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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Speak Film-speak

Long term readers of the blog will know that my nephew is an independent film maker in the UK. He has recently gotten the film reviewing bug and whenever we speak he seems to want to pepper his sentences with obscure reviewer-ese, so much so that it has become a private joke with us.

So, in honour of my nephew, I found an MSN article that decodes 12 terms used in "film-speak", and I share an extended list here as a handy guide for those interested in the world of pretentious reviewers wanting to show off their vocabulary.

  1. "Avant Garde" - applied to films that break cinematic conventions such as standard plot development and editing.
  2. "Denouement" - the part after the climax of the film not the climax itself, where all loose ends are tied up.
  3. "Picaresque" - is a cinematic endeavour that follows the antics of an anti-hero, but modern critics have taken the term to describe a movie made up of loosely connected segments.
  4. "Auteur" - is the definitive film-maker, someone who writes, directs, lights, edits and sometimes acts, too.
  5. "Meretricious" - describes a film that looks pretty but does little else.
  6. "Jejune" - is often used to describe a juvenile or immature outlook in film.
  7. "Jeune premier" - is the term sometimes given to a rising young star who has taken the lead role in a film.
  8. "De rigueur" - is a term used to describe the current prevailing fad in movies, for example "Angst is de rigueur for modern teenage movies".
  9. "Nouvelle Vague" - this term originally covered the French New Wave of cinema, but is now used as a blanket term to anything shot on hand-held cameras with slipshod editing.
  10. "Cinéma vérité" - literally meaning "film truth" is a term originally used for a style of documentary film making developed by French film directors in the 1960s. Its direct, seemingly sloppy style tries to inject realism into the work, and has been used by directors to create a false sense of realism in their films, such as mockumentaries or fictional movies like the Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield.
  11. "Macguffin" - a term first contrived by director Alfred Hitchcock, it describes an object in the film that drives its plot and characters but has no real importance to the story. As an example, imagine two people running after some mysterious spy plans (the macguffin), which is never revealed or needs to be revealed in detail.
  12. "Oeuvre" - is a word that is sometimes used by critics wrongly to signify genre, but is a showy way of describing the underlying theme that links the complete works of an artist, e.g. "the director's oeuvre is weighed down by religious guilt".
  13. "Revisionism" - is used for a different take on an established tale or genre. For example in the genre of Westerns, yesteryear Western movies and modern day Westerns are very different from each other as film-makers have today revised the portrayal of America’s pioneer years in a much harsher and realist light.
  14. "Mise-en-scene" - this term is used to essentially describe anything in front of the camera or "in frame". Consequently it can mean anything from production design to wigs, although some reviewers do use the term to talk about an ethereal art-house quality they believe the film in question to hold.
  15. "Crepuscular" - comes from the latin for twilight, but critics use it to mean "badly lit" in movie terms.
  16. "Postmodern" - is a label that is applied to films that are aware they are films, with references to the world of the movies within the movie. Quentin Tarantino's films are good examples of this.

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