Overhearing Film Dialogue
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Sarah Kozloff shows why dialogue has been neglected in the analysis of narrative film and uncovers the essential contributions dialogue makes to a film's development and impact. She uses narrative theory and drama theory to analyze the functions that dialogue typically serves in a film.
The second part of the book is a comprehensive discussion of the role and nature of dialogue in four film genres: westerns, screwball comedies, gangster films, and melodramas. Focusing on topics such as class and ethnic dialects, censorship, and the effect of dramatic irony, Kozloff provides an illuminating new perspective on film genres.
‘Evolution’ of the Western,” in Film Genre Reader II, ed. Barry Keith Grant (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1995), 246–60. 3. Will Wright, Sixguns and Society: A Structural Analysis of the Western (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1975). 4. John Cawelti, The Six-Gun Mystique, 2d ed. (Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green Popular Press, 1984), 73. 5. Ibid., 89. 6. Tompkins, West of Everything, 52, 60, 64, 54. 7. Edward Buscombe, Stagecoach (London: BFI Film Classics,
Ann. The Desire to Desire: The Woman’s Film of the 1940s. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987. Bibliography 301 ———. “Ideology and the Practice of Sound Editing and Mixing.” In Film Sound: Theory and Practice, ed. Elisabeth Weis and John Belton, 54–62. New York: Columbia University Press, 1985. Dupriez, Bernard M. A Dictionary of Literary Devices, Gradus, A–Z. Translated and adapted by Albert W. Halsall. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991. D ˇ urovicˇová, Natasˇa.
blow you away.” But Doniphon doesn’t say this—he just says, “My boy Pompey, by the kitchen door.” The additional meaning(s) are completely clear to the viewer from the context and the shots, the editing of the spatial relationships, and Wayne’s half-smiling delivery of this short phrase. The viewer fills in the gaps of the understatement—the viewer catches all the inferences. Compressed dialogue is usually not subtle or ambiguous; I pre- sume that every viewer of Liberty Valance gets the
also punctuate their suspense with surprise. To my knowledge it is only in gangster films that one finds the following archetypal scene: character X begins a long monologue in a public, sometimes formal setting, seemingly amiable and rational. After a few lulling moments, however, he suddenly slips into froth-ing fury and erupts into horrendous violence, beating an associate with a testimonial pool stick in Party Girl (1958), slamming a coke bottle in his mistress’s face in The Long Goodbye
feeling betrayed when we find out the truth, we admire Nash and Orange for their skillful performances, and admire their stoicism in standing up to pain. (It is intriguing that the most important thing that Orange and Nash feel the need to communicate to each other while they are both suffering and in terrible danger is their real names.) However, like The Godfather, the climax of the film is a speech act. Out of friendship and loyalty, White defends Orange against Joe and Nice Guy Eddie, to