Monster Marketing, 65 Million Dollars in the Making

Before its release, nothing had roared quite as loudly as Jurassic Park (Spielberg, 1993). The film broke incredible boundaries and delivered something an audience were yet to see so convincingly on-screen, with impressive spectacle that even holds up to modern standards. Perhaps just as impressive as the film was the enormous sum of money it made in the box office – over one billion dollars all-time gross worldwide. While significant money and thought went into the production of the film, significant money and thought also went into the marketing of the film. Peeling away the dinosaurs and the spectacle that emerges from them reveals a Hollywood blockbuster machine chugging away, conjuring up money and fuelling the industrialisation of film. This essay will explore the argument that Jurassic Park is but a feature-length advertisement for branded merchandise and analyse the extraordinary methods within the film’s marketing process; expanding upon this, it will explore the idea that Jurassic Park and other such blockbusters are purely acquisitive and whether any art shines through in the finished product

From the early 1960s, newcomer filmmakers and seasoned European veterans burst the seams of conventional Hollywood creating fresh and incredible pieces of art for film lovers to enjoy, becoming Hollywood’s own ‘auteurs’. Dubbed the Hollywood Renaissance or the ‘American New Wave’, film, at least in Hollywood, had taken a turn for the better. 1975, however, to some marks the unfortunate decline of the Renaissance. This specific year holds significance due to the release of a pair of directly comparable films; November marks the release of Miloš Forman’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, regarded as one of the greatest films of all time according to the AFI (Afi.com). The film follows an in-depth narrative circling an interesting new character that Hollywood had rarely explored before and was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important” as it was archived in 1993 in the U.S. National Film Registry for preservation (Cs.cmu.edu). Despite being so highly acclaimed, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’s one-hundred and eight million total domestic gross was trumped by the earlier Spielberg’s Jaws’ two-hundred and sixty million dollars – which also essentially doubled this number thanks to foreign markets (Boxofficemojo.com). This direct comparable is important to consider, due to it perfectly conveying the discrepancy between ‘quality’ and profit in the movie industry, highlighting the importance of spectacle and marketing, and highlighting the power of the release date. From Jaws, Hollywood learned a new way to make films and money and the importance of the spectacle re-emerged from its grave in film history. On top of this, Hollywood had now learned a new time to release films; executives were worried that due to nice weather, no-one would want to visit the cinema during the summer. It wasn’t until the June 20th release of Jaws that Hollywood grasped the potential of summer releases, where children and adults alike had free time to spend at the cinema. In his book Blockbuster (2004), Shone demonstrates this point eloquently by compiling quotes from Jaws itself:

If you want a trenchant analysis of Jawsmania… our best bet has always been to check out Jaws itself. It’s all there, up on the screen – the hysteria bleeding into the hoopla, the hoopla into hype…“We need summer dollars,” pleads the mayor… “We depend on the summer crowds for our very lives. You yell ‘shark’ and we got a panic on our hands on the 4th of July.” Which is when Dreyfuss delivers his great speech. “What we are dealing with here is a perfect engine, an eating machine. It’s really a miracle of evolution. All this machine does is swim, eat and make little sharks.” For those who care to see it, there was an allegory there for what was about to happen in Hollywood…

At this point in Hollywood, things began to teeter as the industry was slapped with realisation about the money making opportunities of more Jawses. Spielberg bolstered this notion with Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), proving once again that the scale of the film, the spectacle, makes the money. It goes without saying the phenomenal impact of Star Wars (Lucas, 1977) on this opinion. Flipping back to the side of New Hollywood ‘auteurs’, came the release of Heaven’s Gate (1980). Heaven’s Gate, while still widely considered an impressive film by Michael Cimino, it is infamous for being an unfortunate flop – wasting over forty million dollars of its forty-four million dollar budget in such a prosperous time for the industry, with blockbusters tearing down box office records with their spectacle. This box office tragedy, many argue heralded the end of Hollywood Auteurism – truly beginning the age of the summer blockbuster. Then came one of the biggest summer blockbusters ever created, Jurassic Park

