See the moving  
Picture

Figure 4.16

Mischief in the Presentational Mode

Grandma and the Bad Boys

Edison Manufacturing Co.; James White; USA, 1900

The painted-backdrop set identifies this little skit as a film made in the presentational mode: it tells us that this is supposed to be a kitchen but does not ask us to believe that it is a kitchen. Also indicative of the presentational mode is the film’s conventionalized plot, which unfolds within a genre so narrow that the audience couldn’t fail to recognize—and even foresee—its highly predictable storyline: two bad boys sneak into Grandma’s kitchen and fill her lamp with flour (center), so that when Grandma opens the lamp to light it, she gets a good dusting (right). The mere appearance of the boys was enough to inform the audience that mischievous deeds were afoot; only their specific form was left in doubt. Spectators’ previous knowledge of the genre functioned as an “external” resource to clarify the story. The producer’s energies could thus go into the creation of memorable images that constituted his “original” contribution. Here, of course, that’s the spectacle of Grandma’s white-shrouded, ghostlike figure after she’s been blanketed in flour.

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