All in the Family – a film evening class

The classic tableau shot of the Edwards family at the beginning of The Searchers.

One of the classic tableau shots of the Edwards family in The Searchers.

This evening class at the National Media Museum in Bradford offers the chance to study three films currently on release and to explore how ideas about the family can be exploited to develop different kinds of film narrative and different genres. There are seven sessions on Wednesday evenings from 25 September, 18.15 – 20.15.

The three films are Looking for Hortense, Metro Manila and Like Father, Like Son – all screened in full in the museum’s cinemas with a short introduction.

The first of these films is a comedy drama set amongst the ‘creative/academic’ bourgeoisie of Paris in which family relationships constrain and ‘trip up’ the central character with comic effects. The second becomes a genre thriller when it tests what characters will do to keep the family together. The final film is a form of family melodrama/relationship drama. Since the films come from different filmmaking cultures (France, Philippines/UK and Japan) there will also be the opportunity to explore the extent to which genres and representations of the family are ‘universal’ or heavily skewed by ‘local’ cultural considerations. We’ll also consider a range of other films that use the family as an important driver of the narrative. The image at the head of this posting refers to the famous John Ford Western in which Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) searches obsessively for his two nieces who have been taken by a Comanche raiding party.

A course outline can be downloaded here: (pdf) FamilyCourseProg

We’ll try to post some of the handouts here over the next few weeks and also to discuss some of the issues that arise.

4 responses to “All in the Family – a film evening class

  1. I will be attending. Looking forward to it! Thanks for the course outline.

    • That’s great. It would be good if we could get some online discussion going between classes. I look forward to meeting up.

      • Just thought I’d drop by here and make a quick observation about the first film, Cherchez Hortense. A Google search hasn’t thrown anything about this, so I may be imagining it, but is there a case in this film where every character compartmentalises their lives? This was evident from Sébastien’s tight schedule and refusal to find time for his son, right down to the way Véra’s husband (I forgot his name) punches Damien outside his shop and resumes his work inside. Damien is the only one who doesn’t seem to have private/public persona’s or elements of compartmentalisation except when he reveals that he has never told anyone about his epiphany in China (was it China?). Not sure if this plot element can be applied to how the family dynamic is shown in the film, though.

      • This is an interesting argument but I’m not sure if the film works in that way. Certainly, I think it would be possible to argue that Damien and Zorica/Aurore are the only ones in the film who are grounded in a sense of family relationships. In Aurore’s case it is her strong sense of loving/needing her grandmother (who I think she has ‘adopted’) and Damien’s relationships are more about duty than declared love. His chess-playing friends are seemingly without family but I’m not sure what I think about Iva and her brother and their relationships. It’s interesting how some commentators think that Damien and Iva are married. My guess is that the son is Damien’s from a previous relationship – which would help to explain Iva’s distance.

        The overall point is that this is a New Wave style film that does use some of the conventions of a traditional romantic comedy but mostly deconstructs the genre and offers us characters who are both fantastical and very real at the same time. The film uses symbolism but also deals with the mundane. If we attempt to analyse it as a Hollywood scriptwriting guru might, we are likely to come unstuck.

        Watching it a second time, I found it even more enjoyable and I realised just how many things I’d missed first time round.

        Oh and yes it was China, but there is just as much that seems Japanese – like the blossom at the end of the film.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.