Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Opening EGs: Pretty in Pink (Deutch, 1986)

Image from clothing shop promo, 2013
(this is an example of how you might blog on an example of a film opening; scroll right to the bottom for a key tip. You're not trying to cover every possible theme or point for each opening you analyse, just make sure you end up with 3+ clear examples on all key themes from your range of film opening posts for your summary post) 

Paramount Pictures (prod. AND distrib.)

Budget: $9m; US box office: $40.5m

Opening duration: 2:30/4:41*

RottenTomatoes.com 81%; IMDB 6.6 ; Roger Ebert 4*.

LINKS: Wiki; YT trailer; IMDB; boxofficemojo.

*Scene in house up to 2:57; title theme comes in and out 'til 4:41

[the info above puts the film in context]

[its useful to pick out ideas/elements you might use] An opening of contrasts: grim mise-en-scene, but straight into the rom-com love triangle narrative. Surprisingly plain sans-serif titles and downbeat title theme song. Front-loaded with titles. Interesting gender representation: is Ringwald stereotype, countertype or a complex mix of both?

(a common mistake is to needlessly detail the plot. Don't! But a synopsis is useful: this could be just 1 sentence) Classic teen rom-com penned by 80s master John Hughes, with a love triangle centred on class identity; the female lead (Ringwald) is from a poor (in US cinema terms!!!) single parent household. Fiercely independent, she makes her own clothes, but is mocked by richer cheerleader types. Low budget but a sizeable hit, and continues to sell well today (long tail theory?!).
A vertically integrated conglomerate

[I use this example in the titles/idents vodcast. Usually you'll see 2 or 3]
IDENTS/DURATION: 1 (Paramount, 0:12) 

Just 1 ident: this was an example of partial vertical integration, with 'big 6' conglomerate Paramount handling production and distribution.

The titles begin with (1) Paramount Pictures presents (2) a John Hughes Production. Hughes had already made his name, and was a big draw worth emphasizing for marketing purposes; while the auteur theory typically credits the director with authorship, this was a Hughes film, not the rather anonymous Deutch.
Hughes is the real big name here

The title might suggest a feminine, swirly (handwriting style) serif font is likely... but instead we get this fairly plain, sans-serif font. We can also denote the white on black background. Taken together, these choices signify realism ... which the gritty, (sub)urban mise-en-scene of the opening shots further reinforces, or anchors. However ... the font style is similar to that associated with 1920s era glamour (see Corbert font screenshot below); these conflicting connotations arguably reflect the hybrid nature of rom-com well. Of course, as Stuart Hall would argue, this possible preferred reading is only open to those who recognise all these connotations.


We only get these two title frames before the action begins. Further titles appear over action shots, in this order and (generally upper) case; they each fade out after about 3secs

The full titles list is given below, but first note the roles selected:
film title
cast (starring; and; co-starring)
music score composer
costume designer
costumer designer
production designer
director of photography
executive producers
director (not given the usual a name film)

Indie films often will have a limited starring list, and words like 'introducing' for new, unknown actors. Some modern films largely skip the opening titles credits, though others add more, especially a range of producer (eg associate) type credits, and can use cinematographer, screenplay, soundtrack and other alternative terms to those used here.

We can see that alphabetical order has NOT been used, ensuring Ringwald's status is highlighted by naming her first. Ringwald and HD Stanton's names are also distinguished by being centrally framed where other cast names are placed bottom right - and co-star names fade out quicker!
PRETTY IN PINK [centred]
STARRING MOLLY RINGWALD [we cut on screen to shot of her putting on tights]
HARRY DEAN STANTON [these 2 are centred; the lesser 'stars' below are bottom-right]
Roles are in reduced font size; 2 names split over 2 lines
AND ANDREW McCARTHY ['and' smaller font, as with DVD/poster billing block]
KATE VERNON [its noticeable that these names fade out quicker]
I googled '1920s font'; this is 1 eg: sim to titles?

'Crossing the tracks': class conflict is central
If this was released today would we see quite so many credits front-loaded? Equally, we expect today to see more company credits and idents!
As the title theme fades in and out but doesn't actually end until 4:41, when we cut to a classroom, its arguable whether the end of the titles or the end of the title music denotes the end of the opening sequence.

Not the opening image the title leads us to expect?!
Finally some colour! Mise-en-scene binary/juxtaposition
The opening shot is surprising, given the title: a road-sweeping vehicle, tracked along a cracked road where weeds grow along the edge of the paving, the gardens are overgrown, and the cars that eventually come into view are old (even for the time of release), all providing connotations of this as a working-class neighbourhood. This reading is backed up by the 2nd shot (which we cross-fade into): opening on a chain-link fence around a tarmac backlot (again overgrown with weeds, also barb-wire topped), we cross tracks (a common cliche itself for class divides, as we'll see in this narrative). The use of extreme long shot, an establishing shot in this context, is more conventional.

The one dash of colour we get is the pink car, finally revealed as the roadsweeper trundles out of frame.

