Guide Death in Classical Hollywood Cinema

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His body was found in his hotel room in Strasbourg, France. Photo: W. Thaler - H. Weber, Hildesheim. Neal E. Beast TV.

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Fox News. He had revealed in a letter weeks before his death the return of cancer that he believed had been treated successfully. Krauthammer was History Channel. Harlan Ellison in Photo: Pip R. Marvel Comics, "Amazing Spider-Man" issue Swift was hospitalized in June due to a "life-threatening condition. Albanian American TV. Garrett first on "Diff'rent Strokes" and then more prominently on its spinoff "The Facts of Life," died on August 5 following a battle with cancer.

She died 41 years to the day of the passing of Elvis Presley. Zadan died of complications related to shoulder replacement surgery. Paramount Pictures.

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John McCain — former Republican presidential candidate, two-time Gold Star recipient and a political icon known as a "maverick" — died of cancer on August Photo: Jonathan Exley. Kennedy's nephews but also an actor on shows including "General Hospital" and "Frasier," died of a heart attack on Sept. Television Acadamy. His debut album "Blue Slide Park" was just the second independent hip-hop album to top the Billboard chart. Miller struggled with substance abuse, according to reports. Photo: S. Joy Balin.


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The weak narrative structure of the film is thus at once a commentary of the superhero genre and, somehow, its only possible honest form of existence today. The two films discussed here are in any case inextricably tied to the evolution of the latter and perfectly fit in the account of American comics history I have rapidly sketched. The graphic novels they are based on, the Sin City series Dark Horse, and Dark Horse, , were indeed the two principal non-superhero comics created by Frank Miller during the s, and the only comic works he released as a writer-artist in this period.

Having been one of the most influential authors of superhero comics during the s, this is of course extremely meaningful. As far as the construction of the narrative is concerned, it is sufficient to remark that in these creations Miller abandoned not only the superhero genre but also its typical serial structure. According to Eco, in fact, what Superman Golden Age stories aimed to elude was exactly the issue of death, and especially its negative consequences on the possibility of endlessly exploiting the same characters.

Therefore, from the apparently nihilist yet still heroic figures of Sin City to the programmatic death wish of the Spartan martyrs, Miller overtly rejects the most important assumption of the superhero genre, looking for alternatives to the exhilaration and euphoria implied by the multiplicity of its classical and contemporary serial narratives.

From a narrative standpoint, the key element is obviously the juxtapositions of three almost unrelated episodes, two of which end with the death of their protagonist.

Classical Hollywood cinema

The unprecedented visual technique displayed by the film, of course, adds to this result, breaking with the naturalism of Hollywood conventional cinema. Quintessential cartoonish neo-noir, Sin City confirms many of the previous considerations on the peculiar ability of post-classical cinema to include all possible variations around traditional genres. Of course, this digital epic blockbuster about soldiers sacrificing themselves for the freedom of Greece superficially has much in common with the basic features of other superhuman adventures; however, it is precisely on the structural impossibility to transform them into serial heroes—at least in the peculiar sense in which superhero comics have used serialisation—that one should focus.

By choosing an event whose crucial aspect is that all the heroes are known to die, Miller was in the first place looking for something that was clashing not only with the thematic value of the necessary happy ending of superhero stories but, more radically, with its formal structure. Even if the director chose to add some events that were absent from the original text to give a more articulate narrative to the film, it is evident that its core is in it visual style and in the very long action sequences.

Unlike most of superhero films, which try to maintain a certain balance between narrative and spectacle, here the equilibrium is constantly broken. As we have said, this is because the basic principle of superhero narratives lies in their serialisation.

As a new episode of a long-running series, i. Only if we pay attention to the complex connections between the single movie and its background can we really grasp how it works in a different way from conventional book-to-film adaptations, i. The variations that each of these films proposes in relation to the disputable canon of the original comics or previous adaptations are entirely part of their narrative—as well as of their commercial strategies. The other series mentioned are also built on the recently acquired popularity of their heroes: before the release of their first film adaptations from onwards, the characters featuring in the X-Men and the Avengers series were indeed almost unknown to the general public, especially outside the US.

Therefore, it is only thanks to the establishment of these film franchises that the creation of a whole cinematic version of their universe has become possible. In fact, these films rely on a rewriting or subversion of the conventions of the genre that confirms the ability of both superhero fiction and post-classical cinema to develop sophisticated serial narratives, allowing almost infinite variations around their core features. Far from being purely contingent and based simply on the development of digital technologies, its success reveals crucial traits of contemporary cinema.

At least as far as mainstream films are concerned, it is very likely that their influence will remain strong for many years to come.


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Chichester and Malden: Wiley-Blackwell, Bukatman, Scott. Durham: Duke University, Dorfman, Ariel. New York: Pantheon Books, Eco, Umberto.

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Jet Heer and Kent Worcester. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, Elsaesser, Thomas, and Warren, Buckland. Jenkins, Henry. Converge Culture: When Media Collide. Angela Ndalianis. New York: Routledge, King, Geoof.

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