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The Field of Genre and Australian Filmic Texts:
Transforming Cultural Narratives

Carol Laseur

Abstract

Within the present debate on the nature and direction of Australian cinema, the notion of genre occupies a pivotal position. The aim of this study is to examine the taxonomic strategies of genre construction in relation to Australian filmic texts. To investigate processes and functions of genre classification is to provide a way of examining the socio-cultural knowledge formations that underpin the classificatory categories. And the notion of genre is necessarily open to investigation. My aim, in the final analysis, is to show how these knowledges sit uneasily alongside generic formulations. Any examination of specific Australian films necessarily involves addressing central problematics in cultural representation.

The opening chapter examines a range of theoretical positions on genre and genre construction. It problematises a range of conjunctions between film and genre. The central focus here is a discussion of the applicability of the category of genre to Australian cinema. The Stuffing group provides a point of entry into contemporary debates on cultural definition and filmic production, specifically the notion of genre as an operation of criticism. Chapter Two provides a case study of genre criticism in action and concludes Part One of the dissertation: Theorising Genre. Here the work of Susan Dermody and Elizabeth Jacka is investigated for its particular use of genre construction and categorisation in what is a major critical study of patterns of filmic representation and industry organisation in contemporary Australian cinema.

These chapters are followed by a series of case-study analyses of specific filmic texts. In Chapter Three forms of generic cross-coding in the films Careful, He Might Hear You, Fran, and Monkey Grip are explored. Each film is analysed in relation to its handling of codes of Melodrama, Romance and Realism. These texts provide the basis for a study of multi-generic elements in problematic juxtaposition, while also showing the mixed nature of filmic signification.

Chapter four investigates a more consciously-signified interplay of narrational modes. Here, Goodbye Paradise is seen as an exemplary text for its contribution to genre parody and for challenging interdictory strategies of ascription. This film is studied in terms of a range of intertextual features and as a witty intervention into cultural performance in Australian Cinema.

The concluding chapter engages with the movement towards self-conscious genre ascription that attempts to reach `beyond' genre. Within Palm Beach, genre strategies become more than vehicles of/for cultural messaging. In this film connections between power and knowledge are disrupted within a process that displays the operation of cultural ascription and key elements of meaning/knowledge construction. Palm Beach demonstrates both the opportunities for, and necessity of, what I will develop here as a facilitating approach to genre.

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Tom O'Regan, my supervisor, for his attentive criticism and encouragement during the writing of this dissertation and Peter Jeffery for his supportive involvement in my studies of Australian film.


New: 23 February, 1996 | Now 30 March, 2015