Advertising and the culture industry merge technically as well as economically. In both cases the same thing can be seen in innumerable places, and the mechanical repetition of the same culture product has come to be the same as that of the propaganda slogan. In both cases the insistent demand for effectiveness makes technology into psycho-technology, into a procedure for manipulating men. In both cases the standards are the striking yet familiar, the easy yet catchy, the skillful yet simple; the object is to overpower the customer, who is conceived as absent-minded or resistant. (Adorno and Horkheimer, 1944)

The words ‘Welcome to Jurassic Park’ accompanied by an overpowering ensemble of brass and strings mark one of the most spectacular scenes in the history of cinema. Never had an audience seen dinosaurs – or much other computer generated imagery – so vividly integrated into our world. It is undeniably phenomenal to see such a rich display of spectacle, but an underlying argument from many critics is that Jurassic Park holds little more than just that, spectacle. Under scrutiny, seams begin to burst and reveal something arguably just as spectacular in its own right at work: an unsinkable marketing machine – a maker of ‘little sharks’. Jurassic Park from the outset was conceived to be a shared international event – a summer blockbuster phenomenon, to make as big a mark as Star Wars. The over sixty million dollar production budget was not only matched, but exceeded by a sixty-five million dollar marketing campaign (Broeske, 1993). As rightly stated by Marcy Magiera, ‘That phenomenon is no accident. Rather, it’s the culmination of a carefully crafted marketing and merchandising plan set in motion in late 1991 for the movie based on Michael Crichton’s best-selling novel.’ (1994). It is evident even from the simplistic initial teaser trailer that the film relied on secrecy to form hype (Universal Studios, 1992, a). Not a single dinosaur appears in the teaser, and mere glimpses of the creatures appear in the trailers that followed (Universal Studios, 1992, b); this strategy is to reserve the big spectacle exclusively for within the movie theatre, thus inducing further hype. Additionally, Jurassic Park formed promotions with one hundred companies, generating one thousand different products of merchandise (Broeske, 1993). This is where, one could argue, the pinnacle of Jurassic Park’s marketing lies – the sense of identity; the film was more than just a film, it had become a brand.

It takes only three colours – red, yellow and white, one minimal drawing – of a fossil, and some blank space – fit for a title to be translated into tens of languages, to create arguably one of the most powerful and recognisable logos ever made. Chip Kidd’s original logo for the original novel of the same name (Crichton, 1991) was so effective in showing so much without showing anything at all (i.e conveying dinosaurs with nothing but the silhouette of a fossil of one), the marketing team for the film used this logo to equal effect. With such a simple image, the film promised so much to the audience. The workings of this logo provided a perfect basis for the workings of the film’s marketing scheme and is almost the quintessential example of the aforementioned ‘striking yet familiar, the easy yet catchy, the skillful yet simple’ Adorno and Horkheimer wrote about forty-seven years earlier. The film’s marketing didn’t stop there, however – it went even further by playing with diegesis. The filmmakers placed the logo diegetically within the world of the film – the park shares the film’s logo. While on the surface this is a mere gimmick, this choice was a monumental and integral part in the strength of the marketing of the film. To immerse the audience in the relatively realistic world of Jurassic Park, the park itself needed merchandise, which the filmmakers put on display within the film. This tactic also epitomises ‘skillful yet simple’, ducking under the thought of the audience, but standing glaringly in full view for every scene this merchandise appears in. Soon after leaving the cinema, viewers would learn the exciting merchandise of the film world was of course also available in the real world. This is arguably the true genius in the marketing of the film, whilst simultaneously being the reason the film itself is harshly criticised when put under scrutiny; with this much thought and care being put into the financial success and promotion of the film, some would argue the film itself is one spectacular feature-length advertisement for the real star of the show – the merchandise, which the film’s genre and appeal lends itself so well to, as Barry Langford explains:

