Body Of Evolution Of Musical Film Genres Film Essay


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On the primitive period, musical generates as an hybrid from European operetta and American vaudeville and music hall. A director that represents this period is Busby Berkeley. His films pay not attention to the plot, are vehicle for song and dance. It is pure spectacle and sensuality. Sex is offered through the gaze (Hayward, 2000).

On the mature period, from the 30's to the 50's, songs and dance move with the narrative and are introduced on a natural way. Fred Astaire develops an elegant, stylised style and Gene Kelly develops a more energetic one (Hayward, 2000).

From the 50's to the 70's, musicals are more realistic, subjects as racism, delinquency are treated. Examples are West side story, whose narrative is based on Romeo and Juliet, Saturday Night Fever and Grease. Some other films go back to the traditional narrative structure, as Barbra Streisand and The sound of Music(1965) (Hayward, 2000).

Cabaret(1972) Bob Fosse has influences of art cinema and the camera work is different than usual, it goes from fluid to vertiginous (Hayward, 2000).

Formal conventions, stereotypes and narrative (Hayward, 2000) (Cohan, 2010)

For Altman (1989) musicals on the mature period are an "ode to marriage". The narrative is based on the principle of pairing and mirroring. Male and female are paired, maturity is paired to immaturity. The main characters are mirrored in other couples, settings are mirrored in others (Hayward, 2000).

Camera work, editing compared to dominant codes of continuity. Use of diegesis.

The genre can not be as used to be on the past, these times are far too cynical for it, it would not be taken seriously. The way to do it would be making singing an dancing naturalised within a fictive world or being represented as fantasies occurring within a character's mind (Cohan, 2010).

Conventions in HSM follow the traditional ones . It follows the principle of duality (the two main characters). What it adds is a contrast between authenticity, represented by the main couple, and manipulated artistry, represented by another couple formed by Sharpay and Ryan. (Cohan, 2010).

theories of spectatorship and scopophilia (Richardson, 2008), (Hayward, 2000) and (Sturken & Cartwright, 2009)

It is interesting to analyse what appeals the viewer. We can go from psychoanalytical theories, to cognitive theories, to theories that distinguish the spectator for gender, to later theories that consider that the spectator the pleasure that the spectator feel at looking at others.

Some musical genre detractors consider that the character breaking suddenly out into singing and dancing creates a sense of alienation as spectator(Cohan, 2010).

Reasons that can help to revive the genre.

Cohan mentions David Rooney and Jonathan Bing describing which can be the factors to bring back musicals. They mention the development of new technology to help with the task of shooting and editing and to reduce costs. Also the after-market of the fans of musical can be financially interesting, as they are repeat viewers, so DVDs and soundtracks would sell, as well as merchandising would do. Another interesting factor is that youth audience has been raised on music videos. This could help to explain the success of "High School Musical" or "Glee" (Cohan, 2010).There are also negative factors, as that cinema industry is offering young male audience other products that get their attention (Cohan, 2010).


Viewers have a wider visual knowledge that make them able to understand messages transmitted on ambiguous ways. This mechanism is known as intertextuality.

Chandler (2003) quotes Leiss (1990):

"The growing preponderance of visuals in ads has enhanced the ambiguity of meaning embedded in message structures. Earlier advertising usually states its message quite explicitly through the medium of written text..., but starting in the mid-1920s visual representation became more common, and the relationship between text and visual image became complementary - that is, the text explained the visual. In the postwar period, and especially since the early 1960s, the function of text moved away from explaining the visual and towards a more cryptic form, in which text appeared as a kind of 'key' to the visual.

In all, the effect was to make the commercial message more ambiguous; a 'reading' of it depended on relating elements in the ad's internal structure to each other, as well as drawing in references from the external world."

HSM and authorship. HSM in schools.

Postmodernism in last musicals productions for TV

Cohan (2010) quotes Edwards:

"The charm and artistic merit of the original HSM movie lies in its ability to consider a sophisticated theatrical and musical heritage and consequently revise it for a modern audience … it simultaneously conforms to genre expectations and pays homage to its textual influences while taking a postmodern delight in exposing its own limitations and playing with some gentle pastiche of literary and cinematic predecessors".

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