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Observationsonfilmart:Seducedbystructure

FilmArt:AnIntroduction
ChristopherNolan:ALabyrinth
ofLinkagespdfonline
PandorasDigitalBox:Films,
Files,andtheFutureofMovies
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PlanetHongKong,second
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TheWayHollywoodTellsIt
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PoeticsofCinemapdfonline
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CinemaScope:TheModern
MiracleYouSeeWithout
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HowMotionPicturesBecame
theMovies
Constructiveeditingin
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ChristopherNolan:ALabyrinthofLinkages
Firstedition,2013.
62pages,69inches
[orderPDFversion,$1.99]

ACelestialCinmathque?or,
FilmArchivesandMe:ASemi
PersonalHistoryadded
September2014
ShklovskyandHisMonument
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toaScientificError
MurderCulture:Adventuresin
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TheViewersShare:Modelsof
MindinExplainingFilm
CommonSense+FilmTheory
=CommonSenseFilmTheory?
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Forceful,ImpressiveIdea
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HongKong

PandorasDigitalBox:Films,Files,andtheFutureofMovies
Firstedition,2012.
237pages,57inches
[orderPDFversion,$3.99]

PaoloGiolisVerticalCinema
(Re)DiscoveringCharles
Dekeukeleire
DoingFilmHistory
TheHook:SceneTransitionsin
ClassicalCinema
AnatomyoftheActionPicture
HearingVoices
Preface,Croatianedition,On
theHistoryofFilmStyle
Slavojiek:SayAnything
FilmandtheHistoricalReturn
StudyingCinema

PlanetHongKong
Secondedition,2011.
299pages,118.5inches,441colorillustrations
[orderPDFversion,$15]

TheFrodoFranchise:TheLordoftheRingsandModernHollywood
byKristinThompson.Berkeley:UniversityofCaliforniaPress,2007.
400pages,69inches,12colorillustrations36b/willustrations.
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Observationsonfilmart:Seducedbystructure

[gotoAmazon| gotoTheFrodoFranchiseblog ]

FilmArt:AnIntroduction
TextbookwrittenincollaborationwithKristinThompson.Tenthedition,NewYork:McGrawHill,2012.
544pages,morethan1,000illustrations.
[gotoAmazon]

FilmHistory:AnIntroduction
TextbookwrittenwithKristinThompson(firstnamedauthor).Thirdedition,NewYork:McGrawHill,2009.
800pages,colorillustrations.
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TheCross
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Directors:Bauer
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Directors:Koepp
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Directors:SuoMasayuki
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Filmtechnique:Music
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Nationalcinemas:SouthAmerica
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Readers'FavoriteEntries
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Television
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December2013
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October2010
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August2007
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alsovisit:
100Onlinesourcesforfilmarchives
AnimationWorld
Arts&LettersDaily
BillDesowitz:ImmersedinMovies
BourneCinemaConspiracy
ButterfliesandWheels
ChicagoReaderonFilm
ChristianHayesClassicFilmShow
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CineFiles
Cinemawriter(JayAntani)
Cinemetrics
Cinephiled
Cinephobia
Cinespect(RyanWellsandcolleagues)
ContinuityBoy
CriticafterDark:NoelVera
DaveKehr.com
DavidPoland:TheHotBlog
DenisDutton
FandorKeyframe(DavidHudsonetal.)
FandorKeyframe(DavidHudsonetal.)
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Observationsonfilmart:Seducedbystructure

