Categorizing Cinema: The Significance of Film Genres in the Industry

Categories: FilmSemiotics

Film genres represent classification of movies into groups that have similar and familiar themes, settings, filmic techniques, period, plot, motifs and stars. Genre is easy to recognize but it is very difficult to define. Because of a changing nature of genres and subgenres, their fusion and our changing perception toward art, independent or foreign films that are becoming its own genre in western viewers eyes. Film genre creates some expectations for its audience. Most films within a certain genre fulfill the audience's expectations and follow a specific formula or generic convention.

Generic conventions identify genre through character types, settings, props, or event that are repeated from film to film. Generic conventions also include iconography and images. Timothy Corrigan points out in his book "The Film Experience", that genre has three functions: to provide models for producing other work, to direct audiences expectations and to create categories for judging or evaluating a work. p293, Timothy Corrigan,"Film Experience", 2004, Bedford/St Martins, Boston-New York Tom Ryall sees genres as a "triangle composed of artist, film and audience.

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Genres may be defined as patterns, forms styles, structures which transcend individual films, and which supervise both their construction by the film maker and their reading by an audience". p12, Steve Neale, "Genre and Holywood". For an audience, genre often provides a way of choosing a film they want to see. Genres change over the history, and by mixing different genres, film makers create new hybrid or subgenres with their own specific subject matter, style, formulas, and iconography.

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Such as spaghetti western, disaster film, sports film, biographical films etc. Genre mixing has been common practice throughout the history of filmmaking. Some films are formulaic and follow the predictable path of the genre. Other films have elements of the genre, but also introduce new ideas. Main genres are: Action/adventure: scenes of, battles, martial arts, fights, explosions, fires, expeditions for lost continents , good guys against bad guys, all designed for pure audience escapism. ("Terminator", "Raiders of the Lost Ark" , "James Bond" films etc.)

Comedy: designed to make audience laugh, usually exaggerates the situation, language and action, and characters. (" Blues Brothers", Monthy Pyton," Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery" etc). Crime: criminal underworld, bank robbers, police, stealing and murdering as a way of life. Crime films are usually set in large cities. ("Goodfellas"," Scarface","Dirty Harry" etc. ) Drama: stories that present realistic characters and their problems with themselves, other people and society.

For example: drug addiction, poverty, the corruption of power, alcoholism, class divisions, mental illness, corrupt institutions, violence toward women. ("Schindlers list"," Raging bull", "Forest Gump" etc. ) Historical/epic: historic events, authentic costumes, expensive settings, exotic locations), ("Cleopatra"," Ben Hur","Gladiator". Etc. ) Musical: combination of music, dance and choreography. ("Singing in the rain","Flashdance", Moulin Rouge", etc. ) War: brutal combat fighting, nation against nation, concentration camps, escapes, espionage, heroism.

("Apocalypse now"," Pearl Harbour","Saving private Ryan", etc. ) Western: Good guys against bad guys, Cowboys and Indians, gun battles, panoramic settings, horses, saloon, and ranch houses. ("Pat Garret and Billy the Kid"," The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly"," For a Few Dollars More". ) Horror: designed to frighten audience, it's about dark side of life, usually combined with a science fiction. Ranging from vampires, madman, monsters, and evil spirits. ("Alien","The Exorcist"," Jaws", etc.

) Science fiction: futuristic technology, imaginative and visionary ideas, time travel, space ships, special effects, intergalactic journeys. ("2001: Space Odyssey","E. T. ","Stargate", etc. ) Thrillers can be hybrids of action- adventure-crime- romantic comedy- They are films that create suspense, curiosity, excitement, uncertainty, anxiety. They can be about murderous passion of some gang member; political thrillers are about assignation of some political figure, government conspiracy against their own people ("All presidents' man"," China syndrome", etc.).

It can be about innocent victim that gets involved with a conspiracy or crime. ("The man who knew too much", "North by Northwest", etc.. ) Characters in thrillers include convicts, criminals, stalkers, assassins, innocent victims (often on the run), prison inmates, characters with dark pasts, psychotic individuals, terrorists, cops etc. "The North by Northwest" is classic example of thriller/suspense film It is the story about successful advertising executive, Roger Thornhill, who is mistaken for American C. I. A. agent by foreign spies.

He got kidnapped by a gang; fortunately he escapes but becomes accused for murder. He runs from police meets beautiful blonde woman, got involved with CIA and foreign spies. Heroically he helps CIA to capture foreign spies, saves beautiful blonde and falls in love with her and. Alfred Hitchcock is considered the acknowledged auteur master of the thriller or suspense genre, manipulating his audience's fears and desires, and taking viewers into a state of association with the representation of reality facing the character.

Bordwell says that "many film theorists believe that genres are ritualized dramas resembling holiday celebrations, ceremonies which are satisfying because they reaffirm cultural values with little variations". p. 99,Bordwell-Thompson,"Film Art", While Steave Neale stresses that "repetitive patterns and formulae are now perceived by many cultural commentators not as a law of the culture but as the law of the market". p23, Genre and Hollywood, Steave Neale Usually, genres do not remain constantly successful.

They rise and fall in popularity. The periods in which a genre remains popular is called cycles. American studio system adapted industrial system of mass production; film genres enabled film producers to reuse script formulas, actors, sets and costumes to create again many different but modified versions of popular films. Most cinema genres and subgenres become established when one film becomes successful and is widely imitated.

Updated: Apr 29, 2023
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Categorizing Cinema: The Significance of Film Genres in the Industry. (2016, Sep 10). Retrieved from

Categorizing Cinema: The Significance of Film Genres in the Industry essay
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