Monday, November 14, 2011


Just by way of keeping track of some alterations in my terminology...

Up to this point I've been writing labels for each of my ten tropes without specifying whether or not, "amphibians" that they are, a specific use is either "naturalistic" or "uncanny."  Last weekend I decided to correct this.  Now all ten will be labeled with either the letter "n" or "u" to signify their status.

An example can be seen in this double-review of NABONGA and THE SAVAGE GIRL.  Both films show female jungle-castaways palling around with apes, and so both participate in my category, "astounding animals."  However, SAVAGE GIRL never passes beyond the most mundane level of this foundling-myth, as I observed:
...despite her being loosely patterned on other, more extraordinary jungle foundlings, Nameless Girl doesn't measure up as an uncanny heroine despite wearing an "outre outfit," and the natives in her bailiwick lack any exotic tropes, despite the script's hilarious allegation that they practice "voodoo."

By contrast, though Doreen, the heroine of NABONGA, isn't much more exotic than Nameless Girl, she at least seems to have some perternatural bond with the ape Samson, which puts her a little closer to the Tarzan myth.  Samson himself seems a little more unusual too:

...Samson, because he is at once an ape and yet seems like something more as well, does qualify for the trope of "astounding animals," and shifts this otherwise routine film into the realm of the uncanny.
 As I've retrofitted the review now, SAVAGE GIRL has (n) versions of the two tropes "astounding animals" and "outre outfits skills and devices," while NABONGA has (u) versions of the same, in that both Samson and Doreen's outfit carry a valance that I recognize as uncanny, or metaphemenal only in the affective sense.

Before my weekend revisions, the name of the second trope was "outre outfits skills and weapons," for this category was designed principally to account for the affect produced by heroic figures who were not marvelous and yet were more than simply naturalistic, such Tarzan and Zorro.  I recently decided, however, that such heroes may on occasion use "devices" that are not technically "weapons."  For instance, if some James Bond imitator makes use of a remote spy-eye that's a little ahead of the technology of the time, that item would not be a weapon as such.  Yet it could, under the right circumstances, confer a degree of the uncanny upon the spy's adventures, even if that spy never shared Bond's arsenal of exploding cufflinks and so on. 

I also revised the category formerly listed as "enthralling hypnotism and stage magic" to read "enthralling hypnotism and illusionism."  I was specifically thinking of a handful of movies which sometimes invoked "stage magic" as an element of the uncanny, though of course not all movies containting stage magic invoke these elements.  I decided that "illusionism" was a better term, for there are also films in which characters may create illusions through methods allied to the methods of stage magicians, without the former actually being anything like stage magicians.  It seems to me that I've seen a few "ninja films," for example, in which the ninjas are shown to be masters of illusion rather than possessing any genuine magical powers.  Thus a ninja-film that used illusion to stimulate the aura of the uncanny would be an uncanny expression of this trope. 

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