‘Excellence’, ‘Popularity’, ‘Typicality’ – Discuss The Relative Merits Of Each Of These As A Basis For The Inclusion Of Films In A Film History’Excellence’, ‘popularity’, ‘typicality’ – discuss the relative merits of each of these as a basis for the inclusion of films in a film history
Any attempt to study film history requires the consideration of films, which occur within the categories of excellence, popularity and typicality. They are three very different approaches to film history; ‘excellence’ covering films recognised as having artistic merit, ‘popularity’ covering films which have been financially or sociologically successful and ‘typicality’, films which are classed as mainstream displaying qualities typical of classical Hollywood films. All three categories are used to study aspects of cinema rather than film history, rarely including documentary films and never including home movies, the most common use of the film medium worldwide.
The most common way of studying film history is ‘Excellency’, grouping together films, which are generally agreed to be of exceptional aesthetic quality. This study, based on artistic merit, relates film study to other art forms such as painting, theatre and music. It is encouraged by the vast amounts of materials regularly reviewing and rating films, including newspapers, magazines and television shows and specific awards for filmmaking, the most famous being Cannes film festival and the Oscars.
Any study of excellency in film history is subjective, relying on the personal opinions of people to determine which films are exceptional with no film regarded by all as undisputedly excellent. This is in part due to the vast range of criteria used to judge the excellency of films. Most good films are recognised as having formal excellence, with high quality direction vital in making an exceptional film. Throughout film history and criticism, certain directors have been regarded as consistently producing excellent films; Vigo, Renoir, Lean, Hitchcock, Kurosawa and Kubrick are among those whose individual influence on their films is particularly acclaimed. ‘2001:A Space Odyssey'(Stanley Kubrick, 1968) is recognised as a great film by virtue of its direction alone with acting and plot secondary to virtuoso direction and cinematography. The standard of acting in any film has to be high with films relying on convincing portrayal of its characters to involve the audience emotionally. Many actors are recognised to have starred in a large volume of high quality films for example James Stewart, Humphrey Bogart, Laurence Olivier, Greta Garbo, Robert De Niro and presently Kevin Spacey. Actors can elevate a film from mediocrity by their acting, or can just as easily spoil a film with a bad performance. A good script is also a vital element in the majority of excellent films, from Casablanca (M Kurtiz, 1942) to Shakespeare In Love(J Madden, 1999) and many potentially great films, such as The Birds (Hitchcock, 1963) are hindered by poor dialogue. Films, which have had a large influence on subsequent filmmaking, or have shown innovation in their production, are often recognised as excellent. ‘Psycho'(Hitchcock, 1960) invented a whole new genre of horror films; ‘The Asphalt Jungle'(Huston, 1950), was the first film to show a crime from the criminals viewpoint, an innovation which has since been used an immeasurable amount of times. While it is not necessary to have all these factors, most films regarded as excellent would have a mixture of high quality directing, acting and script with influence and/or innovation on subsequent films.
Excellency in film is most commonly measured by a poll conducted among film critics by ‘Sight And Sound’ magazine every decade since 1952, producing a canon of the best 10 films of all time. The films on the list are all excellent pieces of filmmaking with the regularly occurring films- ‘Citizen Kane'(Welles, 1941), ‘La Regle Du Jeu'(Renoir, 1939), ‘Battleship Potemkin'(Eisenstein,1925)- are all recognised as among the best ever made. Citizen Kane has been placed as the best film of all time since 1962, and is a brilliant piece of filmmaking. It is a technically superb film, well directed with innovative use of deep focus cinematography and unusual narrative structure. The direction, and acting from the cast is magnificent, as is the screenplay, though the characterisation is lacking in depth in places. It is impossible to judge it as the best film of