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Stages of Reality

Stages of Reality: Theatricality in Cinema

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Stages of Reality
    Book Description:

    Detailing connections between cinematic artifice and topics such as politics, gender, and genre,Stages of Realityallows readers to develop a clear sense of the multiple purposes and uses of theatricality in film.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-9628-0
    Subjects: Film Studies, Performing Arts

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-2)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 3-10)

    The idea for this collection of original essays emerged from papers presented at two conferences held in 2008, in Philadelphia and Vancouver, where a handful of scholars debated the relevance of the concept of theatricality within a critical discourse on cinema. This anthology attempts to bring together the various strands of this ongoing discussion on the problematic of the ‘theatrical’ in film. Although the contributors offer divergent and, indeed, sometimes contradictory perspectives on the subject, there still appears throughout the book a deep convergence of opinions on the significance of theatricality as a mode of address and display common to...

  4. Part One Traces of Theatricality:: Stage-to-Screen Adaptations

    • 1 Self-Adaptation: Queer Theatricality in Brad Fraser’s Leaving Metropolis and Robert Lepage’s La face cachée de la lune
      (pp. 13-29)

      As the borders between artistic practices are shown to be more porous than ever, and as creators increasingly move freely from one medium to the other, one wonders why so much critical energy is still spent trying to delineate the specificity of art forms. These criteria are obviously useful to many people: newspaper critics need to evaluate just what they’re hired to do while staying off their colleagues’ turf; funding agencies (in the arts or for research) need applicants to check boxes, choose codes, and build a ‘coherent’ portfolio; universities distribute resources according to the number of students registered in...

    • 2 Brechtian Television: Theatricality and Adaptation of the Stage Play
      (pp. 30-52)

      The dramaturgy of Bertholt Brecht was highly influential upon the development of both television drama and theatre in Britain between the 1950s and the 1970s. In television, this influence was felt in the attempts of writers, directors, and producers such as Tony Garnett, Ken Loach, John McGrath, Dennis Potter, and Howard Schuman to create an original Brechtian form of television drama, and in a wider discourse as to the political and aesthetic direction and value of television drama.¹ In this essay, I examine these arguments from another perspective. While the debate has been framed thus far around how Brechtian techniques...

  5. Part Two Cinematic Theatricality, Genre, and Gender

    • 3 Cinéma du Grand Guignol: Theatricality in the Horror Film
      (pp. 55-80)

      The historical link between horror films and the gory, sensationalist popular theatre of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries has often been noted. Dave Beech and John Roberts, for instance, suggest that ‘the Hollywood horror movie is no doubt the true descendant ofGrand Guignol.’¹ Similarly, Richard J. Hand and Michael Wilson in their definitive study of the French theatre of horror assert ‘that the Grand-Guignol greatly influenced subsequent horror films.’² In the same vein, drama historian Michael R. Booth sees in the Gothic stage melodrama of the 1800s ‘an early equivalent of the modern horror film.’³ Filmmakers have often...

    • 4 ‘I’ll Show Them!’ Creating Legal Spectacles in Revenge Cinema
      (pp. 81-101)
      R.J. TOUGAS

      Widely considered a principle of natural justice, the above axiom sets out a standard designed to preserve the legitimacy of legal authority in courtroom practice in the Western adversarial process.² Lord Hewart’s probably familiar phrase posits two central premises. First, it expresses a preoccupation with form for its own sake – a legal decision’s just appearance is as significant as the justness of its actual content. The second premise then follows – justice must be witnessed. Lord Hewart’s statement does not require that justice-makingbe viewablebut demands itactually be viewed. The justness of legal practice is revealed by having those...

    • 5 The Ethics of Murder: Trial as Performance in the Maternal Melodrama
      (pp. 102-115)

      The violence of American fi lm is manifest not only in genres conventionally associated with excessive surges of masculinity, such as war films, noirs, or westerns, but also, curiously, in a generic staple of Hollywood production during the Golden Age of the studio and star system of the mid-twentieth century: the maternal melodrama. The maternal melodrama, as Mary Ann Doane observes, featured ‘scenarios of separation, of separation and return, or of threatened separation – dramas that play out all the permutations of the mother/child relation.’¹ They were, again in Doane’s words ‘the paradigmatic type of the woman’s film’ which was itself...

