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A Semantic/ Syntactic Approach to Film Genre

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Allen Poon

on 17 October 2014

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Transcript of A Semantic/ Syntactic Approach to Film Genre

In 1999, Altman added
as another component.
Italian American Gangster
Semantics: family, mafia/mob, violence, pasta, Catholicism, and corruption.

Syntax: Celebration of the anti-hero, questioning of capitalistic materialism, exploration of the underclass, and critique of the 'American dream'.

Examples: The Godfather Trilogy (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972-1990), and Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990).
How does this apply with the three contradictions?
The problem with critics
A Semantic/ Syntactic Approach to Film Genre
A Semantic/Syntactic Approach to Film Genre
Matthew Young
Michael Utset
Rick Altman
Taylor Age
Brandon Battle
Inclusive & Exclusive
Genre analysis is both inclusive and exclusive.
Inclusive meaning that it is easy to construct a list of films that fall in one specific genre (Musical, Western, Gangster)
However, there are films that are exclusive, meaning that they are canonized and discussed as exemplary classic texts.
Genre Theory is too preoccupied
Genre theory is preoccupied with semiotics (signs, iconography, meaning) than the historical emergence of genre movies.
Theory ignores that generic definitions were first introduced by the industry (Hollywood)

Thus you can't account to how genres develop, rise and fall, and the
audience is forgotten.
Genre as truth
The audience is manipulated by generic conventions
It feeds on desires for entertainment (ritual) yet also transmits messages of mass conformity (ideology)
They lack terminology and often contradict each other.
The building blocks of genre: costume, acting
cinematography, set, iconography, etc.
Basically the materials
The overlying structure, deeper meaning
Basically the arrangement.
Semantic + Syntactic = Better
Solution #1
Some films may have semantic components without the other, or vise
Allowing a narrow view of the film
instead of the broad view when it came to
Solution #2
Historically + Theoretically, the
correlation between semantic and
syntactic changes over time

Solution #3
The relationship between Hollywood and audience is ever changing. And the ideas of mass conformity change depending on the "climate".
Refers to context between the info
on the screen and how it is interpreted.

Film is never fixed and is dependent on how the viewer reads the info
Films that are most durable
established the most "coherent syntax". Those that disappear are too reliant on semantic elements.
Chris Corns
Allen Poon
Terminator 1
Terminator 2
The Godfather Trilogy
African American Gangsta
Semantics: Inner-city ghettos, gang culture, rap, drugs, guns, 'bling', violence, class, brotherhood, drive-by shootings, racism, nihilism

Syntax: Exposing the failings of American race relations. Results of disenfranchisement. Exploration of the underclass. Critique of the 'American Dream'.

Examples: Boyz 'n the hood (John Singleton, 1991)
Boyz 'n the hood
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