The rise of SF and fantasy moreover offers an obvious showcase for spectacular state- of-the-art technologies of visual, sound and above all special-effects design, the key attractions that provide a summer release with crucial market leverage. The genre is well suited to the construction of simplified, action- oriented narratives with accordingly enhanced worldwide audience appeal, potential for the facile generation of profitable sequels (often, as with the two Jurassic Park sequels (U 1997, 1999), virtual reprises), and ready adaptability into profitable tributary media such as computer games and rides at studio-owned amusement parks. (Langford, 2010)

To say there was not a large-scale industrial capitalisation on this film would be a complete fabrication, as marketing was a huge focus from the get-go of the film’s pre-production. The real discussion comes down to the chicken and the egg of the film – whether the marketing was the primary focus of the film, or whether it came separate, as an additional thought to take advantage of the potential of the tale. Cynically taking all the aforementioned points as reasons for the film being nothing, or close to nothing, but an inventive money making technique puppet-mastered by greedy studios is a fair interpretation that is even further evidenced by the release of the critically acclaimed Schindler’s List (Spielberg, 1993). Releasing the same year, the deep and gritty film was on many occasions implied to be the project Spielberg was more involved in, with post production of Jurassic Park taking more of a back-burner role. Spielberg and George Lucas worked on the post production of the film together, with Spielberg working from Poland while shooting Schindler (Rothman, 1993). It could be argued that Spielberg himself knew of the financial value of the film and needed to release it, where his real passion lay in telling the story of Schindler’s List. Tom Shone agrees with this notion when criticising the film: ‘It doesn’t feel like it has all his enthusiasm, all his energies. As miraculous as some of it still is, it feels a tiny bit like he’s directing it with his left hand.’ (Shone, 2015).

In defence of Jurassic Park, then, it is important to realise the stunning work put into the film. The realism of the combined visual and practical effects contend with modern day effects due to some incredible innovations in filmmaking. While the plot of the film may fall short from the depth and impact of Schindler’s List or even One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, to compare the films is not a fair stance. It could be argued, then, that while being a summer blockbuster, relying on the spectacularity of the film’s visuals and fantastic tale, that the film is a piece of art in its own right; the spectacle of Jurassic Park goes further than ever before, with careful reforging of the source material to appeal to a much wider audience: Keeping the thrills of the novel, whilst dropping most of the violence; keeping the attention to scientific detail the novel holds, whilst simultaneously juggling the hard-to-hate, engaging plots and interesting themes in a comprehensible and easy-to-follow classic cinematic way. One could argue that Jurassic Park was never a fool-proof planned marketing success, as without the film being an engaging, fun and enjoyable one, it wouldn’t have sold to the extent that it did. Even if cinephiles and critics do not hold Jurassic Park as an art piece, the film still was a carefully orchestrated and choreographed piece of media – arguably an art in itself.

To argue that Jurassic Park could have been exclusively made by acquisitive executives who lack the basic knowledge of visual storytelling, that the film could have been made without the vision of Spielberg, the musical prowess of Williams, would simply be false. While Jurassic Park was a marketing goldmine and while the film’s success was down to careful planning, to say anyone could have expected the level of engagement the film captivated worldwide without the art of the film itself is also a complete falsity. And, even if the film was nothing more than a feature-length advertisement for branded merchandise, it should still be credited as a monumental shared international experience, which captivated the minds, hearts and souls of billions of people across the globe; even if it was nothing more than an advert, it was clearly at the very least an incredible one.

Bibliography

Afi.com. AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies. [online] Available at: http://www.afi.com/100Years/movies.aspx [Accessed 20 Feb. 2018].

Boxofficemojo.com. Jaws (1975) – Box Office Mojo. [online] Available at: http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=jaws.htm [Accessed 21 Feb. 2018].

Boxofficemojo.com. Jurassic Park Movies at the Box Office – Box Office Mojo. [online] Available at: http://www.boxofficemojo.com/franchises/chart/?view=main&id=jurassicpark.htm&p=.htm [Accessed 20 Feb. 2018].

