Discussion

1. Identify two logos of your own choice associated with filmmaking and/or film distribution. Based on Saussure, undertake a semiotic analysis and discuss how the logos work.

2. We can think of syntagmatic and paradigmatic structure as similar to grammar and vocabulary. Syntagmatic is a form of syntax. In writing, the basic syntax is noun-verb-object. It’s linear and it goes through time. We can remember this when we see unexpected syntax, such as Yoda saying, “The greatest teacher, failure is.” It’s the same for a movie such as, Memento, in which the figuring out the syntagmatic structure is part of the interpretive challenge (Barthes’ jouissance). Alternately, I like to think of paradigmatic structure as moments frozen in time, when we can make syntagmatic choices. For Yoda, we can substitute at different points and get very different meanings. Maybe he’s not Zen: “The worst teacher, failure is.” Or maybe he echoes is original sentiment, just differently: “The greatest teacher, Vader is.” For this prompt, make the following paradigmatic choices for Once Upon A Time in the West as a contemporary film:
Who directs?
Which actors are hired?
Which character is played by whom?
Where is the film shot?
Time period?

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3. Consider the way that Black Panther and Harry Potter have been marketed. Relate your answers to Peirce’s three categories.

4. Identify films that fall into the categories of plaisir and jouissance. Discuss which kind of filmmaking you prefer and why.

5. Using Once Upon a Time in the West, undertake textual analysis of the opening scene at the railway station. What do the formal semiotics in this sequence signify?

6. Two key visual motifs that recur throughout the film are water and the railway. What do you think they signify and why are they important to the narrative?

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