Film Theory

Reading books about films and filmmakers can be fun and informative. They can also be dry and dull even when discussing the greats. My favorite on the subject is Hitchcock by Francois Truffaut. I learned a lot from the book, not only about Alfred Hitchcock’s movies, but about film, and all forms of storytelling as well.

I have a few posts in mind that refer to certain aspects discussed in the book, and rather than wasting our time trying to explain them in the body of text, I will give you this handy-dandy guide to refer to. You are welcome. Or better yet, you could buy a copy of Truffaut’s book.

Plausibility

If you have ever watched an Alfred Hhitchcock film you may have noticed that plausibility is often tossed out the window. For example: why did there happen to be an ornithologist in Bodega Bay the one time the birds decided to attack? The answer is quite simple: she needed to be. So there. Do we really need a number of scenes establishing the reason for her presence? That would be rather boring and confusing.

If this has ever bothered you then you are one of what Hitchcock calls, “The Plausibles.” You know the type. They’re the pedants that populate film sites and knitpick every little thing wrong with a film. Don’t get me wrong, I too am often upset by huge plotholes, gaps in logic, and general inaccuracies in storytelling. Sometimes I am willing to overlook flaws if it is an otherwise excellent movie.

Think about it for a minute. If you put the script for almost any Oscar nominated film under a microscope it probably wouldn’t hold up to close scrutiny. Look at some of the most beloved films of all time: many are built around a faulty, if not completely untrue premise. What matters is how you feel about the movie. If you like it, flaws and all, then that is great. More about this later.

Happy Endings

Like a lot of directors, Alfred Hitchcock believed that if the audience likes a film and is entertained then they will accept an unhappy ending. Hollywood studios on the other hand…

Great Flawed Films

According to Francois Truffaut, a “great flawed film” is a film made by a proven filmmaker that doesn’t quite work for whatever reason. He goes on to say that some viewers prefer the flawed films to the so-called masterpieces.

I sometimes get funny looks when I say that I like Steven Speilberg’s 1941. It by no means is a great movie, but that is okay. It has a lot of flaws, too many to overlook, but who cares? I appreciate the fact that Spielberg stepped outside his comfort zone and tried to make a comedy.

More directors should stop trying to make the same film over and over again. Maybe a different kind of film will work, maybe not, that’s not the point. We all should try new things every now and then.

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