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Dictionary of Film Terms

The Aesthetic Companion to Film Art – Fifth Edition

Frank Beaver

Now in its fifth edition, Frank Beaver’s Dictionary of Film Terms has become an indispensable reference tool for the study of films and filmmaking. This trusted and practical handbook clearly and concisely defines the essential terms of film analysis and film art, with a special focus on the aesthetic parameters and values of filmmaking.
The updated and expanded edition includes new definitions ranging from «bullet-time» optical effects, to the coming-of-age narrative, and LED lighting technology in science fiction films such as Gravity. More than 200 film title references not cited in previous editions have been added. Many classic and contemporary photo stills are included to illustrate terms. Extensive cross-referencing among individual definitions ensures easy access to interrelated terms, and a comprehensive topical index relates to larger concepts of film art.
This up-to-date and comprehensive resource is a useful companion for film students and filmgoers, who will find it illuminating in its range and clarity.
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Gangster film A film classification in which story, plot, and conventions are developed around the actions of criminals, particularly bank robbers and underworld figures who operate outside the law. Like the western film genre, the gangster film evolved its own mythology in consideration of both locations and characterization. Prototypically, the gangster film is set in a large city where the criminal functions in a clandestine world of dark nightclubs, seedy living quarters, and speeding automobiles. The Prohibition era has been a popular time placement for the American gangster film, largely because of associations of legendary underworld figures with the era. Typical traits of gangster film characters include (1) the desire for recognition and success, (2) a tough, crude façade, (3) hints of gentleness and sensitivity beneath the toughness, and (4) an intimation that the gangsters are victims of circumstance.

The gangster films Public Enemy (1931), Dead End (1937), and Angels with Dirty Faces (1938) present characters who have grown up in neglected neighborhoods and who spend the remainder of their lives seeking to compensate for the neglect. ← 128 | 129 → In some instances the gangster is malicious, callous, and greedy by nature—for example, Little Caesar (1930).

During the late 1940s, the gangster film faded because of decreasing audience interest. In 1967 Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde reintroduced to great popular acclaim many of the conventions and ideas that had characterized the gangster films of the 1930s and 1940s, moving the genre to rural/small-town...

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