Classical and Post-Classical Hollywood Cinema

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Film Studies

Assignment 1

Classical and Post-Classical Hollywood Cinema

Table of contents

CLASSICAL HOLLYWOOD-------------------------------4
Classical Gender Representation--------------------------------------4 Classical Style, form and content--------------------------------------5 GENRE TRANSFORMATION AND POST-CLASSICAL HOLLYWOOD------------------------------- 5



During the course of this essay it is my intention to discuss the differences between Classical Hollywood and post-Classical Hollywood. Although these terms refer to theoretical movements of which they are not definitive it is my goal to show that they are applicable in a broad way to a cinema tradition that dominated Hollywood production between 1916 and 1960 and which also pervaded Western Mainstream Cinema (Classical Hollywood or Classic Narrative Cinema) and to the movement and changes that came about following this time period (Post-Classical or New Hollywood). I intend to do this by first analysing and defining aspects of Classical Hollywood and having done that, examining post classical at which time the relationship between them will become evident. It is my intention to reference films from both movements and also published texts relative to the subject matter. In order to illustrate the structures involved I will be writing about the subjects of genre and genre transformation, the representation of gender, postmodernism and the relationship between style, form and content.

Classical Hollywood

Classical Hollywood is a tradition of methods and structures that were prominent American cinema between 1916 and 1960.Its heritage stems from earlier American cinema Melodrama and to theatrical melodrama before that. Its tradition lives on in mainstream Hollywood to this day. But what is it?

Classic narrative cinema is what Bordwell, Staiger and Thompson (The classic Hollywood Cinema, Columbia University press 1985) 1, calls "an excessively obvious cinema"1 in which cinematic style serves to explain and not to obscure the narrative. In this way it is made up of motivated events that lead the spectator to its inevitable conclusion. It causes the spectator to have an emotional investment in this conclusion coming to pass which in turn makes the predictable the most desirable outcome. The films are structured to create an atmosphere of verisimilitude, which is to give a perception of reality. On closer inspection it they are often far from realistic in a social sense but possibly portray a realism desired by the patriarchal and family value orientated society of the time. I feel that it is often the black and white representation of good and evil that creates such an atmosphere of predictability. There are a number of aspects of Classical Hollywood which could be described as general characteristics. We have a white male heterosexual protagonist. Also a structure of order/disorder/order restored is one of the most fundamental. This structure is will proceed in a linear trajectory towards a high level of closure or resolution. Every question which is raised during the film must be answered. Within our linear trajectory we have a cause and effect pattern which means we will watch an action in one scene and proceed to see its effect or re-action on the following scene. In TOUCH OF EVIL (Orson Welles, USA, 1958) we open with a honeymooning couple. Within moments there is an explosion and disorder is created almost instantly. Our central protagonist, in this case Charlton Heston, combats this disorder for the duration until he eventually finishes back in the arms of his wife. This example represents what David Bordwell (Narration of the fiction film, Madison: University of Wisconsin press, 1985) means when he says "usually the classical syuzhet presents a double causal structure"2. Two plot lines, one which...
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