FilmFestivalWorld
FilmStudiesatUWMadison
FilmStudiesforFree
FilmmakerMagazine
FredCamper.com
GaryGiddinswebsite
GirishShambu
GlennKenny'sSomeCameRunning
GreenbriarPictureShows
HarryTuttleatScreenville
HarvardFilmArchive
HarveyDeneroffssite
HenryJenkinsBlog
HongKongHustle
IvoBlomonfilmandpainting
JanChristopherHorak's"ArchivalSpaces"blog
JeffGoldsmithCREATIVESCREENWRITINGblogandpodcast
JimEmersonsScanners
JJMurphyonindependentcinema
JonathanRosenbaum
JustTV(JasonMittell)
LarsvonTrierdiscussesANTICHRIST
MarkSchillingonJapanesefilm
Mellart(MarcoMilone)
MichaelBarrieronanimation
MidnightEye:TheLatestandBestinJapaneseFilm
MikeGrostsClassicFilmandTelevision
MorethanMeetstheMogwai
MovieCityNews
MUBINotebook
NickRedfernonempiricalfilmresearch
Onlythecinema
OswaldItenoncolorinanimation
ParallaxView:SeanAxmaker&co.
PaulRamaeker'sblog:TheThirdMeaning
PeetGelderblom:Directorama
RandomPictures
ReidRosefeltonSocialMediaforFilmmakers
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RobertHortononfilm
RogerEbert.com
ScreenSlate
SelfStyledsiren
SullySweet'sblog
TCMMovieMorlocks
TheBioscope
TheGoldenRockonAsianmoviesandpopularculture
ThomasElsaessersite
Timeline:VisualEffects,ComputerGraphics,ComputerAnimation
VFXWorld
VirginiaWrightWexmanonenjoyingfilmfestivals
YvonneTeh
Zigzigger:OntheAudiovisualandBeyond
Login
AnotherdispatchfromVancouver
AlastcelluloidbanquetfromVancouver

Seducedbystructure
Monday|October11,2010

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openprintableversion

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Observationsonfilmart:Seducedbystructure

MysteriesofLisbon.
DBhere:
Ifyourehungrytolearnaboutthewaysfilmscantellstories,afestivalprovidesafeast.Ahugearrayof
narrativestrategiesisspreadoutforyourdelectation.Youwontlikeeverymovieyousee,butthinkingabout
themechanicsofeachonecandeepenyourexperienceofit,aswellasyourappreciationforjusthowwide
cinemasresourcescanbe.Youalsogettoseehowmoreunusualapproachestostorytellingareoften
imaginativerevisionsofmoretraditionalstrategies.
Wecanusefullythinkaboutnarrativefromthreeangles.Wecanstudythestoryworldthatafilmconjuresup:
thecharacters,places,andactionsweencounter.Wecananalyzeplotstructure,thedistinctpartsthatareput
togethersequentially.Theymightbescenesorsequencesorlargerscaleparts,liketheHollywood
screenwritersacts.Wecanalsoanalyzenarration,thepatterned,momentbymomentprocessofpresenting
thestoryworldandtheplotstructure.Thinkofanarrativeaslikeabuilding.Thebuildingsfurnishings
correspondtothestoryworld,andthearchitecturaldesignofthebuilding,planandelevation,islikeplot
structure.Ourrealtimepathwaythroughthebuilding,fromthefrontdoorwayintoitsdepths,correspondsto
narration.
TheVancouverInternationalFilmFestivalthatKristinandIhavebeenvisitingoffersabanquetofstorytelling
devicessomequitetraditional,somefairlyfresh.IlljustsurveysomeaspectsofstructurethatIfound
intriguing.
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Thelongestdistancebetweenpoints

