« There is no sense in doing genre criticism; it would seem, without first constituting a corpus that is incontrovertibly generic. »
Common question we ask each other before going to the cinema or renting a movie are : “What sort of film shall we watch ? , What kind of film do you feel like seeing?” In making our selections, we might say things such as “I don’t like horror films, I’m not inthe mood for drama, let’s watch a comedy”. These kinds of questions and statements identify, at least on an informal level, a film’s genre, a French term imported to film theory from literary studies and meaning type or class.
The result of such inquiries i.e. the choice of watching a thriller over a western, a comedy over a musical, a science fiction film over a crime movie is that we haveparticular likes and dislikes for certain types of films. This is exactly what producers need to take into account to make their product appealing to audiences.
I tried to point out in this paper, that Genre criticism relies first and foremost on a corpus which is “incontrovertibly generic” as Rick Altman says. However, to face today’s genre hybridisation the one who want to do genre criticism needto go beyond genre classification. Thus we could consider that using a corpus is the first step of genre criticism.
a- Semantic and syntactic
One can call genre criticism what is more than listing similarities or differences among films. As Andrew Tudor says, “it becomes almost the end point of the critical process to fit a film into such a category. . . . To calla film a ‘Western’ is thought of as somehow saying something interesting or important about it”. Rick Altman calls this approach to genre criticism the semantic approach—a focus on the more superficial aspects of films that fit into a given genre.
I imagine that a semantic examination puts the emphasize on the character types, aesthetics, plot lines, etc., which are common to the films.But we can wonder what the point in using classification is? Is it necessary to know that noir films extensively use light and shadow and that Westerns are usually characterized by saloons?
In this case I don’t see the difference between genre criticisms and a basic analysis of a given individual film. I don’t think that knowing that science fiction movies always take place in the future is themost important thing to notice. According to me, there are more significant things to observe while doing genre criticism.
When we have a look at Rick Altman’s quotation we can link it to his approach of genre criticism. It seems clear that to do Genre criticism, one have to back on a corpus which constitutes a genre and gives features to it.
Maybe Rick Altman’s approach highlights thisstatement.
He calls this the syntactic approach which is an approach that takes into account the relationships between the semantic elements of the genre and aspects of society in general. Stuart Kaminsky, for example, finds that the heroes of early gangster films are all short in stature (a semantic observation). He then makes a syntactic inference, saying that their height emphasized the affinitybetween the gangster and the ‘little’ man in the audience who identified with the gangster on the screen. . . .
In the context of this deeper method of analysis, I think that relying on a corpus which is incontrovertibly generic is essential. Things that could seem insignificant in individual films can have more meaning when they are connected with similar characteristics of other films in thegenre. Thus, the semantic approach is necessary and is the preliminary phase used in the syntactic analysis. Consequently, the existence of genres and corpus is significant, knowing that a group of films share a lot of significant characteristics.
b- Ritual and ideological approach
Rick Altman proposes another pair of approaches to genre criticism, which he calls the ritual and the ideological…