Tom Gunning introduced the term “cinema of attractions” to us in his writings. As he mentioned: “the cinema of attractions solicits a highly conscious awareness of the film image engaging the viewer’s curiosity.” Instead of having the audiences focusing on the narrative, I think the films from cinema of attractions encourage the audiences to remain aware of the act of looking, the impulse and excitement from the image. Obviously, this is very true for the early cinema, when there is not really a narrative involved in the films. Film was first invented to create visual pleasure, we can clearly see this idea from the film we saw in film history class (but I can’t recall the name of the film), it was a series photographs demonstrating the movements of a naked lady. The reason it was a naked lady, as I remembered, was to create pleasure for the audiences, which in my opinion, also fits to the idea of cinema of attractions. Other early films from Lumiere brothers and Georges Melies can all be the examples for cinema of attractions; another film I immediately recall was the Hepworth Manufacturing’s “How It Feels To Be Run Over”, it definitely created visual impulse and shocked the audiences when they were watching, it is very similar to the example Gunning used in the essay (the arrival of a train).
One thing I found very interesting is that Gunning mentioned the dominance of the cinema of attractions ended around 1906-1907, but that attractions did not simply vanish, it went ‘underground.’, here he claims that there are still cinema of attractions involved in the later films, even though with the introduction of editing and narrative cinema. I totally agree with this, I believe the attractions are still one of the most important elements in later films even though it might not be weighted much as before. Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Jr., which we watched at the beginning of the semester, was a film that has a story told, a narrative film. However, it was easy to notice that Keaton’s amazing stunt actions had become the greatest attraction of the film, by going under the main narrative, it grabbed the audiences’ eyes, created visual pleasure and curiosity when they were watching. Further more, many Hollywood blockbusters can also be seen fitting into the cinema of attractions, special effects, actions, etc. are all forms of attractions. There are many forms of attractions, so I think the cinema of attractions can actually be interpreted differently by each individual, but not matter what form it is, the cinema of attractions will always exist, in my opinion. Or it may exist at least in a new form, as I remember Linda Williams had termed it “new cinema of attractions”.
In the essay “Film Bodies: Gender, Genre, and Excess,” Linda William wrote about the three genres of films with the fundamental elements of sex, violence, and emotion. There are different kinds of pleasure that are created from each type of element in pornography, horror, and melodrama. The pleasures are the convulsion in porn, the screams of fear in horror, and the sobs of anguish in melodrama. These genres have long existed in the film industry, the reason I believe is that they create those pleasures to the audience. As I mentioned in Gunning’s part, visual pleasure creates attractions, and attractions keep the audience interested in the film. Therefore, in connection with the cinema of attractions, it is not hard to understand the power of these genres. We all have our sensation, emotion and fantasy, and this should be what we are looking for in the films, despite the narrative, and thus we are attracted to these genres of film. Moreover, these genres may address the basic problems in our culture, but they have a distinct function due to the way they are portrayed.