Yves Lavandier’s book Writing Drama currently rates as the absolute favorite of our book reviewer Jack Brislee.
To give you the opportunity to delve into Lavandier’s amazing knowledge and insight, we will be publishing a weekly excerpt from the book.
Excess is undoubtedly one of the secrets of the success of American cinema— the other secrets, in my view, are that they have a much developed Free Child and the fact that very early on they understood and assimilated two things about cinema: one, that it is about story-telling, and two, that it is also an industry.
Excess is undoubtedly one of the secrets
of the success of American cinema.
Excess was not something that the Americans decided on consciously; simply, excess is part of their culture. Everything in the United States is on a large scale: canyons the size of the Grand Canyon in Colorado, waterfalls the size of Niagara. Streets, buildings and motor cars are all larger than life.
The Americans do not do things by halves: when they are racist, they create the Ku Klux Klan, when their police want to stake out and raid a drug trafficker’s home, it is a whole Washington district that goes up in flames. Militants against abortion do not stop at murder. There are psychoanalysts for dogs, clinics for plants and kindergartens for adults.
Only in the United States are the preachers so crazy, the television reality shows so mindless, the criminals so monstrous, the creationists so utterly convinced they are right, the rallies so over-the-top, the believers in political correctness so unbending. But what is a deficiency in other areas can be a huge advantage in cinema. François Truffaut for one understood this, observing that, despite his natural inclination to realism, he wanted to film extreme situations.
What is a deficiency in other areas
can be a huge advantage in cinema.
There are of course writers who are resolutely down-to-earth in manner, for example Anton Chekhov, Eric Rohmer and Nathalie Sarraute, though they are few in number; they are the exceptions that prove the rule.
Moreover their moderation in tone is perhaps deceptive: can we really say that characters who are incapable of living in the present time (The Three Sisters), or who are at daggers drawn over a matter of intonation (For No Good Reason) or over a white painting (Art) are really so moderate?
Comedy, as we have seen,
is largely a matter of excess.
Excessive does not necessarily mean spectacular. And character traits can be as exaggerated as any situation. Comedy, as we have seen, is largely a matter of excess. Not just that of Jerry Lewis, for example, but also that of Jacques Tati or Eduardo De Filippo.