Beyond The Story: Approaches To Film Criticism

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Film Theory debates the essence of cinematic value and provides conceptual frameworks for understanding a film’s relationship to reality, the other arts, individual viewers, and society at large. In order to successfully approach film criticism it is important to examine several theories. It is important to keep in mind that, “no critical approach can tell us everything about a film but, rather, different approaches can teach us different things about a film” (Luhr, Lehman 80). First and foremost, films are perceived in terms of their narrative structure. When discussing a film, audiences will recall its story line or characters to exemplify what the film was about. With an audience so focused on narration, a film’s structure is not decided on lightly. According to Luhr and Lehman, because a film’s narrative is crucial to its success, directors “have mastered a long-established and highly profitable tradition of narrative filmmaking- the classical Hollywood style” (29). The classical Hollywood style of narration requires that a film’s “plot should have a clear forward direction” (Luhr, Lehman 29). Every event should lead cleanly into the next to join in a unified whole. Under the classical style, by the end of the film, these events should come together to resolve a goal or purpose, thereby ending the movie. Alternative styles of narration are not bound by these principles and are allotted room for abstract thoughts and representations. When seeing a film in its narrative structure, the classical Hollywood style of narration is not always what is preferable to an audience. Take for example the film Fatal Attraction. The two endings to Fatal Attraction have been the topic of conflicting responses. In Thinking about Movies, Peter Lehman and William Luhr argue that its original ending is preferable to the release version. They explain that according

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