Form and Content

I have a variety of interests like everyone else out there. One of the bigger ones is video games. If you’ve been on a video game message board or read anything about gamers online for a decent enough time you know that there is always a gaggle of people exclaiming that ‘gameplay > graphics’. It’s a fair enough point and I can understand why someone would make it. The problem for me comes in though in that no one really talks about gameplay, ever. Gameplay is almost always referred to in the vaguest of terms like whether or not the controls are ‘tight’ or ‘loose’ or how it feels to play in general. Outside of that, gameplay is never actually discussed. You’ll get a bunch of blurbs giving descriptions about what the gameplay is and you’ll also be told about the amount of stuff you can do.

The problem with all of this is simple: You are talking about content not gameplay.  These are two entirely different things, but always get mixed up with one another because gameplay requires a significant degree of knowledge about gaming outside of vague terms and ‘feelings’. The same exact thing happens in film discussion the majority of the time. People focus on the content of the film and masquerade it as the form. The thing that makes this far more bizarre in film versus gaming is that there is an often repeated mantra against the discussion of form over or with content. You’ll be more familiar with it as the phrase ‘style over substance’. My mind has still been unable to comprehend what this means. I mean, I know what it means when people say it; however, that doesn’t mean it makes sense.

Style IS substance. The issue is that film is still largely analyzed firstly, if not solely, as how the narrative and characters operate. I’ve waxed poetic about my issues with this focusing on stories and the ever-so-popular ‘three-dimensional’ character, so I will not revisit that again. I will be the first person to tell you that I am in no way the most learned or educated person when it comes to ‘technical’ aspects of directing, but I’m aware that it’s there. How something is filmed is far more important to me than what story is being conveyed because the moving picture is far more than simply telling a story. One of my favorite books that helped illuminate this for me and happen to discuss one of my favorite movies was ‘French Cinema: A Student’s Guide ( which did a couple scenes worth of analysis about Betty Blue. If you ever stumble upon it at your library, please read it, it is completely worth it. In the far off (possibly imaginary) future where I write about my aforementioned favorite film, I’ll cite some passages from it considering I have it one my computer.

Jean-Jacques Beineix came to prominence with his first film, Diva (1981), which has been called the first French postmodern film. Beineix’s film style was much criticised, along with Besson’s, during the 1980s, for its apparent superficiality and its tendency to prefer style over message.


About panamaenrique

Afro-Latino film lover in NYC. I love blues, jazz, soul, funk, and everything else under the sun. Any questions, comments, or concerns about anything I say, feel free to hit me up. My contact info is there and I'll be sure to give you a lengthy response about what I said and why I said it.
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One Response to Form and Content

  1. AthenaC says:

    “Style IS substance. The issue is that film is still largely analyzed firstly, if not solely, as how the narrative and characters operate.”

    I like how you phrased that. And it makes sense, film being a visual medium, and all. I can think of plenty of movies (Queen of the Damned is the one that comes to mind right now) that weren’t all that great but they were really fun to watch.

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