Friday, March 19, 2010

Week 8 Lectures

This week's lectures focused on scene analysis. The text has three chapters given over to scene analysis: Chapters 6, 7 and 9 [1st edition; in the 2d edition this material is spread over three of the historical chapters: 6, 7, and 10]. Besides giving the students an overview of the scene types, I also wanted this week's lectures to help prepare students for making scene analyses of their own, as this is the task for their second paper.

I began by following the divisions of the chapters and then formalizing some implicit subdivisions of scene types:

(NB: "Supradiegetic" is a term Rick Altman uses in The American Film Musical to describe the characteristic performance situation in a film musical, where the singing is diegetic but the accompaniment is rendered, usually after an audio dissolve from diegetic piano, by a nondiegetic orchestra. The performance is thus partially diegetic and partially nondiegetic and for Altman is representative of the idealized realm of romance.)

I then sorted the scenes according to how they deployed the sound track.

We then looked at a number of examples.

For main titles: Meet Me in St. Louis, Broadway Melody, 42nd Street, and The Apartment. I actually ran each of these examples well into the first scene so we could talk about how the main title dovetails with the establishing sequence and how the establishing sequence serves to set up the first scene. Music runs right through the establishment sequence of Meet Me in St. Louis and covers all of the opening dialogue scene in the kitchen until Agnes begins to sing, when it shifts to accompanying the song. After opening with a brief bit of the title song, Broadway Melody continues "Give My Regards to Broadway" over an establishing shot of the city; the music ends for an exterior shot of the music store, where we hear snatches of music coming from the store; with the cut into the store, we hear a cacophony of diegetic musical sound. The scene will eventually end with a performance of "Broadway Melody." 42nd Street, like Meet Me in St. Louis follows the classic two-theme title music, the title song opening the credits, with a shift to "You're Getting to Be a Habit with Me" when the credits turn to the actors. The music returns to the title song for the beginning of the establishing sequence, creating a three-part ternary structure (ABA') for the titles and establishing sequence considered together. As is often the case, the first extended dialogue scene, here between Abner and Dorothy, does not have music. Finally, the titles for The Apartment use a single theme. The establishment sequence, which integrated into a prologue with voiceover commentary, has new music, a march that contrasts with the lush romantic quality of the main title theme proper. The music continues until it is displaced by diegetic music coming out of Bud's apartment, just before the voiceover itself ends, marking the conclusion of the prologue.

We next compared the opening of the 1933 version of King Kong with that of the 2005 version, noting that the recent version is much, much shorter. We then also compared the final scene and end credits of these two films, so we could see how long end credits are today and how short they were in the studio era. (In fact, due to time, we did not watch all of the end credits of the 2005 version, but we watched enough of it to get the point.)

We then watched the Ländler scene from Sound of Music as an example of a performance scene before turning to two examples of montage: the montage sequence of Blood as pirate from Captain Blood and "I Wasn't Born to Follow" from Easy Rider. I then presented two action scenes: the opening of Captain Blood and the theft of the sword, from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Finally, we watched some dialogue scenes: the terrace scene from Rebecca and the opening scene between Abner and Dorothy from 42nd Street.