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Classical Hollywood Cinema

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The release of Gordon Hollingshead and Alan Crosland’s The Jazz Singer in 1927 marked the new age of synchronised sound in cinema. The feature film was a huge success at the box office and it ushered in the era David Bordwell describes as ‘Classical Hollywood Cinema’; Bordwell and two other film theorists (Janet Staiger and Kristin Thompson) conducted a formalist analysis of 100 randomly selected Hollywood films from the years 1917 to 1960 in order to fully define this movement. Their results yielded that most Hollywood made films during that era were centred on, or followed, specific blueprints that formed the finished product. Through this analysis of Hollywood films the theorists were able to establish stylised conventions and modes of production under which a classic Hollywood film was fashioned (Foster, 2008), the film Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) directed by Peter Jackson will be used as a case study to demonstrate these specific conventions.

It was concluded that in Classical Hollywood Cinema the narrative followed a clear and discernable structure with a distinct beginning, middle and end. Although this type of narrative did have some restrictions it still encompassed the psychology of characters and their objectives, and the inevitable conflict meant to hold the attention of the audience. Continuity editing added to the audiences’ enjoyment of the film and coupled with the attraction of the Hollywood star system they formed a type of cinema that would astonish and capture the rest of the world.

Before each of these conventions is defined and analysed the process of making a Classical Hollywood film must first be described; it begins with either the completion of a script or the hiring of a scr...

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...s not limited to just actors, directors also inform our reading of the film as they too are tied to genres. Peter Jackson (the director of Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring) is commonly associated with fantasy films. The audience can then formulate a basic outline of the film by just using the actors and directors involved, such as expecting a fantasy tale with special effects, heart wrenching moments and ultimately a satisfactory end. In conclusion the undeniable force behind Classical Hollywood cinema is the modes and conventions implemented in making the film. The narrative structure is clearly set and events that take place are motivated. Bordwell states the style of Classical Hollywood cinema to be “excessively obvious” due to its strict following of conventions; it is a form of escapism and as such can provide full entertainment (Thompson, 2008).
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