Boxofficemojo.com. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) – Box Office Mojo. [online] Available at: http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=oneflewoverthecuckoosnest.htm [Accessed 21 Feb. 2018].

Broeske, P. (1993). Promoting ‘Jurassic Park’. Entertainment Weekly. [online] Available at: http://ew.com/article/1993/03/12/promoting-jurassic-park/ [Accessed 21 Feb. 2018].

Crichton, M. (1991). Jurassic Park. Orbit.

Cs.cmu.edu. U.S. National Film Registry — Titles. [online] Available at: http://www.cs.cmu.edu/afs/cs.cmu.edu/Web/Unofficial/Movies/NFR-Titles.html [Accessed 20 Feb. 2018].

Adorno, T. and Horkheimer, M. (1944). The Dialectic of Enlightenment. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford Univ. Press.

Kidd, C. (2012). Designing books is no laughing matter. OK, it is.. [online] Ted.com. Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/chip_kidd_designing_books_is_no_laughing_matter_ok_it_is [Accessed 21 Feb. 2018].

Langford, B. (2010). Post-classical Hollywood. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp.191-218.

Magiera, M. (1994). The “Jurassic Park” logo is a proud centerpiece for Kellogg and Sega…. [online] Adage.com. Available at: http://adage.com/article/news/jurassic-park-logo-a-proud-centerpiece-kellogg-sega-kenner-learned-insatiable-craving-dino-jurassic-park-s-amazing-story-graphic-promotional-marketer-year-spielberg-mca-put-dream-team-herd-jurassic-licensees-happier/88013/ [Accessed 21 Feb. 2018].

Rothman, M. (1993). ILM beams F/X to Spielberg in Poland. Variety. [online] Available at: http://variety.com/1993/film/news/ilm-beams-f-x-to-spielberg-in-poland-105405/ [Accessed 21 Feb. 2018].

Shone, T. (2004). Blockbuster: How Hollywood Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Summer. New York: Free Press.

Shone, T. (2015). Interviewed In How ‘Jurassic Park’ Changed the DNA of Blockbusters.Vice. [online] Available at: https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/exqxxp/how-jurassic-park-changed-the-dna-of-blockbusters-456 [Accessed 21 Feb. 2018].

Thompson, K. and Bordwell, D. (2002). Film History. 3rd ed. New York (etc.): McGraw Hill, pp.487-488.

Universal Studios (1992):

  1. Jurassic Park (Initial Teaser).
    Available at: https://youtu.be/-QMue9j_RKg [Accessed 21 Feb. 2018].

    Available at: https://youtu.be/-QMue9j_RKg [Accessed 21 Feb. 2018].

  2. Jurassic Park (Trailer). [image] Available at: https://youtu.be/Bim7RtKXv90 [Accessed 21 Feb. 2018].

Filmography

Heaven’s Gate. (1980). Directed by M. Cimino. Hollywood: United Artists.

Jaws. (1975). Directed by S. Spielberg. Hollywood: Universal Pictures.

Jurassic Park. (1993). Directed by S. Spielberg. Hollywood: Universal Pictures.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. (1975). Directed by M. Forman. Hollywood: United Artists.

Schindler’s List. (1993). Directed by S. Spielberg. Hollywood: Universal Pictures.

Star Wars. (1977). Directed by G. Lucas. Hollywood: 20th Century Fox.

Genre Mutation and The Film Noir

Collins English Dictionary defines genre as a ‘kind, category… of literary or artistic work’, but the modern day concept of genre is vaster than ever. A genre was defined by specific characteristics which set said genre apart from the rest – the lines were clear cut, black and white. As soon as the concept of genre began drawing its lines in the sand, filmmakers instinctively began to see the potential in crossing them. From this filmmakers could invent new genres and revise old genres in ways unseen by the public. Naturally, this begs the question of the value of genre in contemporary filmmaking – whether a genre actually holds any worth in defining a film by the standards of today. This essay will explore evolution and mutation of genre, specifically using the example of the Film Noir, over time. Using this exploration as a criticism of genre theory, debating the idea that the contextual understanding of a genre gives meaning to a genre film, like a gangster film, Noir or Western. On top of this, this essay will discuss the concept of genre’s value in the industry of Hollywood.

