Folklore/Cinema: Popular Film as Vernacular Culture
Mikel J. Koven
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Interest in the conjunctions of film and folklore is stronger and more diverse than ever. Ethnographic documentaries on folk life and expression remain a vital genre, but scholars such as Mikel Koven and Sharon Sherman also are exploring how folklore elements appear in, and merge with, popular cinema. They look at how movies, a popular culture medium, can as well be both a medium and type of folklore, playing cultural roles and conveying meanings customarily found in other folkloric forms. They thus use the methodology of folklore studies to “read” films made for commercial distribution.
The contributors to this book look at film and folklore convergences, showing how cinema conveys vernacular—traditional and popular—culture. Folklore/ Cinema will be of interest to scholars from many fields—folklore, film studies, popular culture, American studies, history, anthropology, and literature among them—and will help introduce students in various courses to intersections of film and culture.
study of popular fictional cinema that may include elements of the documentary folkloric film. As Zhang defines it, Filmic folklore, by definition, is an imagined folklore that exists only in films, and is a folklore or folklore-like performance that is represented, created, or hybridized in fictional film. Taken out of the original (social, historic, geographic, and cultural) contexts, it functions in similar ways to that of folkloristic films. Filmic folklore imposes or reinforces certain
embarrassment and political criticism may function as both hero and antihero. The Making of a Potential Hero Over the course of six months, I interviewed, formally and informally, French and English Canadians on the subject of the Elvis Gratton films and how they perceived the works of Falardeau. I asked interviewees if they could define, in their own terms, hero and antihero with examples. In general, and in accordance with the data collected, they perceived a hero as a person who is admired
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metaphor for women’s war experiences but also as an effective distancing (Verfremdung) technique (Moehrmann 1980, 156).5 The folktale not only interrupts the fictional narrative as a story-within-a-story but also comments on the film’s visuals, including a soldier’s corpse, a smokestack, an oven, documentary footage of a bombed-out Berlin, and Lene’s rape, all of which establish a connection between the folktale and its historical context (McCormick 1993, 201). Consequently, the Märchen sequence
not guilt—confusion. Mari retches behind them, then launches into the whispered prayer of a child: “Now I lay me down to sleep.” The ineffectuality of their bid to reclaim power shows as they attempt to wipe the blood off their hands, then follow Mari as she shambles down the water’s edge as if to wash the horror off herself. The killers at last resort to shooting her submerged body, unable to bring themselves to once more meet her flesh to flesh. Vengeance for his daughter’s death seems