Ben Arnold How do we analyse film?Genre analysts tend to pick movies apart and investigate the codes and conventions, the iconography, theideological message, etc, whereas auteur analysts study the artistic nature and the creative messages behindsome of the most iconic films of all time.As far as I see it, there really are two types of films in the world, generic ones, and ones made by auteurs. Theword auteur, is the French term for author, so basically, auteurs are directors that have their own stamp on agenre, just like an author would. Steven King, for example, has a whole series of books, that are all horror, butthey all have the same feel to them, they’re all ratherdark, and don’t frighten readers in the same way that aconventional horror title would. Juxtaposed to that,Quentin Tarantino is a perfect example of an auteur in thefilm industry, because all of his movies are of a verysimilar genre, and they all feel incredibly alike. PulpFiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994), although a differentgenre, feels comparable to Kill Bill (2003/2004), with allof its unnecessary violence, seedy comedy, and eventualattachment to the main protagonist(s). Genre films,however, are different. I’m not saying they’re bad,because most generic movies are my favourites, butthey’re just not often as effective as movies made byauteurs. Barry Sonnenfeld, for example, is a genericdirector, because he directed multiple films that are allcompletely different, both Men in Black movies(1997/2002), Wild Wild West (1999), and The AddamsFamily (1991), are all different genres, and completelydifferent movies, and judging by the fact that his directingcareer began in pornography, it’s tough to imagine howhe could retain that kind of reputation and feel, directingfamily orientated movies.Analysing any genre of films involves making note of the seven key areas; Genre codes and conventions,location, character, iconography, recurring themes, ideological message, and narrative. As an example, thehorror genre is easy to analyse. The codes and conventions, and the iconography involve some very obviousitems, such as knives, darkness, blood and gore, and the recurring themes are very much that, every horror filmsinvolves loss, sex, love, depression, death, rage and revenge, to say the least. The location is also, always thesame. Going back to the days of the Dracula and Frankenstein movies, there was always a haunted house, andthat piece has left its mark on every horror film to date. Whether it’s the woods, an abandoned hospital, a post-apocalyptic city, a warehouse, or even just a quiet suburban neighbourhood with a psycho living next door,every location consists of the protagonists being trapped under the villains control with a crippling inability toescape. Any example I could give would be a perfect one, one of my all time favourite horror movies isParanormal Activity (Oren Peli, 2007), I’m not sure why, it isn’t frightening, I just find it so immersive andvery compelling, and, without the alternate endings, would be very convincing. The young couple are terrorisedby a ghost in their own house, and when they try to escape, something happens, or the entity follows.A straight forward action thriller movie often opens with an intense car chase, or a heart stopping fight scene,the Bond movies, for instance, are perfect examples, because they always involve one or the other. Thebeginning scene in Quantum of Solace pleases the viewers by including both in a 15-20 minute section. InContrast to that though, the movie Leon (Luc Besson, 1994) starts in the same kind of way, but doesn’t keep thepace that Quantum of Solace does. Some could argue that Luc Besson is an auteur because of the way his moviedoesn’t follow the general codes and conventions of the average action thriller, because when you strip it downto the basics, Leon is really a bit of a love story, albeit, not a typical one. After the ordinary action opening
Ben Arnold sequence the entire film slows down and we see the protagonist living in conditions that do not seem appropriate for a high class assassin. He lives in a rough looking apartment block, next door to a young girl and her dysfunctional family, her brother, her sister, her father, a drug dealing delinquent, and her prostitute mother. Leon usually keeps to himself and ignores those around him, but he can’t help but take young Mathilda under his wing when her father botches a drug deal and gets his entire family, bar her, killed. She develops a love for him over time, a lovewhich a thirteen year old girl should not feel for an older man, needless to say, he does not feel the same way, heis reluctant to look after her at all at first but eventually develops a fatherly relationship with her as the movieprogresses. This is a complete contrast with the James Bond movies, because they are perfect examples of basicaction thrillers. They obey the codes, conventions and the iconography, such as; the British accent, the fast cars,the attractive damsel in distress and the gadgets, whereas Leon has absolutely none of that.Wesley Craven (born August 2, 1939) is anAmerican director, writer and producer; he hasdirected many horror films including the famedA Nightmare on Elm Street and Wes CravensNew Nightmare. His directing career began in1972 with The Last House on the Left, which wasalmost immediately banned in many countries,especially the UK, where it was banned until 2002,under the condition that 31 seconds of footage ofthe graphic sexual acts performed on the characterwere removed from the final cut. When Wesley came onto the scene, he completely redefined the horror genre,before him, the public had only been subjected to the likes of Alfred Hitchcock and the Hammer Horror films.Now, at that time, Alfred Hitchcock’s movies were revolutionary, people had never before been so frightened ofstaring a screen for an hour. His movies, especially The Birds and Psycho, depicted horror that could genuinelyhappen to anyone, and he certainly didn’t pull any punches when it came to gore.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=si_HoFxPT9Q&feature=relatedCraven on his newest project, Scream 4Wes Craven is responsible, mainly for TheNightmare on Elm Street series, and the Screamfranchise. Contradictory to what I just mentioned,After the first Nightmare on Elm Street movie,Craven did not direct any of the sequels, but thefeeling he projected through the first one has beenmaintained by his directory predecessors. Hedeconstructed the genre a decade later, though, andcreated the audacious Wes Cravens NewNightmare.Arguably, Scream is a much more successfulfranchise for Craven. The first movie sparked thephenomenal trilogy, and was the winner of MTVs1996 Best Movie Award and grossed more than$100 million domestically, as did Scream 2. Between Scream 2 and Scream 3, though, Craven was offered theopportunity to direct a non-genre film for Miramax, called Music of the Heart (1999) which was also nominatedfor numerous awards.
Ben ArnoldAfter the millennium, Craven decided to remake a couple of his earlier masterpieces. He made The Hills Haveeyes (2006) and The Last House on the Left (2009) to appeal to the modern audience in the same way theoriginals did to the audience of that era. Nowadays, at the ripe old age of 72, Craven is still directing blockbustermovies, such as Scream 4, which has been in the works since Scream 3 showed massive success in 2000. WesCraven, in my opinion, is undeniably an Auteur, his work is original and compelling, and you can always tellwhen it’s a Craven movie, purely for the feel they radiate.Cowboys & Aliens is a difficult film to generalise. It has elements of both Western and Sci-fi movies, obviouslydisplayed by the title. Some could argue