‘Genre’ as a word is widely considered to simply mean the conventions of portions of plot, the iconography within and such drawn out by the films that came before – the characteristics of a film, in order to categorise it with similar ‘types’ of film. As an example, in the case of the genre this essay will scrutinise, Film Noir, there are a prominent set of characteristics which define a film as a Noir. In terms of plot, a Noir will always focus on an investigative character who is usually separate from the law, in order to maintain honesty and hold a darker edge to the character. This character is traditionally a man, who is seduced and toyed with by a femme fatale – a deadly woman – who eventually causes the demise, or at least demise in part, of the detective or his values – corrupting the incorruptible. Most characteristics of Film Noir come from its radical visual style, causing much debate on whether Film Noir is actually a genre at all, or just an aesthetic. Visual conventions include low key lighting with an emphasis on the light and the dark, as opposed to the grey in-betweens, as explored by Renaissance artists, dubbed ‘chiaroscuro’. Unnatural compositions and mise en scène made to jar and confuse the viewer (Place and Peterson, 1974), and insequential, confusing plotlines also come hand in hand with Film Noir. The iconography of a Film Noir is one of the most recognisable – silhouettes, fedoras, glamorous seductresses, cigarettes, and the neon signs glaring through the darkness of the mean streets that lie ahead of the detective. Nowadays it doesn’t take a Noir detective to deduce a film’s genre – genre conventions are deeply rooted at the very least in the subconscious of any moviegoer, but are less so than semiotics. The reason an audience will feel, for example, that there is an underpinning darkness to the image is not necessarily due to the genre itself, but more the idea that, say, a silhouetted man against a window is threatening by nature due to the mystery of the identity of the man. This is where the simplified definition of ‘genre’ begins to blur, as many critics have begun to point out the formulaic nature of genre films. To some, genres are more than a method of an audience identifying the film, they are a formula for a storyteller to follow in writing, to design the film based on this conventional context. To deny the mutualistic bond between producer and customer would be completely false. Film, just as every other medium has, found the most effective method of delivering to its target market; categorisation of films allowed audience members who enjoy a specific ‘type’ of film to easily find and separate this type. The producer tailors the film to that specific audience, and that specific audience, in return, gain a quick and easy way to find where they will gain the most entertainment – they sort themselves into their target groups. Tom Ryall eloquently summarises this equation of audience and filmmaker together:

The ‘rules’ of a genre – the body of conventions – specify the ways in which the individual work is to be read and understood, forming the implicit context in which that work acquires significance and meaning. Genres were seen in social terms as institutions implying a bond, or contract, between producers… and audience relating to the significance and meaning of what was on the screen. (1998:328)

This summary of many critics’ opinions rather cynically points towards the idea that genre films, without the context of the genre, would somehow be less substantial or be harder to grasp for the audience, suggesting that the genre film potentially lacks a level of originality due to its reliance on previously laid out conventions. This interpretation while holding an extent of value when applied to semiotics certainly in more recent years begun to degrade due to the flowing, ever changing nature of the modern genre. The consideration of evolution and mutation of genres is key to the understanding of what genre actually is and how it actually affects the both the creation and reception of film separately from semiotics.

