‘L.I.E: Long Island Expressway. You got the lanes going east; you got the lane going west. You also got the lanes going straight to hell...' Thus opens L.I.E., a film about a fifteen-year-old boy who becomes involved in an unusual relationship with a much older man. Here, the first words of dialogue imply a precise context for the story that is to follow. Indeed, we know that the action will be set in the wealthy New York City suburb of Long Island. We can also expect the film to tell us more about this boy's life, such as where he lives, how he lives, what his friends and parents are like and why, according to him, some lanes go ‘straight to hell'. S. Sontag has suggested that film differentiates from print media in the sense that ‘it establishes a proper context for the use of images' (Sontag, S. 1975: 66). In effect, film seems to be a successful medium for the representation of socio-cultural aspects of life since it allows the audience to read signs in a continuous and perhaps more explicit form. However, the conception that ‘ the value of signs in film depends on the social context pertaining at the time the film was made, at the time the film is seen, and by whom it is seen' (Bignell, J. 1994: 193) also adds to the signification of signs.
[...] In La Vie est Un Long Fleuve Tranquille, the affluent Le Quesnoy family, and the Groseille family, who is part of the underprivileged legacy of the closing of the coalmines in northern France, see their lives disrupted when they discover that two of their children, Maurice and Bernadette, were exchanged at birth. Two of the Groseille children, including Maurice, miss school and steal while another is seen coming back from prison. The family does not pay the electricity, which is paradoxically owned by Mr. [...]
[...] Sage: Thousand Oaks, CA, p Bignell, J.1994. Media Semiotics : An Introduction. Manchester: Manchester University press, pp. 187-194. Branston, G. Stafford, R The Media Student's Book. London: Routledge, p.6. Cook, P The Cinema Book, London: British Film Institute, p.120. Dogville Written and directed by Lars Von Trier. Main cast: Nicole Kidman, Paul Bettany, and Lauren Baccall. Fiske, J Television Culture. London: Methuen, p L.I.E: Long Island Expressway Written and directed by Michael Cuesta, Co-written by Stephen M. Ryder, Cinematography by [...]
[...] 1994: 187) Therefore, a film's mise-en-scene allows the director to convey meaning through a series of signs, which can be audible, visible or textual. Semiotician Roland Barthes (1993:26) offers the example of Hollywood films such as Julius Caesar where ‘Romans are Romans thanks to the most legible of signs: hair on the forehead'. However, the context of this particular film was already established for the audience before they went to see the film and was of minor concern since the action was the essential component. [...]
[...] Therefore, the signs not only indicate a particular state in the development of the characters but also aspects of their lives, such as the microscope in Howie's bedroom and the new haircut for Maurice. Thus, contextualising a story enables enhanced meaning to shine throughout. An example of this is the film Dogville, where we are not introduced to cruel people whom we then find out happen to live in a rocky township stricken by the 1930s depression .We are introduced to Dogville, a rocky township stricken by the 1930s depression where we are to discover the cruelty of its inhabitants. [...]
[...] This leads us to the study of signs in L.I.E. and La Vie est un Long Fleuve Tranquille, two films where the social context seems to be as essential as the story line. In L.I.E., we are introduced to Long Island, a wealthy New York City suburb where upper middle class commuters coexist with unemployed immigrants. A shot of a man driving around the suburb shows mobile homes and large homes located in a two-mile radius. We also see a limousine driving by the house of the main character, Howie, which is where his social status is in fact best revealed. [...]
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