Choose two films from the films we’ve seen in class where you can identify some significant similarities that are realized in very different ways.

Stagecoach, 1939, directed by John Ford
Dead Man, 1995, directed by Jim Jarmusch
Breathless (A bout de souffle), 1960, directed by Jean-Luc Godard
L’avventura, 1960, directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
The Big Sleep, 1946, directed by Howard Hawks
The Player, 1992, directed by Robert Altman
Twilight, 2008, directed by Catherine Hardwicke
Rear Window, 1954, directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Matrix, 1999, directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski
Cowboy Bebop ??The Movie, 2001, directed by Hiroyuki Okiura and Shinichiro Watanabe)

You have a romance plot foregrounded in both The Big Sleep and in Twilight, but “romance??looks rather different in these two films. OR, you have a detective character, Marlowe, in The Big Sleep and a detective of sorts, Spike, in Cowboy Bebop, but one played by an actor, one digitally produced. OR, you have central women characters in Breathless and in Rear Window who as characters and as actresses are both “fashion icons??for their times, but for very different reasons in these respective films. OR, with L’avventura and The Matrix you have what seem two thematically and philosophically driven films, but it would be difficult to imagine two more different films visually than these. OR, in Stagecoach and The Player you have films where moral choices are center stage at particularly significant plot points. But what constitutes a “significant plot point??and a “moral choice??are represented very very differently. OR?? OR?? OR??

There is a range of essays across these 6 units to help you focus conceptual attention on your film choices.
Think in terms of a unit and then the argument of a specific essay within that unit that would help you explain why the similarity is significant.
What essay in what unit might best help you explain why basic plots are really crucial? You could use Metz’s argument that plot sequence is crucial to a denotative semiotics and so must be understood before anything else.
Then, for contrast, same question in terms of the differences.
What argument might best help you explain how it is possible for similar plots to produce completely different effects on an audience? And you could use either Dayan or Mulvey arguing that audience identifications with specific characters produce hugely different effects, even if the plots are similar. Again, lots of possibilities.

A summary of a good paper argument might go like this:

Dead Man and Cowboy Bebop are both postmodern films because they refuse the illusory comfort zone of realism. The characters in these films are definitely not just like us; they are not people you might meet everyday; you don’t “identify??with them. Both films foreground their own construction as films, and both emphasize genre conventions rather than disguising them. In Dayan’s terms, both films are at work “denaturalizing??the ideologies of realism. Yet they take postmodernism in entirely different directions. As Benjamin might explain, Dead Man still has a certain auteur aura about it. The “aura??may be in postmodern quotation marks, but nevertheless this is recognizably a Jim Jarmusch film, and that really is Johnny Depp and Iggy Pop and?? Cowboy Bebop in contrast doesn’t bother with aura at all. It’s anime all the way, and composited from a TV series, in a global world where everything travels.

Notice the basic parameters here:
I’m linking two films on the basis of my sense of similarity: both are postmodern.
I’m using a theorist, Dayan, from the first unit of the readings to ground my reasoning for the similarity.
I’m then using Benjamin’s argument from the fifth unit of readings to claim that these films develop a postmodern similarity in entirely different directions.

Your paper should follow these basic parameters. Within those parameters, however, you must make a number of choices in order to establish a good argument.



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