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Film Three-Quarterly: The King Of Marvin Gardens (1972)

Film Three-Quarterly: The King of Marvin Gardens (1972)

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I watched King of Marvin Gardens many, many years ago, when it was a VHS rental from a video store (remember those?) I had very little memory of the film, apart from Jack Nicholson’s opening monolog and the one he records later in the bathroom, which I used for a mixtape (remember those too?)

So it was a delight to watch this again and see the film for the “first” time. Bob Rafelson had made several films with Nicholson up to this point, most famously two years before, Five Easy Pieces, which, similarly, many can’t remember save the diner scene.

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Film Three-Quarterly: Stranger By The Lake (2013)

Film Three-Quarterly: Stranger by the Lake (2013)

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Stranger by the Lake, Alain Guiraudie’s hypnotic, dreamlike thriller set at a cruising spot for gays sometime vaguely in the early ‘90s, made many best-of lists for 2014, including Film Comment. It’s now on Netflix, where I watched it one lunchtime (not the best time to watch a mysterious thriller, I admit).

Anyway, the question for us is: does a French, experimental, gay serial killer film follow the three-quarters rule of structure? Oui bien sûr!

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Film Three-Quarterly: Fargo (1996)

Film Three-Quarterly: Fargo (1996)

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Before Picasso went Cubist, he knew the techniques of the old masters. Before the Coen Brothers became one of the more adventurous commercial filmmakers out there, they knew their genre and structure. Blood Simple is tight as a drum when it comes to plotting. But as they got more confident, they began to experiment with form, character, and structure.

Let’s take their Oscar-winning Fargo from 1996. Like their first film, it’s a crime story where a plan goes terribly awry. But in terms of structure, we are a long way from classic noir. This is the first film we’ve looked at that refutes the three quarter structure that so many films follow. How and why it does that is what we’ll get into.

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