Posted by: photochika42 | October 31, 2010

Comedy Deconstruction

Comedy films are “make ‘em laugh” films that are used to create laughter from the audience. Comedies are used to entertain and amuse.  Comedy has two general formats: comedian-led (which includes gags, jokes, or sketches) and situation comedies that are told with a narrative. Sometimes, these formats overlap. There are many subgenres within comedy, such as romantic comedy, crime/caper comedy, sports comedy, teen comedy, social-class comedy, military comedy, fish-out-of-water comedy, and gross-out comedy.  There are many different types of comedies: slapstick, deadpan, screwball, dark/black, and parody of spoof.

Slapstick was predominant in silent films because they were effective without sound. The term slapstick was taken from the wooden sticks that clowns slapped together to promote the sound of audience applause. Slapstick comedy normally uses harmless physical action of some sort, and required having excellent timing and advanced performance skills. Some actors in slapstick comedy were Abbott and Costello and The Three Stooges.

Deadpan comedy is a form of comic delivery in which humor is presented without a change in body language or emotion. Deadpan comedy is also known as dry wit humor. Buster Keaton was well known for this expression-less face when delivering deadpan humor. Verbal comedy uses a lot of puns, jokes, and innuendos or double entendres to deliver humor.

Screwball comedies are a sub-genre of romantic comedies, and were predominant from mid 1930s to the mid 1940s. The word screwball refers to craziness, ridiculousness, and erratic behavior. Screwball films combine farce, slapstick, and witty dialogue.

Black or dark comedy are dark, sarcastic, humorous and sardonic stories that help examine otherwise ignored darker serious subjects, such as death, war and illness. One of the most famous dark or black comedy films is Beetlejuice (1988), which was set in a haunted house.

Parody or spoof comedies are also known as satires, lampoons, or farce comedies. This subgenre of comedy ridicules, impersonates, or mimics the style of other films. Some of the famous parodies or spoofs that are contemporary films are the Austin Powers series (1997, 1999, 2002), which ridicules the James Bond 007 series, and the Scary Movie series, which ridicule different elements and scenes from some horror/thriller films.

“Pillow Talk” scene:

Jan Morrow (Doris Day), an interior decorator in New York City, lives well for a bachelorette. She has a nice apartment, a successful career, has nice clothing, and dates wealthy men. She shares a party line with her neighbor, Brad Allen (Rock Hudson). Brad Allen is a successful song-writing bachelor who frequently uses the party line to woo women, which drives Jan Morrow crazy.

The scene from “Pillow Talk” contributes to the feeling of amusement and making light of a situation, which is an important part of comedy. The scene shows entertainment between the two scenes and uses split screen. Split screen is used throughout the film, mostly during telephone conversations between the two main characters. The mise-en-scene of this scene has 50’s style decor. All of the props in this scene are relevant to the time period of when this movie was filmed. The lighting expresses the right mood that is relevant to this scene, which is upbeat, and this scene is set during the day time. The spacing of this scene does show that the focus is on the actors, and not a certain object or scene. The actors in this scene do use 1950’s dialogue and are in a 1950’s mindset, which helps their role.

“Anchorman” scene:

Anchorman is a parody of 70’s style news anchors. Ron Burgundy, played by Will Ferrell, is the top-rated news anchor in San Diego, but this quickly changes with the arrival of Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate). Veronica Corningstone aspires to deliver the evening news, and she gets a job at the San Diego newsstation where Ron Burgundy reports the news.  This scene above is when they first meet at a pool party.

The mise-en-scene has 70’s style clothing, technology from the 1970s, and the actors use slang from the 1970s. The lighting demonstrates that it is night-time when this scene is taking place. The depth and proximity of where the characters are (being in the foreground of the camera, and not in the background) shows that the focus is on them, and not on something in the background that is approaching or leaving. The acting style of the actors in this scene is relevant to the 1970 time period.


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