    • 6 Theatricality in the Cleopatra Films: Women (or We Men?) of Power
      (pp. 116-132)

      As André Loiselle and Jeremy Maron point out in the introduction to this volume, Patrice Pavis defines ‘theatricality’ as ‘the specific enunciation, the movement of words, the dual nature of enunciator (character/actor), and his utterances, theartificialityof performance (representation).’² In this view, theatricality is defined as a self-referential, metatheatrical form of stylization. Roland Barthes’s definition emphasizes the extra-textual – the audio-visual elements of the performance – as theatrical by essence: ‘What is theatricality? It is theatre-minus-text, it is adensityof signs and sensations built up on stage starting from the written argument.’³ Barthes stresses thepolyphonicaspects of theatricality: ‘at...

  6. Part Three The Politics of Cinematic Theatricality

    • 7 Committed Theatricality
      (pp. 135-159)

      The commercial and artistic success ofBeing at Home with Claude(Jean Beaudin, 1992) has contributed to a renewed interest in the filmic adaptations of Quebec plays. Indeed, the decade that followed was particularly prolific in this type of adaptation.¹ Many recent films of this kind employ explicit references to the stage, feature characters that directly address the camera, and include dialogue from canonical plays – all of which bring the theatricality in these films to the fore. The past decade has also witnessed a renewed interest in the concept of theatricality in the fields of Film and Theatre Studies.² Scholarly...

    • 8 Theatrical Games and the Gift of a Fable: Performance vs. Reality in Roberto Benigni’s Life Is Beautiful
      (pp. 160-182)

      In many ways, the world of Roberto Benigni’sLife Is Beautiful (La vita é bella,1997) functions as a stage upon which the affable Guido Orefice (Benigni) attempts to impose his fantasies on reality through performance. In the film’s ‘romantic comedy’ fi rst half, Guido playfully feigns the role of a royal prince in order to win the heart of Dora (Nicoletta Braschi) from her boorish and Fascist fiancé. Guido’s surroundings seem kind to him in this regard, as he stumbles into luxurious rolled-out red carpet and a white horse that fill out the fairy tale constructed by him for...

  7. Part Four Performance, Voice, Movement, and the Theatricality of Cinema

    • 9 Playing to the Balcony: Screen Acting, Distance, and Cavellian Theatricality
      (pp. 185-203)

      The infamous final fifteen minutes ofThere Will Be Blood(Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007) have presented a number of critics with a puzzling dilemma. During this sequence, Daniel Day-Lewis’s character – the monstrous, early twentieth-century oil baron, Daniel Plainview – ritually humiliates and eventually murders his old nemesis, a faith-healer named Eli Sunday (played by Paul Dano). Day-Lewis’s performance in these climactic moments has struck some as bizarrely faustian. Voiced in numerous critical reviews, blogs, chat forums, and other online discussions of the film, the problem with the actor’s performance choices can be paraphrased as follows: why does Day-Lewis suddenly veer so...

    • 10 Bullet-Time, Becoming, and the Sway of Theatricality: Performance and Play in The Matrix
      (pp. 204-228)

      It is a familiar cliché that begins ‘Few motion pictures have so completely captured the popular imagination as . . . ’ It is only appropriate, therefore, that a film that manages to incorporate so very many clichés into a product so utterly innovative asThe Matrix(Andy and Larry Wachowski, 1999) should be introduced here in this manner. Like only a handful of other Hollywood franchises in recent memory, theMatrixfilms are a bona fide phenomenon that has resonated throughout the labyrinthine corridors (and nooks and crannies) of late twentieth-and early twenty-first-century popular culture. Bruce Isaacs considers the...

  8. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 229-234)
  9. Contributors
    (pp. 235-237)