Monday, December 08, 2008

Austinpussy



I have to take a moment to acknowledge what I never thought I’d do before. When I was browsing through all the blog posts written this semester and came across “Austinpussy,” I plowed my way to blackboard, convinced that someone would have beaten me to this gem. Alas, I found that I did indeed have the chance to address it, and am eternally grateful to Drew for making it a part of the equation.

For now, I will skip over the complete absurdity of the sequence, as I think it was illustrated well in the original post. What I do want to talk about is a broader question about short films that I think this clip addresses in some ways, or at least serves as a catalyst for questioning.

I am wondering what to do with sequences within film. By this I mean, stretches of video that could stand on their own, which have a narrative structure within them and, most importantly, are somewhat isolated in the film. I will not go into an argument here that all features are composed of linked short films; however, I do not completely disagree with that idea either.

Where I feel we tend to see these types of sequences are during title/credit sequences. I chose Austinpussy because it has a very exaggerated opening sequence, which, while it happens to be a farce, is a good illustration of what we have become used to seeing. Especially in action films, there is this standard for extremely intense, action-packed opening sequences, which rarely ever have a direct connection to what will pursue in the film forward.

We have talked about short films as a means by which directors can take risks. The idea of the opening sequence being extremely ridiculous, as in “Austinpussy,” is interesting. Now while this entire movie is equally ridiculous, the opening sequence is a great avenue to be extra-creative without worrying too much about overall risk. It seems to work like short films here. In this case, just because the title sequence is bizarre, I have come to expect that this part of the film may not be completely representative of the whole. Again, because it may stand on its own, it need not fit into the narrative structure of the rest.

To take this concept a bit broader, what do we do with title sequences for television shows? Immediately I think of “Arrested Development,” where the opening credit sequence gives you the back-story of the family. The style is very different from the style that the show is shot in. The director here was able to take a risk in format, because it is in short format. While I wouldn’t want to necessarily watch an entire half hour or hour of a show in an opening sequence format (which tend to be fast-paced and non-formulaic), these pieces do seem to have a entirety to their format; that they are independent creatures from the film/television show that they are attached to.

Obviously, “Austinpussy” is playing with the action-film norm of the intense, action-packed opening sequence. However, in doing so, it brings up the question, are these unrelated beginnings short films within themselves? If they are, it explains why they can take so many risks here, and why the viewer forgives so easily. I’m still not sure if I can forgive anything about “Austinpussy,” but that’s a discussion for another day.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

I totally agree. Maybe they are just trying to create some "MOJO"
in the first few minutes. It is hard to follow the disjointed story lines you often find in action films.

Anonymous said...

Crazy openning sequences like this one are perfect places to for filmmakers to be creative even when the entire movie is as ridiculous as this one. They are also a good way to grab the viewers attention as the film starts

Anonymous said...

I like the different under ground type movies. Even though they are a little hard to follow but as you go through it gets more interesting. Of course what not to like Tom Cruise pops by.

Anonymous said...

I think you make a great point about the ability to be risky in the opening sequence. It's a great way to draw in the viewer, even if that's not what they'll be getting for the rest of the film. Now that we've come to expect it as such, it's almost a win/win situation for the filmmaker.

Anonymous said...

I love austin powers too bad the series is getting more weird rather then more funny

Anonymous said...

Interesting point, especially considering the opening scenes in many other famous films. (The James Bond films come to mind, obviously enough).

Christine Barndt said...

To address Harry's point (which I assume was the last comment because of his obsession with Bond) I feel like that is exactly what this film is playing with. The greater question however that I tried to pose here was could you separate the opening sequences and label them as shorts. Obviously a branch off of this question would be whether or not they would be exhibited separately, which takes us back to the question, "what does it mean to be a short film?"

Anonymous said...

Can we also talk about the fact that this opening sequence is like twice as long as they usually are. Talk about punishment.

Erica said...

I think this scene is a bit dramatic, but it does set you up not to be surprised by what will come later on; Austin Powers is overly-dramatic to begin with.

Anonymous said...

I tend to disagree because even though these opening scenes tend to be long and complex, they also have no wrap up. Sure the good guy wins or escapes; however, to create a meaningful story a wrap up is needed. But then again we are talking about "Austinpussy," how meaningful is that?

Anonymous said...

Christine, I Love this whole post just because you mentioned Arrested Development. And then i re read what you actually wrote and think you made some excellent points!