TheChineseblockbusterAftershock,centeringonthe1976earthquakethatstruckTangshan,hasearnedsome
complaintsaboutweepinessandjokesaboutAfterschlock.Perhapsmelodramamakesmanycritics
uncomfortable.Theyseemmoreathomewithcomedyandnoirishcrimestories,perhapsbecausetheemotions
stirredbythesearebracketedbyadegreeofintellectualdistance.Buttellastoryaboutahappyfamilysplit
apartbyacatastropheshowamotherforcedtochoosebetweensavinghersonandsavingherdaughtershow
thatthegirlmiraculouslyescapesdeathpresentherraisedbyapairofnewparentsanddwellonthefactthat
hermother,livingelsewhere,expectsnevertoseeheragaindoallthis,andyoucourtmockery.
Well,mockeryfromeverybodyexceptthehundredsofthousandsofpeoplewhohavealwaysenjoyedthese
situations.AftershockisnowthebiggestboxofficesuccessinChinesefilmhistory(presumablyusingtodays
currencystandards).WhateverthefilmowestoChinesetraditions,itiseasilyunderstandableinaWestern
context.Storiesbasedonpseudoorphans,separatedsiblings,andparentsforcedtogiveupchildrenhavelong
beensurefire.LesDeuxorphelines,an1874play,isonestrongprototype.Thispathetictaleoftwosisterstorn
apartinpostrevolutionaryPariswasadaptedbymanydirectors,includingGriffith(OrphansoftheStorm,
1921).FeuilladedevelopedsimilarmotifsinLesDeuxgamines(1921),LOrpheline(1921),andParisette
(1922).Amotherslossofherchildrenthroughaccidentorsocialoppressionisanotherstocksituation,seenin
sublimeforminMizoguchisSanshotheBailiff.TheobligationtopickachildtosaveisatthecoreofSophies
Choice,amorehighbrowmelodrama.Likewise,thediscoveryofunexpectedkinshipformstheclimaxofmany
stories,fromOedipusRextoTwelfthNightandbeyond.
Youmaycalltheseconventionshackneyed,butitwouldbebettertocallthemtriedandtrueproveneffective
bycenturiesofdeployment,countingonemotionsarousedbytiesofloveandblood.Suchsituationswouldbe
goodcandidatesfornarrativeuniversals,whichcanbereshapedbylocalculturalpressures.
Thepremiseofafragmentedfamilybearschieflyonthestoryworld.Thefilmmakerstillmustchoosehowto
structuretheplot.ForAftershock,directorFengXiaogangandhiscollaboratorssettledonthetimehonored
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route:parallelstoriesacrosstheyears,shownbymeansofcrosscutting.Afterthequake,scenesofthemother
andsonalternatewithscenesshowingthegirlsrescueandherlifewithheradoptedparents,bothsoldiersin
thePeoplesLiberationArmy.Foraboutthefirstsixtyminutes,thesegmentsareratherlong,butafterthat
shorterscenesfromeachplotlineareintercut.Thesonmovesofftoaseparatelife,buthissuccessasan
entrepreneurisgivenshortshrift.Theplotconcentratesonthedaughterscollegecareer,hersometimesstormy
relationwithherfosterparents,andherunexpectedpregnancy.Inthemeantime,themothersurvives,turning
asideakindlysuitorinordertopreserveherfaithfulnesstothehusbandwhosavedherlife.
Narrationally,thealternationbetweentheseparatedcharactersgivesussuperiorknowledge.Weknow,asthe
motherandbrotherdonot,thatthedaughtersurviveswealsoknowthatshenursesabittermemoryofhearing
hermotherchoosetherescueofherbrother.Likewise,weknowthatthemotherhastormentedherselffor
