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Wednesday, 08 February 2012


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Scott, your analyses are stunning, as always, but I have to ask a (perhaps undergrad-level) question. These visual narratives have to be shot somehow, and in some way that relies on a by-now common visual language (unless it's an Experimental Brilliant Thing, of course). That is, decisions have to be made. But much of your teaching seems to rely on correlation, not causality; perhaps it's the phrasing that explicitly assigns intent to the director, rather than placing the interpretation of visual language on the viewer. I'm willing to be shown how naive that comment is... .


Not naive in the least. In fact, it's one of the most vexing problems not just in film/literary theory generally, but collaborative arts like film in particular. Short answer to the less complicated problem: I do explicitly assign intent to the director, even though he or she's frequently working from a script someone else wrote, and monitoring a camera a cinematographer directs, etc. When I assign intent to, say, Scorsese, it's not because I'm denying all those other people play a role, I'm working from the assumption that despite the fact that the secondary roster changes from film-to-film, all Scorsese films are recognizably his, which means there has to be something that, if not purely direction, manifests in the particular way he interacts with writers, cinematographers, etc. So I can still attribute his style to him, even if I can't pinpoint its source with exactitude.

Now, the more complicated matter of interpretation. First, I'm assuming that the audience and a director share a common visual language, but only to the extent that they're working within the same tradition. (That's why foreign films look and feel foreign: those aren't American/Western film conventions, so we're not entirely sure what to make of particular shots and sequences.) Second, I'm assuming that the director's trying to be a successful rhetor, i.e. that he or she's trying to communicate something, and that successful communication requires a recognition, if not a strict adherence, of the conventions governing the filmic language they're using. Otherwise, you end up with something akin to Finnegans Wake, which is all well and good, says this former Joycean, but not typically the intent of a contemporary director. In short, I'm not interpreting so much as reverse-engineering based on convention.

Shorter: I'm typically not interested in what Nolan thinks Batman means so much as the techniques that allow him to communicate to his audience that Batman's fast.


Not that it matters a jot to what you wrote, but Amy's Choice was written by Simon Nye (best known to Brits as the creator of the sitcom Men Behaving Badly).


It matters inasmuch as proper credit is deserved. Thanks for the correction! (I'm not sure where my brain went that day.)


I would like to add something I have noticed about "Amy's Choice". In all of the episodes that I have seen by Steven Moffat as the head guy this one is the most removed from any type of continuity in the series. Yes you have Amy and Rory on the TARDIS and there are places in the storyline over two seasons that this could not happen from one episode to the next. That is as you have mentioned because of the foreshadowing of Rory's death. He dies and then "Amy's Choice" could not follow that event, however there is a certain quaility of removal from all other events in the sense that this a complete story without direct connections to other events. This is not the only time that I have sensed this phenomena in a Doctor Who episode.

"Night Terrors" has a distinct disconnect from the rest of the series as does "The God Complex" with the exception of the events at the end. "The Girl Who Waited" does to a lesser degree as it seems fairly clear that it preceeds "The God Complex". To me this gives a surreal quality to the stories and a sense that everything is not always what it seems.

"The Doctor's Wife" and "The Curse of the Black Spot" to some extent as well. What some of these episodes have that "Amy's Choice" does not is the shot of Madmae Kevarian poking her head in on Amy. A link to the rest of the story even though there is the foreshadowing of Amy's pregnacy from a story that very much appears to be an enclosed story.

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