Book: The American Film Musical
Author: Rick Altman
Date of publication: 1987
It’s impossible not to present this new section mentioning one of the most extensive and well-known investigators of genre theory. To film students and critics the name Rick Altman will certainly ring a bell, for his book Film/Genre is an obligatory reference in courses of movie and genre analysis.
In The American Film Musical, Altman creates a thorough compilation of the main trends in studies about musicals up to the eighties, and suggests a new approach at the genre based in the syntactic and semantic characteristics of the films, thus allowing the critic and investigator to create a comprehensive corpus of movies to be studied.
Altman even identifies three main subgenres based in the employment of cinematographic and filmic elements displayed in every movie: the fairy tale musical, the show musical and the folk musical. The theorist thus overcomes the classic taxonomy of integrated and non-integrated films, and provides a new method of understanding the wide variety of classic musicals.
One of Altman’s most important contributions is distinguishing the value of the musical as a manifestation of American mythology, mainly through the recurring narrative structure which tells the story of the romantic reunion of a heterosexual, white couple. The members of this romantic duo represent the dichotomies of society, and hence the musical replicates this dual structure, resolving the tension by providing a virtual solution within the film.
Altman’s writing is amiable and easy to follow, so even if you’re not a film critic or a student you’ll have no problem enjoying this classic book.