decadesoverherforcedchoice.Thustherecriminationsthatwillburstoutaftertheyrediscoveroneanother
willrequiresomehealing,whichisprovidedintheplotslastphase.Melodramadependsonmistakes,andthey
mustbecorrected.Inatellingimageoftwosetsofschoolbooks(notpreviouslyshowntous),weandthe
daughterrealizethatovertheyearsthemotherhasbeenthinkingofherasifshewerestillalive.
Thedualstructurecanalsoteaseuswithsuspense.Atthehourmark,welearnthatboththebrotherandthe
daughterareinHangzhou,withouteachothersknowledge.Thebrotherevenencountersthefosterfather.Its
thesortofcoincidencethatleadsustoexpectareunion.Coincidences,Imentionedinanearlierentry,are
fascinatingnarrativedevices,andherethefortuitousconvergencedoesntactuallypayoff.Butitdoesprepare
usforthegenuinereunionthatwilltakeplaceanhourorsolater,whenanearthquakehitsSichuanin2008.
TheresalotmoretobesaidaboutAftershockIwasstruckbythefactthatthechildrenareleftinthe
collapsingapartmentbecausetheparentshavesneakedofftohavesexinthehusbandstruck.(Soisthewhole
arcofsufferingthepunishmentforalittlecarnality?)Butjuststickingwithstructure,wefindthataclusterof
ancientplotdevices,fedintotheestablishedtechniqueofcrosscutting,canstillfindpurchaseinacontemporary
film.InfilmslikeAftershock,asinHollywoodsromanticcomediesandhorrorfilmsandhistoricaladventures,
veryoldnarrativeconventionsliveon.SuitablysprucedupwithCGI,theystillprovidepleasure.
Sometimes,however,yougetthesensethatfilmmakersinotherculturesareborrowingconventionsofrecent
Westernfilms.ThisseemsthecaseinCityofLifefromtheUnitedArabEmirates.Faisalisaspoiledplayboy
whospendshisnightswithhispalKhalfan,afistfightproneclubhopper.NataliaisaRomanianflight
attendantwhogetsromanticallyinvolvedwithanadvertisingman.Basuisataxidriverwithanuncanny
resemblancetoaBollywoodstar,andsohetriestosupplementhisearningsbyappearinginanightclub.Asall
ofthemmovethroughDubai,theirlivesintertwine.
Wehave,inshort,whatIvecalledanetworknarrative.Mostlytheplotlinesarejuxtaposedthrough
crosscutting,butsometimesthecharactersinonelineofactionencounterthoseinanother.Faisalisataclubon
thesamenightasNataliaisthere,withherboyfriendandherroommate.Objectscirculateaswell.Nataliapays
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Basuforacabride,andBasupreservesher20noteuntilhehashitrockbottom.Atthemidpoint,anad
campaignlinksNataliasboyfriend,Faisalsfather,andBasusjob.Manyoftheconventionsofthesmall
worldnetworkformatareincluded,withonecharacterremarkingthatDubaiisasmallcity.Ouroldfriendthe
trafficaccident(shotandcutwithexceptionalvividness)playsacrucialrole.Arefusecollectorthreadsthrough
theplot,turningupatunexpectedtimesandprovidinganironiccoda.
DirectorAliF.Mostafamobilizesalotofcontemporarytechniques,includingfastmotionandrapidcutting
(3.6secondsaverageshotlength).Theeditingsometimesextendsthecrosscuttingprinciplebyflippingback
andforthbetweentwosuccessivescenes,creatinglittleflashforwards.Forinstance,whentheadmanGuy
phonesNataliatointroducehimself,wecuttothemtalkinginabarandthenbacktoherlisteningtohissweet
talk.

