Friday, 4 January 2013

Week 9 (Mon 3 Dec)

Today's sessions were devoted to looking at 'comedy': In the lecutre, we watched the Howard Hawks screwball comedy His Girl Friday (1940), centering on the relationship between two reporters, one of whom intencds to leave the other and settle down, away from the hectic world of journalism, with another man. The film utilises screwball (a 30s/40s style of comedy that poked fun at society and archetypes), situational (what characters and the environment around them do and cause) and verbal humour (one-liners, remarks, sarcastic observations and conversations) to create jokes, assisted by the chemistry between the actors to make the jokes really pop and get a laugh out of the audience.

Afterwards, in the main seminar, we took a closer look at comedy: The actual origin of the word isn't so much just 'funny', but actual relates to having a certain view of society and the intergration of a character into/within said society, and the name itself derives from Ancient Greek for Festival (Komos). Additionally, there seem to be two specified 'eras' of comedy: 'Old Comedy' (defined by writers like Aristophanes and dealing with a central character (A Hero, though not necessarily somone good or noble) who constructs a society (not necessarily always a complete culture, but an idea or concept), dealing with the oppostion to it, inviting in possibilities for ridicule and sympathy, and eventually triumphing against all odds, rewarded with some type of power and sex. This principle was most famously defined in works like Lysistrata, which actually was banned during WW2) and 'New Comedy' (defined by writers like Menander and Plautus (often called the Father of Western Comedy) which often deals with a young man who desires a woman, but an older relative (Senex) is in his way, and in order to overcome them, they enlist the help of the 'Cunning Slave', and from there, misadventures ensue until the two youths are married. Other characters include the Miles Gloriosus (a macho soldier who also desires the woman), the Stupid Slave (a foil for the Cunning Slave), the Parasite (a flattere/kiss-up), the Courtesan (prostitute/rival female) and the Slave dealer (pimp).

Our first task was to go off into groups and come up with a film pitch that played out like an 'Old Comedy': my team came up with the idea of a lazy man who decides to create a world of coffee via a machine so he can stay awake and work, and along the way, encounters oppostion from the mayor, a coffeeshop manager and an insomniac. In the end, he suceeds and, bringing the town fame and fortune in the process, becomes mayor himself.

And then, we had to come up with one for a 'New Comedy': Set in a law office, the story follows a young worker who fancies a young lawyer (whose father is also the boss), and enlists the help of the two cleaners to win her affections whilst also overcoming a rival lawyer who also desires her.

In closing, I really enjoyed today's work: aside from watching an excellent film which is still every bit as fun today as it was all those decades ago, getting to just have fun, playing with ideas and throwing ideas, sort of like how actual Hollywood comedies are written, was terrific and some of the most fun I've had in a while.

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