot compare super hero movie with the romantic comedy.When you make a super hero ‘the Dark knight’ kind of super hero movie then you can compare with film Noiror film or even gangster, because certain similarities do exist because of the way‘the Dark knight’ character has been constructed by Nolan. The way he interprets.So, you know that this is a Christopher Nolan, he is an auteur, this is the kind of movie he makes;we know his hero, we know his hero who is always morally ambivalent he has shown usearlier in smaller films Insomnia, Memento. We know that Christopher Nolan,we cannot expect a very straight, very feel good kind of a hero, very clean cut hero.When you watch a Christopher Reeve’s superman hero, you know that what to expect from.So therefore, similar characteristic, similar systematically generates, similar readings,similar meanings.Think of more examples; similar texts generates similar meanings.Student: 27 dresses and all, they have same endings, similar contexts.Very good example you know, I would like to, think of two classic romantic comedies ofthe 80's and 90's, ‘Notting hill’ and ‘Four wedding and a funeral’, both starring Hugh Grant.Four wedding and a funeral, Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowelland Notting hill Julia Robert and Hugh Crane.And you watch starring the same British actor, you have all the characteristicof a very charismatic Hugh Grant. When he was in his late 20s or early 30s, what kind of,he was a classic romantic hero in the Cary Grant movies.