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Observationsonfilmart:Seducedbystructure

TheanticipatorycutsleadustoexpectthatGuyiscallingtoaskherout,andNataliawillaccept.Thissortof
crossstitchingcanbefoundinTheGodfatherandotherfilmsofthelate1960sandearly1970s,andithas
shownupsporadicallysince,butitsrareenoughtostilllookmodern.
Incinema,networknarrativescanoccasionallybefoundbeforethe1990s,buttheyvebecomefarmore
common.Icountnearly150filmsofthelasttwentyyearsemployingthestructure.Inliterature,ofcourse,such
plotsgobackquitefar,andtheyformedthebasisofnineteenthcenturynovelsbythelikesofBalzac,Dickens,
Zola,andGeorgeEliot.TelevisionsoapoperasandensembleserieslikeHillStreetBluesshowedthatmodern
mediaslongformformatsfitwellwithnetworkstorytelling.Socinemahascaughtup,adjustingthetemplate
tofeaturelengthplots.CityofLifeshowsthatartistsfromemergingfilmmakingnationscanusethisstructure
toenterafestivalcircuitdominatedbyWesternnormsofconstruction.Atthesametime,thoseartistscantailor
thisstructuretotheirownendsinthiscase,itseemstome,presentingDubaiasacityofemigrantsruledbya
fecklessleisureclass.
Thetheatreofmemory

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Observationsonfilmart:Seducedbystructure

Whathappens,though,whenconventionsofsprawlingnineteenthcenturynovelsarentsqueezedsodrastically
intotheusualfeaturelength?IhadachancetofindoutfromVancouversscreeningofRaulRuizsfouranda
halfhourMysteriesofLisbon.Basedonan1854novelbyCamiloCasteloBranco,afictioneerasprolificas
Ruizhimself,thefilmdoesnttrimofftheexfoliatingplotlinesthatweenjoyinthreedeckersfromtheperiod.
ThisbeingaRuizfilm,thereisaswellatangiblepleasureintheartificeofstorytelling.Thefilmacknowledges
thatallthehandycoincidences,buriedpasts,multipleidentities,andrevelationsofkinshiparethereforour
delectation.
Orphansagain:Jooisbeingraisedinachurchschool,buthehasnoideaofhisparentage.Earlyon,kindly
FatherDimistellshimthathismotherisAngela,thecountessofSantaBarbara,butherbrutalhusbandisnot
hisfather.Wearesoonembarkedontheextendedflashbackthattracesthedoomedloveaffairthatresultsinthe
birthoftheyounghero,nownamedPedro.Inthecourseofthattale,wemeettwomoresuspiciouscharacters,
thegypsySalinoCabraandthehiredassassinHeliodoros.
Thisrecountedhistoryisonlythefirstofacascadeofflashbacks,issuingfromseveralcharacters,andthese
graduallyshowdeepconnectionsamongpersonstiedtoPedrospast.Secondarycharactersinonestorybecome
protagonistsofanother.Theyoungheroisgraduallydisplacedasthecenteroftheactionbywar,secret
romances,rivalries,duels,andinfidelities.LikePasoliniinhisTrilogyofLife,Ruizishappiestwhenopening
upaplotdetourthatwilleventuallybecomeanewmainroad.
Bytheend,ouryoungherohasbecomesomethingofanullity,anemptycenteraroundwhicharistocratic
ecstasiesandfollieshaveswirled.HessomethingliketheDubaiofCityofHope:apointofintersectionof
manyfates.Hesalsoapassiveobserverofscalemodeldramasplayedoutonhistoytheatrestage.Hisvoice
overnarrationhasenwrappedthewholefilm,andourlastglimpseofhimisasmerelyanarrator.Pedroseems
finallytorealizethathisentireexistencehasservedsimplytogatherotherpeopleinatangleofdoomed
passions.

