Previous studies of screen performance have tended to fix upon star actors, directors, or programme makers, or they have concentrated upon particular training and acting styles. Moving outside of these confines, this book provides an interdisciplinary account of performance in film and television and examines a much neglected area in people's understanding of how popular genres and performance intersect on screen. The advent of star studies certainly challenged the traditional notion of the director as the single or most important creative force in a film. Genre theory emerged as an academic area in the 1960s and 1970s, partly as a reaction to the auteurism of the period and partly as a way of addressing popular cinematic forms. Television studies have also developed catalogues of genres, some specific to the medium and some that refer to familiar cinematic genres. The book describes certain acting patterns in the classic noirs Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, Out of the Past and the neo-noirs Chinatown. British television drama in the 1970s had a special interest in the genre of horror. There is no film genre to which performance is as crucial as it is to the biopic. To explore comedy performance is to acknowledge that there is something that defines a performance as 'comic'. The book also examines drama-documentary, the western, science fiction, comedy performance in 'spoof news' programmes and the television 'sit com' and popular Bollywood films.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book concentrates upon performance in conjunction with the concept of genre. It begins with an examination of contemporary film noir, which specifically builds upon de Cordova's account of 'dissimulation' as performed within the genre. The book focuses on an expansive account of shifts in performance styles associated with the British television horror play. It notes that television docudrama seems to invite a knowing audience to draw upon their knowledge of other television genres as well as anterior knowledge of reported events. The book examines the ways in which comedic performance strategies are utilised by the 'left-leaning' presenters of The Colbert Report and The Daily Show. It is concerned with a certain mixing of truth and falsehood in performance and the overt blurring of generic boundaries in British comedy series.
The difference in critical estimation of the cartoon-style comedies and science fiction animations has much to do with the divergent modes of address and performance styles associated with the two genres. Titan A. E. and Final Fantasy featured star voices, although these tended to belong to actors new to animation voiceover and who had clearer previous attachments to 'straight' as opposed to comic performance. As a genre that has been concerned with displacing ontological certainty, any sense of presence that a star performer might confer is often diluted in science fiction cinema. A Scanner Darkly works with the codes and conventions of both the animated cartoon and science fiction film and playfully puts the power of performance back on the agenda. Hollow Man's substituted performance via digital mapping and the extensive use of 'motion capture' in the creation of characters in Final Fantasy relied on the recording of human performance.