Cinema of Attraction

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When one contemplates the concepts of cinema and attractions, the ideas of the modern day blockbuster film might come to mind. World disasters, car chases, and high profile police investigations are just some of the story lines that attract people to theatres year round. The term "cinema of attraction" introduced by Tom Gunning into the study of film is defined more precisely. To quote Gunning, a cinema of attraction: "directly solicits spectator attention, inciting visual curiosity, and supplying pleasure through an exciting spectacle" (p.230). This spectacle may be demonstrated through dance, song or offscreen supplements, such as sound effects and spoken commentary. Rather than a straightforward entertainment purpose, a film may seek to attract its viewer by offering them something unique. Gunning explains that many early documentary films sought to transport the viewer through space and time, rather than to simply tell a story (p.230). An example of this would be for instance taking the audience on a journey that could only be experienced through the film screen such as witnessing the birth of baby elephant or a trip to a parallel universe. In most cases this spectacle is created for the audience as a means of a distraction from the ongoing narrative. In simplest terms, the cinema of attractions is cinema based on the quality or ability to show something. Examples of the cinema of attractions have been found throughout the films the Great Train Robbery, Nanook of the North and The Wizard of Oz. There are some film qualities that without a doubt would prove to be an attraction to the audience. However, depending on how the individual interprets, this ‘attraction' is subjective and thus every audience member may find different techniques in the film to have some form of appeal.

The Great Train Robbery was one of the earliest silent films, directed by Edwin S. Porter in 1903. Being history's first film narrative, much of the scenes that took place were new and thus proved to be attractions in themselves as a number of innovative techniques were used for the first time. The ending (or the beginning – it was interchangeable) helped place the film in history books. The scene involved one of the bandits shooting his pistol towards the audience creating a spectacle as the viewers, seeing this for the first time, believed they were being shot at. Many audience members were startled by this cinema tactic and the action shot became a great innovation in film (Dirk, 2007). The Great Train Robbery used a number of inventive techniques; including parallel editing, minor camera movement and location shooting. The director was one of the first to utilize jump cuts or cross cuts which displayed two separate lines of action or events happening continuously at identical times but in different places (Dirk, 2007). For instance, the film is intercut from the bandits beating up the telegraph operator (scene one) to the operators daughter discovering her father (scene ten), to the operators recruitment of a dance hall posse (scene eleven), to the bandits being pursued and splitting up the booty and having a final shoot out (scene thirteen) (Dirk, 2007). Furthermore, The Great Train Robbery was also the first film in which gunshots forced someone to dance, which is now a clichéd action in many western cinemas. Additionally, the use of colour was a spectacle seen in some of the women's attire, the gun shots and the explosions in the train. Overall as the film worlds first linear narrative The Great Train Robbery made way for several future filming techniques and attractions for audiences everywhere.

The next film to be discussed is Nanook of the North, the world's first documentary written and directed in 1920 by Robert Flaherty. Some critics argue whether or not Nanook should be considered a documentary, as most of the scenes' content were construed to make the Inuits appear reminiscent to what Western viewers believed Inuit life was...
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