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If genre is an analytical category or formal property shared with other art forms, it has long proved especially important to film. The first of four substantive sections here considers attempts to devise taxonomic and iconographic models of film genres, and assesses their explanatory force. A second section positions genres less as quasi-scientific categories than as provisional labels attached to groups of movies by diverse interest groups: it asks, therefore, who gets to enjoy definitional power in such situations. The section that follows is preoccupied by genres and history, exploring both the internal history and evolution of a genre and the complex ways in which that genre is related to broader historical shifts and tendencies. Subsequently, discussion takes place of the continuing analytical viability of the idea of genre (in the face of some critics’ claims that we live now in a period of filmmaking characterised not by strict generic demarcation but by generic assemblage or hybridity). The chapter’s case study, bringing together and testing these various conceptual strands, is of the superhero movie.
This chapter is the third of three devoted to analysis of film’s stylistics, and seeks, in its attention to sound and music, to redress an ocular bias that is still apparent in some discussions of film. The first of four analytical sections identifies and evaluates the diverse soundtracks that accompanied purportedly ‘silent’ film. Next, discussion turns to the fraught debates occasioned by the coming of synchronised sound in the late 1920s. The following section sets out various vocabularies that have emerged for analysis of film sound, and assesses the advantages and deficiencies of each. The last of the substantive sections is devoted to film music, tracking some of its global and historical variations and evaluating attempts to conceptualise it that range from the psychoanalytic through the cognitivist to the Marxist. A concluding case study of The Great Gatsby (2013) explores the implications of the film’s experiments not only with music (both diegetic and non-diegetic) but with voiceover, dialogue and sound effects also.
This chapter is divided into three main sections. The first traces economically the emergence of film as a medium in the late nineteenth century, noting its entanglement with many other forms of visual culture (not least the magic lantern). It is also observed that film’s current status as an object of analysis is complicated by digital developments. The second section turns to the emergence of film studies itself, briefly plotting the discipline’s consolidation from patchy beginnings in the first half of the twentieth century. The third section outlines the intentions of this book, summarises its structure and contents, and considers a number of questions readers may have as they begin work in film studies (for example, regarding the specialist, sometimes demanding terminology of film studies or how an increasing engagement with this discipline may affect the immersive experience important to many spectators when watching movies).