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Film Studies For Dummies by James Cateridge

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Chapter 5

Distinguishing Films by Type: Genres and Style

In This Chapter

arrow Classifying movies into genres, modes and cycles

arrow Understanding why genres exist and how they function in society

arrow Analysing well-known genres from musicals to horror films

Genre is just French for ‘type’ (in this case, type of film). All film audiences have an instinctive understanding of genre, whether they speak French or not. You know that if you’re watching a movie and everyone’s wearing Stetsons and shooting at Native Americans, it’s a western. If the cast is wearing space helmets and shooting at aliens, it’s science fiction (sci-fi). And if everybody suddenly stops shooting and bursts into song, it’s a musical. Or you really need to lay off the flu medication.

You can recognise genres from the specific films themselves because genres use conventions or codes, which become deeply ingrained in audiences over time and through repetition. If you watch enough horror movies, rom-coms or musicals, you know what to expect after about the first five minutes or so. But crucially, this familiarity doesn’t mean that genre films are boring – quite the opposite. As I describe in this chapter, which also guides you ...

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