What is Cinema essay

It is well known that there are three distinct styles classical, modern and postmodern, each with their own distinct characteristics. By looking at “Sunset Boulevard” directed by Billy Wilder and “Amelie” directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet on can gain a better understanding of the three types of film making, classical, modern and postmodern. These two best embody the ideals of the modern and postmodern film making.

“Sunset Boulevard” is a very modernist film this is made apparent by the book end timeline. What this means is the view comes in at an unusual point. The film starts in the “now” then takes the viewer back six months to catch the viewer up to this point. Whereas, a classical point of view would have just started in the past to keep the narrative whole. Using the bookend technique “Sunset Boulevard” creates this very broken timeline. In contrast to both a classical and modern style of film making is the postmodern “Amelie”. “Amelie” timeline starts with a look at Amelie’s her childhood then highlighting the important part of the main protagonist’s life till we get to the current day. Although, linear this timeline still contrasts the classical time because the narrative is more focused on now and important background information is given contextual in the beginning of the film. It also contrasts the modernist timeline as it is not as temporally fragment as the book ended timeline.

Taking a deeper look at what makes “Sunset Boulevard” a modernist film. It offers a very limited point of view, that of the narrators. The movie also offer the viewer situational ethics, for example the main protagonist is about knows that he will lose his car because he cannot make the payments. So to avoid this he parks is car down the blocks then when confronted about it tells a story that he lent it to someone. Another example of the modern filmmaking in this film is how it ends. The just ends with the main antagonist Norma Desmond saying, “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”[1] Then zooms in on the Norma. It offers no closure to viewer, as a classic filmmaking would. It is a very open ended ending because the viewer assumes that Norma either went to jail or mental intuition.

Moving over to “Amelie” with a closer look one can see what makes this film an example of postmodernism filmmaking. The narrative of the film is rooted in nostalgia. This can be seen in a few ways one of the biggest way is the color tonality of the film. It is a very warm film which helps provide the film with the overall feeling of nostalgia. The overall narrative of the film is very postmodern because it the end provides by showing the view Amelie’s life with Nino, but where postmodernism differs is that it also adds in intertextual aperture.

“Sunset Boulevard” directed by Billy Wilder and “Amelie” directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet are both great examples of modern and postmodern, respectively, styles of filmmaking.

[1] Sunset Boulevard 1950


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