You are to use Rick Altman’s chapters from Film/Genre to address one particular film genre of your choosing. Pay particular attention to his Conclusion chapter, but the chapter “What is generally understood by the notion of film genre?” will be very helpful in identifying his perspective, and the Appendix will be essential in understanding what he means by “semantic” and “syntactic.”
1) Select one genre or genre hybrid you would like to discuss.
2) Focus on one or two (if you would like to write a comparison) film/s that best illustrate interesting aspects of that genre.
3) Does it fit within a classical or revisionist film tradition? In what ways? Is it reflexive—that is self- conscious about its generic identity? If so, how and why?
4) Identify some of the (in Altman’s terms) semantic and syntactic elements within the film that are common in / essential to that genre (particular characters, settings, themes, styles). Limit this to the most relevant so that you can dedicate several sentences to its significance. (Do not provide an exhaustive list of every possible element of a particular genre.) It is important to keep in mind that the semantic/syntactic distinction is about the ways that scholars categorize films and genres—by emphasizing particular elements over others—and that every film has such elements, just as any novel has verbs and nouns.
5) With Altman’s understanding of “pragmatics” in mind, consider how various audiences may engage with that particular film/genre—perhaps even against the intentions of the filmmakers. For example, do you or people you know watch a particular film or genre as a ritual, as a campy “midnight movie,” as something you watch every year (on Halloween, Thanksgiving, etc.), or some other way?
You do not need to cover all of these questions or points, but your analysis should show a close reading of Altman and a thoughtful presentation of his argument of how genres operate. You are welcome to focus on other issues raised in his book that you find interesting. As always, each reference should be carefully cited.