Social Issues in Film mcrawford
Truffaut’s 400 Blows and Burton’s Edward Scissorhands (but first a poem by William Stafford)
A Ritual to Read to Each Other
If you don't know the kind of person I am
and I don't know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.
For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.
And as elephants parade holding each elephant's tail,
but if one wanders the circus won't find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.
And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider—
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.
For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give—yes or no, or maybe—
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.
Truffaut’s film is famous as an example of the French New Wave and the Auteur theory of filmmaking (social realism, a rejection of the polished dialogue, sets and movie stars—a move toward “writing with the camera the way a writer writes with his pen” –Astruc). Antoine Doinel is no angel, but neither does he deserve to be treated in the way we see him treated. His resistance to unfairness, to the lack of sympathy or understanding only serves to accelerate his downward spiral toward the reform school. No one makes any genuine effort to understand him. The film asks us to recognize and better understand an individual who is misunderstood and mistreated by those around him.
Since Burton’s richly colored and playful fantasy film is located in a suburban environment vividly exaggerated but still quite recognizable, perhaps it is best called magical realism. This style allows Burton to tell a different story about a misunderstood individual. Burton’s individual is not a victim of parental neglect; he didn’t have parents in the conventional sense—he was “invented.” But when Edward “comes down” into the neighborhood he is misunderstood, then admired, then exploited and then . . . .
Your writing prompt:
If one assumes that both films ask us to look at problems of understanding individuals in a context not arranged to favor them, which film makes this request more persuasively? Which one makes the audience more sympathetic to the subject? Why? Which is more likely to persuade the viewer to look at himself or herself? Which is more concerned with asking us to examine the dangers to individuals in our culture? (Use evidence from the films to explain your answer)