Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Thompson - "The Concept of Cinematic Excess"

Thompson, Kristin. “The Concept of Cinematic Excess.” From Braudy, Leo, and Marshall Cohen. Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999, 513-524

Films consist of various types of structures (based in the various cinematic elements) that combine to create a narrative. "Outside any such structures lie those aspects of the work which are not contained by its unifying forces - the 'excess.'" (513) A film can never make every physical element fit perfectly into its desired portrayal, and it is one of the jobs of the critic to deal with the tension between the coherent elements and the excess.

Russian Formalism is important because of the way they approached the realization that excess could intentional roughen form. But excess is difficult to talk about because viewers are naturally intent to find some connection or function for any singled out element.

Excess is counternarrative. It is also counterunity. Excess implies a gap or lag in motivation. Observing excess depends on skill and training in viewing film.

But rather than focus on the tension between excess and unity, Thompson suggests excess may be used to understand the structures of narrative itself. Excess shows that all narrative is arbitrary, NOT logical. Thus the entire narrative can come under question, in terms of its structures.

Four Ways the Material of the Film Exceeds Motivation
1. While narrative may justify the presence of a device, it doesn't specify a particular form an element can have.
2. There is no specific length of time a device needs to be on the screen. (Cinema devices exist through time.)
3. Some devices may become redundant if they function for virtually the same connotation repeatedly.
4. A motivation may justify a device which is then repeated, thus making it outweigh its original motivation.

Types of Excess (From Ivan the Terrible)
-composition of visual elements within the frame
-Repetitive shots
-Costume texture, color, and shape
-The way things happen
-Problematic or unclear elements

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