26 June 2008

Don't Shoot the Blogger

TYPICAL AMERICAN FILM: Words exchanged between two characters. Tempers flare. Bullets fly. Operatic deaths. Much running, dodging about. Hero victorious, antagonist dead.

TYPICAL FRENCH FILM: A character goes about mundane daily tasks, slowly, carefully, typically. Another character enters the scene. They talk. Conversation meanders. Finally their talk reaches a climax, a gun is pulled one person is shot, falls over dead. The other character leaves.

In the American film the viewer has watched an action scene in which they've had a rooting interest and the denouement has satisfied the American desire for justice.

In the French film the viewer has felt less like a participant and more like an observer. Viewers are asked to contemplate the shooting without necessarily passing judgment.

Okay, so American action films can be a lot of fun and they do at times offer strong story lines and interesting characters. These films are often visually stunning and provide a couple hours worth of diversion.
French, and for that matter Italian and many other foreign films, give audiences a little less and ask a little more. Of course, what you get out of any experience is often equivalent to what you put into it. So viewers are more likely to "get something out of" watching a foreign film. There is more ambiguity in “foreign” stories as there is in life. They are a little closer to reality and a little further away from comics.

Of course I generalize. There are many great American films in large part because when you make thousands there are bound to be dozens of good ones and a handful of greats.

Viva le difference.

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