Identifying generic cues in films

This is a table which seeks to set out some of the repertoires of elements (this is a slightly outdated way of studying genre but it works for this exercise) that are evident is three classic genre movies, they are by no means comprehensive but their function is to provide a resource for teachers of IB film
Thidea is to use them to have students explore genre without getting caught up in plot.

For example I chose the Public enemy as my movie for Urban crime thrillers, it might be an interesting exercise for student to complete their own table exploring how, say the Godfather (1972 USA Coppola), ‘Goodfellas’ (1990 USA Scorsese), or A better tomorrow (1986 Hong Kong Woo) are consistent or not to these generic markers, which in turn could be a platform for a research task exploring why they do or don’t conform, and perhaps further work about context.
The same goes for the other genre examples listed here.

I was interested to do this because it leads into all sorts of interesting material about genre, such as generic evolution, genre having the social function of myth, structuring oppositions in generic narrative representations, and even institutional determinants.
For example, It could be interesting to explore why so many film genres were and are so male dominated, even ones targeted at women audiences. One that particularly interests me is that many of the markers of a Gangster movie were the consequence of an over-extended Warner Brother, forced by the economics of servicing loans and poor revenues from their provincial cinema chains, constructing a production line for low budget exploitation (gangster) movies based on contemporary news items.

This table hasn’t paginated accurately on this page so I’ve also made a PDF called genre_repertoires.pdf


(Location, lighting, costume, weapons etc
Editing Theme/s Sound

/urban crime (classic)
The Public
Enemy (William Wellmann 1931 USA)
environments studio bound shooting, immigrant communities, Lighting
low-key (functions to hide, unconvincing and recycled sets), costume
varies from rough work apparel of urban poor to sharp suits and spats,
weapons revolvers and tommy guns, cars with running boards, Stock
characters Male dominated the sociopathic criminal, the moll (who
represents merely an accessory to demonstrate the gangsters rise), the
sidekick since youth, the moral compass character
elliptical many years compressed into a two hour feature; following the
career criminal from honest poverty to mob boss and their fall.
Narrative is open, most story information revealed in
plot. Perspective is third person observation of events (framed as
quasi-documentary by the title sequence written passage about crime as
social problem).
camera, movement confined to tilts and pans, few tracking shots,
close-ups and mid shots predominate (one, two and three), few long shots
edited in continuity,
key ellipses representing narrative foreshortening of the criminal
career accomplished through Montage sequences
Hubris, the
rise and fall of a sociopath. A distortion of the American dream
(success through hard-work and enterprise), crime, a consequence
of urban poverty. Binary oppositions of
criminal and civil society
constructed from popular instrumentation style, jaunty melodies, and
upbeat rhythms, counterpointed with similar instrumentation of more
sombre passages
(John Ford 1939 USA)
often barely settled wilderness, pioneer towns, predominantly exteriors
location shooting, Lighting highly saturated desert starkness (stark
natural lighting function to represent open ranges of wilderness
supplementary lighting functions to reveal character and motivation),
costume, Stetsons, chaps, check shirts, work wear, six shooters,
horses, stage coaches, Stock characters, Male dominated (female
characters act a s a foil for) the rugged wilderness individuality of
the hero, native North Americans, settlers, ranchers, outlaws,
A journey
from wilderness (Ringo as fugitive) to civilisation, one can match this
to the journey of the stagecoach. A perspective which mostly shares
that of the hero. The narrative is confined to that of the information
which the hero is aware, functioning to invoke audience sympathy
with the Ringo kid
long shots, mid-long shots, only occasional close- ups, some tracking
and panning
economically shot and edited in continuity. The grammar of ellipses
expressed through fades down and up. Scenes constructed from straight
cuts, and punctuated by cross fades.
civilising of the wilderness, constructing a mythology of nineteenth
century US expansionism. Mythologising pioneers as a family (of the
The balance
favours on set recording and foley, the soundtrack is both expansive
(with sustained chords) to reflect the scale of the location,
and dynamic passages to invoke audience excitement during chases
(classic US)
Singin’ in
the rain
(1952 Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen USA)
can vary although usually exotic, settings and lavish sets often
emphasising the luxury and
sophistication of the glamourous lifestyles represented. Lighting tends
deploy balance of key and set lighting to emphasise the glamour of the
star/s and the sets, with only enough fill to model forms. Costume,
like the settings glamourous, modernity, although some elements may be
exaggerated. Stock characters include the struggling composer, dancer,
impressario and the muse (while these were not male dominated
representations of women tended to be as adjuncts to the hero’s
The rise of
a struggling performer/dancer/impressario, this often conforms to the
hero’s journey structure Narrative perspective is shared the hero
functioning to invoke audience sympathy. Sequencing chronological
order, with some set piece sequences external of this linear narrative
saturation technicolor prints. Dynamic use of the camera, sweeping
crane shots, tracking shots, full shots, pans and tilts (particularly
during fantasy sequences) occasional close-ups just to reveal the
romantic elements of the narrative
sequence shot and edited in continuity. Musical sequences tend to cut
rhythmically along with the demands of the sequence. Cross fades and
fades down and up used for punctuation and ellipses.
creative talent adapting to change (technical progress) while mere star
persona and pretence fail to.
Sequences of
songs rather than a single sound track, punctuated by some incidental
musical sequence mixed with on set recording and foley


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