The Destruction of the Film Genre


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When something is created it is a given that it will be picked apart, dismantled, will evolve into something even greater. It has become the norm in film-making to play by these rules of deformation. Movie makers have stretched the definitions of genre to encompass the given criteria set up by the very people who created these staple types of films that movie goers are used to. Today we can watch romantic comedies that take place in outer space, or horror where no one is killed. It seems as though as soon as you find a clear definition of what a specific genre is, someone comes along and reinvents the category.

The idea of the genre developed from the need for steady box-office success. The same basic combination of precise plots, character types, and themes, proved to draw crowd after crowd into the theaters to see their favorite stars and story lines played out. But somewhere along the way the very thing that drew in these crowds started to evolve to become greater and diverse. Cabaret, Unforgiven, and The Godfather are clear examples of this

Each one ripped apart the mold assigned to the genre that it now fits into. The Godfather proves that family business is no longer money or power, it is now the family. Prior to this the gangster film had little to with family life. Unforgiven stuck to the setting of the original western, but broke through the misconception that a western had to be about "deserve." The musical, dominated by Hollywood and happy endings, moved to Germany to deal with abortion in Cabaret.

One could examine each anti-genre film, pick apart technical and literary elements and find exactly where it goes astray from the intended form. Each one will differ in its own way. Upon examining these three, I found that the thing that ties them together is character action. It is the main character that steps outside the characterization that we expect. Sally Bowles, the "divinely decadent" star of Cabaret is a show girl that sleeps around, a far cry from the Gene Kelly type that we would expect to be in the middle of a musical. Bill Munny is not the lone ranger character delivered to us time and time again. Instead he is disenchanted with life, and pays no attention to the laws of the west. And last but not least Michael Corleone, a gangster that would rather know that his sister is safe than make a buck.

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It is these figures, at the center of the films that give each one the defining personality that it needs to become the hits that they are today.

Stylistically, these movies do differ in the technical elements that defined its genre. But ultimately the plot is what we refer to time and time again and we remember the most. This flip-flop of story and content is not accidental. The makers of these films had immense knowledge of the genre that they decided to redefine. It is this understanding of film that allowed them to make such monumental works. You have to have an understanding of what you want to destroy, before you began to do so.



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