The genre• I realised to create an effective opening two minutes of gangster film, I would need to look in-depth about the codes and conventions of the genre. I needed to look at: symbols, motifs and themes as well as the history of gangster films.
Gangster/Mob Films• Subgenre of crime films – often Mafia related• Generally considered to be about organized gangs, occasionally looking at the boss of the gang, or someone working there way up to the top, for instance Scarface• Often considered the best crime films around• Often underworld figures or robbers who operate outside the law. Very frequent murders take place• Scarface was the first to do this, in the original 1932 made film starring Paul Muni and George Raft• As years went on mafia films were depicted to make the main protagonist die to show how crime never pays. This is noticeable in the film Angels with Dirty Faces• In the 30’s and 40’s the genre began to halt and film noir took off• The 1970’s sparked a new era of mafia films with one of the most noticeable films, The Godfather directed by Mario Puzo.• Other classics then quickly emerged, for example: Goodfellas, Carlito’s Way, Once Upon a Time in America and Scarface.• Today Mafia and gangster films are still made, but not in the same style, they are now often portrayed as a more realistic approuch or completely unrealistic, for example films like Snatch and Lock Stock and Two Smocking Barrels both directed by Guy Richie.
Narrative structure of gangster films• 1. The protagonist lives a low standard life and wants to be in the gang or mafia etc. – or just wants more money and cars and other elements of power• 2. Usually takes place in the big cities were gangs exist, dark alleyways and dodgy clubs frequently feature• 3. Begins to join group or takes power in there own means, and begin to see the riches of life• 4. nearly becomes the boss, begins to do anything to get were he wants, prepared to lose friends along the way• 5. Protagonist has made it, with death involved but he is at the top with flashy cars, lots of woman and a massive house, and probably a stupid amount of drugs and weapons.• 6. Begins to face problems with society e.g other gangs, police, FBI, CIA other anti gangster/mafia groups• 7. either gets killed, escapes, to a distant island, goes to jail or finishes out on top
Themes• Rivalry, often with other gangs or with the police, usually involving money or drugs or pride etc.• Morality, used to create dramatic irony as they break most of their morals yet still believe in the lord• Betrayal, people offering information and going behind peoples backs, or shooting your own side, prison and organisations like the FBU usually input in this• Ambition, usually the protagonist wants to succeed more than anyone else in the film• Materialism, everyone wants big houses and fast cars lots of fantasy riches• Self destruction, often get everything and want more, this is where they screw up• Evil, often the protagonist and usually most people appear to be or at least have evil connotations, which is a underlying theme throughout gangster films• Loyalty, people are still loyal within the mob and will strike against antagonists against them
Symbols• Money, everyone wants money and it drives most people, however usually they realise it’s not all about the money• Guns, everyone uses guns and violence is a key aspect within gangster films, objects like baseball bats are also stereotypical of a gangster film• Women, the more money you have and the higher up you are, the more females you get, women are always shown to be subordinate to men, and they are the ones who have to impress to males• Law, there is usually something or someone who want to stop what is going on within the law, these can often be seen as either the protagonist or antagonist, depending on how the film is portrayed• Jail, usually someone ends up in jail, and supports the caption ‘crime doesn’t pay’
Timeline of Gangster films• 30’s,• Scarface: The Shame of the Nation 1932• Lady Killer 1933• The Roaring Twenties 1939
• 40’s,• Brother Orchid 1940• White Heat 1949• Key Largo 1948• I Walk Alone 1948
• 50’s• Goodbye 1950• Illegal 1955• Al Capone 1959• New York Confidential 1954
• 60’s,• Bloody Mama 1969• Bonnie and Clyde 1967• Point Blank 1967
• 70’s,• Dillinger 1973• The Godfather 1972• The Godfather Part II 1974• Mean Streets 1973
• 80’s,• Harlem Nights 1989• The Untouchables 1987• Scarface 1983• Once Upon a Time in America 1984
Conclusion• Through this research I have learn that I need to involve very certain codes and conventions for this to be an effective mob film. I need to include themes of violence as well as money and power, as that appears to be a reoccurring theme throughout the genre. Therefore this research stage has been vital in aiding me to my final piece.