Sunday, 7 November 2010

Intertextuality - 'Nothing New'

Since Thursday's lecture and seminar this intertextuality thing seems to be cropping up all over the place. I finally got round to watching This is England over the weekend and the very final scene is the main character, Shaun standing on the beach looking out to sea. The camera moves around his head, starting behind him until it finally looks him square in the face. In the last second of the film Shaun's eyes move from looking past the camera and out to sea to looking directly into the lens, making it seem as though he is looking directly at the viewer. Making connections is what intertextuality is all about and this final shot was an exact copy of a film that I watched for my French A Level, Les 400 coups.

This was a conscious choice made by the director of 'This Is England', Shane Meadows as a nod to 'Les 400 coups' director Francois Truffaut. If I'm not mistaken, I think that this is an example of what intertextuality is all about: art imitating art, connections and interactions between two or more contexts, something that alludes to something else. 

In terms of character creation, all model makers need a starting point and various references to develop their ideas. 'Nobody creates in a vacuum'. This idea got me thinking about an exhibition I had seen in America which showed the development of various Disney characters from the initial character description right the way through to the final design. I realise that most people will be writing about horror or sci-fi films on their blogs but there's nothing wrong with a bit of Disney every once in a while. One of the most interesting characters that was featured in this exhibition was Carl Fredricksen from the 2009 Disney Pixar film Up. The people in charge of character creation based Carl on Spencer Tracy in the film Guess Who's Coming To Dinner. I like the idea that these people must have gone through a whole list of various curmudgeonly characters in order to decide on the best design for Carl.

A lot of films and particularly programmes such as Family Guy and South Park use intertextuality as a comedic device. There is something funny about well known scenes being recreated in a different context. For example, one of the most iconic scenes in film history is the shower scene from the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock film Psycho

This scene has been recreated numerous times, but by far the best has to be in Mel Brooks' 1977 comedy, High Anxiety. In this scene, a furious bellboy who has been constantly hounded for a newspaper by Brooks' character, Dr. Richard Thorndyke, bursts into his bathroom whilst he is showering and 'stabs' him with the rolled up newspaper.

I think that this scene has been done brilliantly, with a lot of the camera angles replecating those from the original. Every memorable moment from this scene has been reinterpreted to make the viewer laugh instead of scream; the motionless eye, the ink running down the plughole instead of blood, the curtain being ripped down, even the bellboy's screams are made to sound like the piercing music which plays during the 1960 version. This is intertextuality at its very best.

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