One of the most quintessential examples of the evolution of genre, or genre revisionism, is the direct comparison between the classic Marlowe Noir Murder, My Sweet (Dmytryk, 1944) and the post-modern, reworking of the Film Noir genre featuring the same character: The Long Goodbye (Altman, 1973). In the 1944 Marlowe adaptation, we see all the tell-tale Noir conventions being met. The film follows an insequencial narrative, just as other noirs do, as evidenced by the opening sequence triggering a flashback. The following scene, set in Marlowe’s office, is particularly useful for direct comparison to The Long Goodbye. Immediately we see the iconic chiaroscuro effect, with a harsh edge light on the side of Marlowe’s face as he sits smoking his cigarette, while the rest of the shot is plunged in near complete darkness. The iconic voice-over narration, combined with the cluttered composition of elements in the frame are also textbook. The plot begins to be introduced, with a dark storyline waiting to unfold, thanks to the semiotics of the scene previous. Nearly every aforementioned convention of the Film Noir genre is checked off the list just moments into the film. Supporting the interpretation set out by critics, an audience will, thanks to this conventions, now understand that this is of the same calibre as other Film Noirs and at the very least make this subconscious link.

Jumping ahead to The Long Goodbye, we see an opening scene that is directly comparable. Set in Marlowe’s apartment this time, he awakes in a scene filled with focused light and darkness, as per cinematographic convention. He then leaves his bedroom and enters the darkness of the hallway, plunged into the shadows. It is not until the following shot, of his cat running across the floor, that the audience are broken out of the traditions of Film Noir. While comedy is not necessarily a complete break from Noir, with Marlowe being somewhat of a wisecracking Private Eye from conception, to toy with the focus of the plot and sideswipe the audience into a somewhat ridiculous and seemingly irrelevant scene is newfound territory. The Long Goodbye certainly doesn’t break entirely from convention, it just radically churns the genre out into something new. The iconography fully present once again – with Marlowe striking another cigarette maybe every five minutes of screen time, the neon lights of the city surrounding his apartment, and alike. Meanwhile, composition and mise en scène are much tamer than in classic Noir. We can see fairly normal cinematography and production design for the time. Within the film, however, the ‘jarring’ composition remains, but has been changed into a new form. Instead of a convoluted image, the elements of sound within the film are now convoluted and jarring, with an unconventional method of recording sound – using lavalier mics, in order to have dream like, ethereal dialogue, which while coming out of the actors mouths in relative space, emitting to the audience at a consistent, spatially nonsensical volume – the sound stays the same volume, regardless of whether the character is two or ten feet away. This is a revision to the chaotic composition of images recycled into sound, keeping the necessity of in depth audience perception but in a new way. This recycling also allowed another revision to the typical Noir convention of voiceover narration. Instead of a direct narration, the audience is presented with an external monologue, with Marlowe’s ramblings about cat food feeling like a narration of events, poking fun at these Noir clichés. Another radical twist from tradition is in terms of plot, with Marlowe killing Lennox at the end of the film, which harms the honor of the detective that fans knew and loved. Robert Altman’s character description explains why this radical decision suits Marlowe, but breaks the boundaries of the Noir genre: ‘ I see Marlowe the way Chandler saw him, a loser. But a real loser, not the false winner that Chandler made out of him. A loser all the way.’ (Spicer, 2010). This is uncommon in the Noir genre, as the credibility and integrity of the detective character is usually a primary factor in the story – for example, with most protagonists being lawfully good, but separate from the Law Enforcement, to steer them away from corruption – The Long Goodbye’s ambiguous standpoint is a long step away from the norm.

Detective stories are often about a personal code; even when the character explicitly tells us he does not have “a code,” the role of the operator is to attempt to tilt the scales toward a form of justice he can live with, whether it is selfish, altruistic, cruel, or magnanimous. Marlowe’s last act in this version can be seen as justice or as selfish. (Pluck, 2013)