The girl's bedroom is signified by a series of abstracted shots of clothing, jewellry etc.
The father's bedroom is untidy, and we enter this with the curtains closed, both successfully connoting his frame of mind. His unruly hair and not-quite clean-shaven reinforce this impression. A particular nice touch is what appears to be a framed photo of the absent mother on the bedside drawers.

Once we cut to the high school, we get simple but crucial props for verismilitude: the high school sign itself is visible; we see both the classic yellow school bus and scooters denoting older students parked up outside; we track Ringwald as she approaches her school locker, another classic signifier of school.

Clothing codes quickly emerge as important plot points: Ringwald is set up in binary opposition to welathier cheerleader types who explicitly mock her clothing, while Ducky's outrageous ensemble also forms a binary with his suave, 'posh' love rival who wears more mature 'country club' clothing.

Nice hats...their binary opposites wear 'mature' clothing.
The absences are fairly routine, but still worth highlighting: homosexual or disabled characters, with the main cast all caucasian. Remember, the constant repetition of 'able-bodied', caucasian, heterosexual etc creates a normative effect, though we do get an interesting mix of stereotypes and countertypes here, not least with the unusual (for the times) single-parent family.
Representations of age, gender and social class are all notable.

Like his female counterpart, preppy/country club style
AGE: Ducky is a classic stereotype of teens: loud and brash in manner as well as in clothing. However, his love rival dresses in a mature, even 'fogeyish' style. Ducky's rolled-up sleeves and badges could be read as a deconstruction of this, so perhaps not such a basic stereotype after all? Similarly Ringwald and her cheerleader-type social rival form a binary, with Ringwald's costume bright and garish, flower-patterned black waistcoat over a pink blouse with a thick woolly pink cardigan while the tokenistic wealthy blonde rival has a smart lemon dress (and big 80s hairsprayed hair!).
Cynical male gaze?
Who the adult is in the Ringwald/father relationship is questionable: its she that tries to get him up and motivated in the morning!
That is clearly a countertype of the irresponsible teen! John Hughes' films are seen as classics because he empathised with his teen characters, creating a realism and relatability that, as the uses and gratifications theory argued, enables identification.

SOCIAL CLASS: Ducky and Ringwald are from one side of the tracks, while we got the wealthy binary opposites. Clothing codes, with the working-class characters more easily associated with youth, are key (eg Ducky's mashup versus McCarthy's suit), but the opening quickly established that the working-class characters are outsiders (but as we follow them through editing, the audience are positioned to identify and empathise with them, not the richer, more glamorous characters).

GENDER: Again we see basic stereotypes which are revealed as a little more nuanced upon examination. Ringwald is revealed in a series of abstracted shots revealing body parts and her picking out clothing and jewellery - male gaze, right? This is no bimbo, however; fiercely independent and intelligent, her clothes are self-made, and her intelligence is signified by the simple prop of specs (which she puts on in the classroom)!
Would this movie pass the Bechdel test?! Molly Ringwald's character may be the hero, but she could also be seen as the Proppian archetype of the princess or prize, fought over by the two males.

An unexpected role reversal (BUT gender stereotype?)
We find out about Ringwald's single-parent, working-class family background, her close relationship with Ducky - and their mutual low standing in the high school social circles. Their older-teen age is well
Ducky gets handbagged + ends up ridiculed on the floor
established. We learn little about the two wealthier characters who will emerge as central, bar their fakeness and high social standing.
McCarthy's lingering look after Ringwald (we get an eyeline match) clearly connotes the central disruption (Todorov) of the narrative, their on-off romance, disrupting the equilibrium of her/Ducky's relationship, with a 4th character (the sarky blonde) signified as an additional element to this love triangle.

Rom-coms typically feature a humiliated, emasculated male as part of a love triangle, and Ducky fits that role, ending up on the floor having been handbagged. As is most commonly the case, the character we literally follow and thus are encouraged to identify with is female.

The gritty mise-en-scene and the downbeat title track are countertypical, however, signalling that this might be a cut above the standard rom-com.
In the space of 4mins the basis of the film is well established.

To funk: Enter the Ducky...who ain't gonna get lucky!

A little bit unusual: the non-diegetic title theme comes in from the 1st shot, but fades in and out, eventually ending nearly 5mins later. The initial fade out is nicely edited to emphasize Ringwald's diegetic calling out for her father - her voice rising as she tries for a response.

When Ducky 1st appears we get a short burst of an 80s funk track, with a low bass sound ... swiftly fading out as the response to him hardly anchors a reading of Ducky as cool, macho man!

If you want to see for yourself, here's a montage someone put together:

A ropey VHS transfer of the 1st 40secs:

The trailer:

...And finally, you can see clips and further screenshots in this recently completed vodcast on titles and idents, including the example of Pretty in Pink:

Don't go overboard, but take plenty of screenshots + number these. As you do, change the file name to detail what you think is significant (+ therefore might mention in your blog post). I did this whilst also making some handwritten notes on certain themes so that I could go keep working through the clip then go back and use these notes for writing up the post. Always watch it through without pausing (with the possible exception of pausing to type in titles) 1 time before starting this.
Your screenshots can be used in multiple posts, and are key for a good Evaluation. Saving in folders and with clear file names helps!!!

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