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Lecture 4

EN 3070 Lecture 4: Filming Literature: Winter

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York University
EN 3070
Ian Balfour

EN 3070 02.28.17 Essays • Due next week, can have a week extension; don’t need to ask for it Sweet Hereafter • What kind of ending is that? It’s nothing like the book • Circles back to the piper story, provides continuity and closure • Ends with a scene from before the accident, the children are still alive • You’d think it would end with the after but ends with an open-ended, bitter-sweet thing, the screen is flooded with light (probably car headlights) • In the last segment we switch to Nicole’s point of view where her perspective becomes the main focus; We’re behind her, looking the same direction as her • One way of compensating for the prominence of Mitch as the narrator • Miniature Farris Wheel on the desk, symbolic of fate, taken from another scene prior to that with an actual Farris Wheel Malcolm X • Not responsible for the Epilogue for Malcolm X • We don’t have his exact words, must go on faith that the author got the facts right because it’s not Malcolm X that wrote it, Malcolm X told it to someone who wrote it • Manning Marable – historical evidence for Malcolm X • First film by a black director; complicated history of black film, cast, cinema • First work of non-fiction we’re doing in the course; different adaptation demands than fiction; not as many liberalities can be taken with non-fiction • The first text not by a white person, first film not by a white person; the text and the film will foreground matters of race in ways we haven’t seen at all before • Comedy and romance were unbelievably completely white, that changed a bit for the Shining which was unreal in its own way but had elements of realism • Race works differently to the extent that it’s coded in visual terms • Different phenomenologically, to be confronted with an image of race • No absolute distinction between the inside and outside, there’s a sliding scale between in and outsider • Malcolm X’s situation is an extreme case of racial oppression • This is the African-American slot of the course • You can’t possibly agree with him at every point of the text, goes through changes and has strong convictions but it’s still an amazing text • Surprising thing about the adaptation is that it understands itself as being based on the book, not on the life; it’s out and out based on the autobiography, understands the autobiography as the definitive and comprehensive shaping of the life • Biopic – film that tries to capture/render the life • What are the mechanisms for this transition from first person to third person/objective? How much of the voice of Malcolm X are they going to use? o Voice over – one way to have his voice • The text; Framing the autobiography o Inscribes itself into a tradition, not so self-consciously, into a literary world; Malcolm reads a lot in prison, learns Latin and becomes learned guy after his ambitions are shut down by white teachers in school 2 o Before the 18 century, there are primarily 2 sorts of people that are subjects of biography ▪ Statesmen – Plutarch’s lives of Greek and Roman statesmen ▪ Saints – Hagiography (saint writing) • Very extraordinary people, none about ordinary th people until the 18 century o If ordinary people were to write about their life it would be circumscribed to a spiritual experience o Malcolm X’s autobiography has affinities with these types of writings, he becomes a statesmen/public figure, leading thousands of people and he also becomes something of a saint- like figure, undergoes a religious conversion • Autobiography is an odd genre o Non-genre? To the extent that if it’s really a text of individual life then it shouldn’t correspond with the text of any other individual life in any way; then it’s a generic life o If you do look at the things that are autobiographies, you find repetitive patterns, repetitions of some concern such that you can chart similarities; the text of the life becomes generic, certain things become good to recount and others good to leave out
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