Film Theory 341W Blog Journal (Week 6)

Rick Altman’s influential Semantic/Syntactic approach covers a substantial portion of the Genre Theory. A film’s “Genre” refers to the unconscious outline of the film, not noticeably apparent to the viewer, but understood none the less. Altman discusses Genre in detail, rendering the subject more complex than one would assume. He produces the idea of the Semantic/Syntactic approach for looking at film.

This psychological approach discusses Genre; what makes a film appealing to a certain criterion of viewer. The Semantic viewpoint consists of the physical entities involved in the actual production that contribute to the type of Genre. The features within a certain film, the special effects in a science fiction film, or the monster in a horror film, would depict the semantic approach. The Syntactic viewpoint for looking at Genre consists of the broader aspect of Genre. The films outline, plot, story, all depict the syntax of Genre.

A hybrid Genre is a film that is consistent of more than one noticeable Genre. A comedy/Musical would be classified as a hybrid Genre, but this specific class of film is not as easy to find as one would like to believe.  High Society (1956) comes to mind when searching for a Musical-Comedy, directed by Charles Walters, starring Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and the always charming Grace Kelly. The film was made as a remake of the romantic-comedy The Philadelphia Story (1940). High Society differed quite drastically from The Philadelphia Story because although both films followed identical storylines, High Society was a musical. Both films fell under different classifications of Genres even with the same plotline attached to both films. While watching the film I gathered that it was a musical (the excess of Diegetic sound played in song and dance gave that away). The film was quite humorous as well, clearly portraying all aspects of a comedy. It wasn’t as if the film was merely an entertaining musical, it had me laughing, compliments to its wit and charm.

The Semantics of the film were the noticeable features of a musical-comedy, song, dance, and romance. The lavish setting of the film and the quirky persona of Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Bing Crosby also contributed to the semantics of the musical-comedy genre. Bing Crosby himself reflected the syntax of the film. Crosby, being in the film, known as a charming comedian/singer to the viewing public, gave the film an immediate sense of a comedic and musical nature. Sinatra added to the syntactic cause as well, being that he was well known as a singer, as well as an actor.

High Society would fall under the category of a hybrid film according to Altman’s theories on genre. The film has more than subtle hints of comedy as well as musical entertainment.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


No Comment

Leave a Reply

Spam prevention powered by Akismet

Skip to toolbar