MysteriesofLisbonhasarich,highthreadcountlook,butits
notyourusualprestigecostumedrama.Thelongtakesclingtocharactersastheyflirttheirwayacrossa
ballroom,andthecameraslipsthroughwallsinthemannerofoldfashionedcinema.TherearetheusualRuiz
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flourishesofhallucinatorydeepfocus(achievedthroughsplitfocusdiopters),charactersfloatingratherthan
walking,andtheoccasionalpeculiarangle.Butthefilmremainscalmandlustrous,culminatinginaslowtread
intopurelight.
Ruizsappetitefornarrativeisalmostgluttonoushesupposedlywroteoverahundredplaysinsixyears,and
hesmadeaboutasmanyfilms.HeoncetoldmethathethoughtthatPostmodernismwassimplyarevivalof
theBaroqueinmoderndress.FromMysteriesofLisbon,itsclearthatheseesinmanyoldernarrativetraditions
affinitieswithourtastestoday.Networknarratives?Theyvebeendone,andmaybebetter,centuriesago.
Followthelacytendrilsofclassicfamilyoriginsplots,andyoullfindapatternasintricateasanythinginShort
CutsorPulpFiction.Morestoryahead:theresasixhourtelevisionversion.
Ruminationonruination

Ruizunderstandsthatmodernistnarrativetechniques,includingunreliablenarratorsandfancytimeswitches,
dependuponalongtraditioninatleasttwoways.First,veryoftenthetraditiongottherefirstscholarslike
MeirSternbergandRobertAlterhavedemonstratedcomplexplayswithchronologyandpointofviewinthe
BibleandtheGreekclassics.Secondly,unusualplotstructuresmayringunexpectedvariationsonmore
conventionalones.Caseinpoint:reversedplotsequence.
Again,thisseemstobesomethingofamoderntrend.ThelocusclassicusappearstobeHaroldPinters1978
playBetrayal,inwhich,scenebyscene,theplotproceedsinreversechronology.Thiswasfilmedin1983and
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gavebirthtoafamousSeinfeldepisode.Asyouknow,Memento,Irreversible,andotherrecentfilmshavetaken
upreversechronologyplotting.Actually,however,thereareseveralearlierinstances,notablythe1934
KaufmanandHartplayMerrilyWeRollAlong(turnedintoamusicalbyStephenSondheim)andW.R.
Burnetts1934novel,GoodbyetothePast.Otherexamples,somegoingbackquitefar,arelistedhere.
Rumination,afilmbyXuRuotaointheDragons&TigersyoungdirectorscompetitionatVancouver,turnsthe
structuretopoliticalends.Reducedtothebarebones,thefilmshowsateacher,hiswife,andtheirsoncaught
upintheChineseCulturalRevolution.ThefatherfallsinwithagangofRedGuardyouthsrampagingthrough
thecountryside.Thesontrailsthegangatadistanceandoccasionallyinterfereswiththeiractsofviolence.
Thesestoryeventsarearrangedinblocks,witheachclusterofscenesassociatedwithaspecificyear.The
blocksproceedbackwardintime,from1976to1966.Afteraprologue,thefilmshowsscenesofthewaningof
theRevolutionbeforetheepilogue,wegetastalwartyoungmanannouncingtheRevolutionsbirth.
Thescenesarefairlyepisodicandindependent,soIdidntdetectthebackwardsstructureforquiteawhile.But
myuncertaintyhadanothersource.Xuintroduceseachyearssceneswithadatethatis,exceptforone
instance,nottheyearoftheactionsshown.Infact,whilethesegmentsmoveinreverseorder,theyears
designationsmoveinchronologicalorder.
Theopening1976sectionislabeled1966,the1975sectionislabeled1967,andsoonuptotheend,withthe
1966actiondesignatedas1976.Soweseethefathersreunionwithhiswife,amomentofclumsyembrace,
longbeforehedecidestoleavehome.Asyoudexpect,theresoneyearinwhichtheactionandthetag
coincide,1971,andthatistheonlyonebuiltoutofphotosandfilmclipsfromtheperiod.Theyearis
privileged,Xuexplains,becausethatwastheyearofthemysteriousplanecrashdeathofLinBiao,amilitary
heroandCulturalRevolutionleaderwhowasaccusedofplottingMaosassassination.
Inmyviewing,themisleadingdateshelpedconcealthereversechronology.Confrontedwithsomanydiscrete
episodesofunidentifiedcharacterssprintingthroughthecountryside,beatingpassersbyandstealingchickens,I
tookthedefaultoptionandassumedthatthesegmentswerechronological.Moreover,thefilmsscenesplayout
almostentirelyinovercastlandscapesanddecrepitfactories,alandscapeinwhichIcouldntdetectany
indicationsofchangefromyeartoyear.WatchingRuinationasecondtime,Isawthereversalmoreclearly,but
Ialsothoughtthatsomesegmentsteaseusintothinkingalongchronologicallines.Anearlysceneshowsthe
fathergettingupinthemorning(aconventionalwaytostartaplot),salutingChairmanMaosstatue,and
readingfromtheLittleRedBook.Yetthissceneissetin1975,afterthefatherhasreturnedtohiswifefromhis
RedGuardperiod.
Moreover,theressomeevidencethatthesonactuallymaturesacrossthefilm,eventhoughthescenesshow
himobjectivelygettingyounger.Bytheendoftheplot(theearliestmomentinstorytime)heseemstohave
transformedhimselfintoastrappingyoungRedGuard.SupportingthisconstrualisthefactthatintheQ&A
aftertheshowing,XumentionedthatoneinfluenceonhisfilmsdesignwasTheCuriousCaseofBenjamin
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Button!
XuexplainedthatthetragedyoftheCulturalRevolutioncouldnotbecomprehendedthroughnormal
storytellingtechniques.Isuspectthatviewersfamiliarwiththerelevanteventsandthefilmsslogans,
iconography,andobliquecitations(eventoGodard)couldfollowthebackwardssequencing.ButIsuspectthat
thoseviewerswouldneedasenseofthehistoricalchronologytograspthe321orderoftheplot.Itseemsto
methatXu,knownuntilnowasapainter,hasshownhowaninnovativeapproachtoplotstructurerelieson
conventionalresponsesevenasitthwartsthem.
Hahahaindeed

