Thursday, October 18, 2012

Chapter: Episode

To counter the modern idea that episodic films are somehow bad, that movies need to have a constant central narrative thrust at the fore at all times, I'm compiling here a list of four great films that tell their stories in an episodic manner. This is by no means an exhaustive list--I aimed for a diverse sampling.

Taxi Driver

Serving to emphasis the dreamy, drifting nature of Travis Bickle's lonely, dark journey through life and the night time streets of New York, the movie's broken up into several disconnected episodes, tied together by nothing more than Travis Bickle himself--there's Travis' courtship of Betsy, his attempt to rescue Iris, his interactions with his fellow Taxi Drivers. A modern, mainstream film would probably insist on having the diner where the drivers meet across from Palantine campaign headquarters with Iris turning tricks on the opposite corner.

Mary Poppins

A lot of great episodic films are fantasy films. In this case, the different excursions which Mary takes the children on--the sidewalk chalk drawing, curing Uncle Albert's laughter, they're not specifically connected. Even the chalk drawing outing is divided up into miniature episodes--the penguin cafe and the business with the horses, not meaningfully connected in any way besides it being different places the same characters went. All this helps create in a film under two hours the sense of the children living with Mary Poppins for a great period of time.

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

The disconnected meetings Robin has with prominent Merry Men Little John and Friar Tuck, the abduction of Sir Guy and Maid Marian, the archery competition--the characters' feelings about one another change and evolve, but none of these incidents directly lead to the next. This helps to create the impression of a large and complex world in which Robin leads his faction against Prince John's.

Kill Bill

Or almost any Quentin Tarantino movie could go here--the guy goes so far as to use chapter title cards. He uses the technique to achieve both the effect of creating a world and the effect of a greater amount of time passing. This helps to give his movies the quality of a place you go to visit.

Twitter Sonnet #437

Binary whales withstand the denim storm.
Cream soda cameras meditate on ice.
Slowly sepia ground sloths take grand form.
Sometimes the cetaceans set more than twice.
Unwound willow clocks contend with tangles.
Abscessed source code condemns the judge's wig.
Footpad picks light the language he mangles.
Victory glazed the state of the youngest pig.
Naked telescopes are rows of bent glass.
Inverse visions suppress the liberal truck.
The bald distance lets many arrows pass.
Dead grass operas lift up the alto duck.
Cameron Crowe feet tread on Converse pudding.
Shoestrings strain at the cracked velcro wedding.

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