The question then arises – with such radical changes to genre, is The Long Goodbye even a Noir? The trick in this question  provides suitable evidence of an ambiguity in genre; this is one of the main hurdles one must overcome in order to understand modern genre and one of main considerations that punctures the previously mentioned theory. Genre is not as clear cut as the theory makes it out to be – as in that one must understand the context of the genre in order to understand the film. One may argue that to fully appreciate all the rules the film toys with and revises, an audience must know these rules. At the same time, however, if the rules are being broken in the first place, then the rules needn’t be understood by the audience, as they are witnessing something new, no matter how derivative it is. This creation of something new is precisely what is meant by ‘genre mutation’; definable exactly as mutation in biology is: ‘a sudden departure from the parent type in one or more heritable characteristics’ (Dictionary.com). In terms of genre, this cannot only be explained in the context of The Long Goodbye’s revision of its genre, but also in the context of multi-genre pieces. An archetypal example to draw upon is Blade Runner (Scott, 1982). Blade Runner welds together the (neo-)Noir with cyberpunk science fiction into something entirely new – dubbed ‘technoir’. While the whole film fits snugly in both the conventions of science fiction and neo-noir, an exemplary moment is the scene in which Deckard interrogates Rachael, using the Voight Kampff machine. The scene’s lighting reminisces on the chiaroscuro effect of the traditional Film Noir, with harsh edge lights and dark shadows causing strong contrast in the scene. The inclusion of colour is emphasised in a science fiction way, with strong saturation – vibrant skin tones, deep oranges and sharp, punchy blues. On the one hand, the inclusion of colour in such an expressive obviously breaks from the classic Noir aesthetic – due to the iconic black and white look being caused by the film stock used – one could argue that it stays within the realm of the noir and adapts it to more modern technologies; the constant inclusion of neon lights and sharp contrast in noirs, one could argue, would have been met with intense saturation of colour, could the technologies of colour film have been viable in the age of the genre. This is a key point when thinking on the idea of mutations in genre – adaptations like these, while drawing upon audience expectations are still so radical and new that without the context of the genre (or in this case genres), the film, arguably, would still work.

To summarise, genre is an incredible flowing entity that cannot be defined – or to an extent – confined to a black and white summary. The lines of genre blur more and more as time goes on. To understate the value of the genre system within the industry would simply be a falsity, but to say that the original theory of genre and lines in the sand hold as prominently in modern film as it did in the era of the Noir and the Western. These ambiguities in genre are fatal flaws in the argument presented by such critics as Lawrence Alloway, summarised by Tom Ryall. At its base level, even if genre films and genre itself were as cynical as this, genre should not be a factor of criticism of a film – the film in isolation, due to simply what we perceive as the language of film and the conveyance of the art, should – with the better films managing to – establish everything contained within its opening and closing titles, without the necessity of the stabiliser wheels of genre conventions to help it out. On the other hand, ingrained human semiotic response being relied upon by an artist is one that is fundamental in any art piece. To set aside film – specifically Hollywood genre films – as something of less value due to its reliance on this, clumsily labelling it as reliance on genre is failing to distinguish that semiotics and genre are separate entities.

 

Bibliography

Alloway, L. (1971). Violent America: The Movies, 1946-1964. New York: Museum of Modern Art.

Metz, C. and Taylor, M. (1974). Film Language: A Semiotics of the Cinema. New York: University of Chicago Press.

Place, J. and Peterson, L. (1974). Some Visual Motifs of Film Noir. Film Comment, pp.30-35.

Pluck, T. (2013). Reconsidering Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye (1973). [Blog] Criminal Element. Available at: https://www.criminalelement.com/blogs/2013/11/reconsidering-robert-altman-the-long-goodbye-1973-neo-noir-elliott-gould-philip-marlowe-thomas-pluck [Accessed 21 Mar. 2018].

Ryall, T. (1998). Genre and Hollywood. In: J. Hill and P. Gibson, ed., The Oxford Guide to Film Studies. Oxford University Press, pp.327-337.

Spicer, A. (2010). Historical Dictionary of Film Noir. Lanham: The Scarecrow Press, p.108.

 

Filmography

Blade Runner. (1982). Directed by R. Scott. United States: Warner Bros.

Murder, My Sweet. (1944). Directed by E. Dmytryk. United States: RKO Pictures.

The Long Goodbye. (1973). Directed by R. Altman. United States: United Artists.