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Hahaha.
HongSangsoohasbeenoneoftheleadingexperimenterswithnarrativeintodaysAsiancinema.Mytwo
favorites,ThePowerofKangwonProvince(1998)andTheVirginStrippedBarebyHerBachelors(2000)have
engagedtheviewerinplayfulpuzzlementabouthowstorylinescancollideorslipsideways,howourmemory
ofearlierscenesactioncanbetestedandfoundfaulty.Ihaventbeendeeplyengagedbyhisrecentforaysinto
morestraightforwarddrama/comedy,suchasTheWomanontheBeach(2006),buthistwolatestfeatures,both
fromthisyearandbothondisplayinVancouver,completelysatisfiedmyhungerforintriguingplotstructures.
ItsanunspokenconventionofrecountedflashbacktalesthateventhoughtheeventsaretoldbyA,Blearns
everythingthatwedoeverything,thatis,thatwecanseeorhearintheflashback.ButHahahadecouplesthe
verbalrecountingfromthevisualpresentation.HerelistenerBdefinitelydoesnotgraspwhatwewitness
happeningonscreen.
Hahahaisaparallelprotagonisttale.Twopalsmeetforsomedrinkingbeforeone,Munkyung,leavesSouth
KoreaforCanada.Throughaseriesofflashbacks,theyregaleeachotherwiththeirrecentadventures,mostly
amorous.Theplotisstructuredastwoalternatingstreams,crosscuttingonemanstalewiththeothersand
usuallyreturningtotheframingsituationoftheirdrinkingbout.Butbecausewecanseewhateachone
recounts,wecometorealizethatbothstoriesarepopulatedbythesamepeople,notablythetemptingfemale
tourguideSeongok.Andthosepeoplehavetheirownrelationships,whichwemustpiecetogetheroutofthe
glimpseswegetineachmanstale.
NeitherMunkyungnorhispalJungshikhasacluethattheyarepartofafairlytightcircle.Theresult,asusual
withHong,isacomedyofironicmisunderstandingandthepuncturingofmalepretension.Hahahacanalsobe
seenashisresponsetotheriseofnetworknarratives.Charactersinsuchafilmdontusuallyrealizethelarger
mosaictheyrepartoftheintersectinglivesinCityofLifetransformoneanotherunwittingly.Normallythat
lackofawarenessisntthemainpointofthefilm.Hereitis,anditswrungforclassichumoratthe
protagonistsexpense.
InOkisMovie,Honggivesusanotherfracturedplot,butnowintheformoffourshortfilms.Theycenteron
threecharacters:Song,afilmdirectorturnedprofessorhisstudentJinguandOki,thewomanbothmenare
interestedin.Theraggedycreditsofeachshortsuggesthandmademovies,butwhatweseeineachoneisthe
polishedstylefamiliarfromHonghimself,includinghiscurrentinterestinabruptzooms.
Thefourpartstructureisfarfromtransparent.Itmightbetakenasaseriesofepisodesfromthetrioslives.The
firstfilm,SpectersoftheNewWorld,whichpresentsJinguasaprofessorhimself,wouldhavetotakeplace
inthepresent,andthefollowingthreewouldthenbepresentingflashbackstotheJinguOkiSongtriangle.In
thatcase,thefirstsegmentwouldprovethatJingudidnotwindupwithOki,ashesmarriedtoanotherwoman.
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Perhaps,though,allfourfilmsarefreehypotheticalvariationsonthecentralsituation.Imnotsurethatwecan
easilyarrangetheeventsinthesecond,third,andfourthepisodeschronologically.Thefilmscouldbe
presentingsuccessivegroupsofevents,oreventsscatteredacrossasingletimespanandthenselectively
gatheredaroundoneofthecentralcharacters.ThesecondepisodeislargelyorganizedaroundJingusrangeof
knowledgethesecondisconfinedtoprofessorSongandthethirdisexplicitlypresentedasOkisown
thoughts.EarlierHongfilmshaveoffereduscontrasting,evenincompatibleplotsbuiltoutofacoregroupof
characters.OkisMoviemaybeusingtheframingconceitofstudentfilms(noneofwhichisplausibleasa
studentfilm)togiveusasuiteofvariantsonthelovetriangle.
Theideaofambiguousvariationismadeexplicitinthefinalminifilm,OkisMovie.Itsasustainedexercise
inyes,againcrosscutting.ThisepisodealternatestwoexcursionstoMountAcha,onewitheachman.Shot
byshot,weseedifferentcourtshipstylesandwehearherdifferingreactionstohertwolovers.Wasshedating
bothmenatonce?Whendidthetwoexcursionstakeplace?Whichoneoccurredfirst?Asthesequestionsare
juggled,wegetarapidchecklistofOkisattitudes,invoiceover,towardboththeseminorkeylosers.
InbothHahahaandOkisMovie,Hongtakeswhatsofferedbytraditioninthiscase,theromanticcomedy
andtheconventionsofflashbacks,crosscutting,andrestrictednarrationandcreatesafreshstructure.Theplay
ofnoveltyandnormisengrossinginitself,apartfromthevagariesofthedrama.Ourappetitefornarrativewill
alwaysbewhettedwhendirectorsfindwaystowhipupsomethingnewoutoffamiliaringredients.
Formoreonthethreedimensionsoffilmnarrative,aswellasdiscussionoftheprinciplesofnetwork
construction,seemyPoeticsofCinema.Theresmorediscussionofflashbacksinfilminthisentry.Onearly
narrativestructure,seeMeirSternbergsPoeticsofBiblicalNarrativeandRobertAltersArtofBiblical
Narrative,aswellasSternbergsdiscussionofTheOdysseyinExpositionalModesandTemporalOrderingin
Fiction.ForasharpeyedconsiderationofOkisMovie,seeAndrewTracysreviewatCinemaScope.

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OkisMovie.
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Festivals,Festivals:Vancouver,Filmcomments,Narrativestrategies,Nationalcinemas:China,Nationalcinemas:MiddleEast,
Nationalcinemas:SpainandPortugal.Responsesarecurrentlyclosed,butyoucantrackbackfromyourownsite.

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