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The Notion of High Cinema and "grease"

Autor:   •  October 24, 2018  •  1,901 Words (8 Pages)  •  189 Views

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And while it is teenagers who are the film’s intended target market, the producers also tried to infuse the appeal of the film towards a wider demographic as well, to include older adults into the mix. And this was achieved through the incorporation of a host of other media stars into the film’s cast. Figures such as Frankie Avalon, Eve Arden, Sid Caesar, and Ed “Kookie” Byrnes helped further evoke the ‘50s setting into the film. However, despite its ‘50s setting, film producers Robert Stigwood and Alan Carr made the decision to remove half of the “strictly ‘50’s” Broadway score to update the music to a more current pop feel of the ‘70s, in order to attract the younger crowd. And instead of adhering to the Broadway musical’s location setting of the inner urban city locale, the film’s location was changed to the innocent, friendly vibrance of Southern California, which constitutes the beach, drive-in theaters, and of course, the school. This was done to present the high concept aesthetic of a very Americana feel to the film.

In the high concept marketing campaign for Grease, the use of the posters and trailer seeks to place very strong emphasis on the stars’ image, and everything else as secondary, including the title of the film. In the trailer, the three biggest focus were placed on stars Travolta, Newton-John, and the musical numbers. A total number of nine times do we hear the stars’ names being mentioned in voice-over, throughout the length of the two minute trailer. And the film’s title is heard three different times. And the trailer ultimately commits most of its runtime to shots of Travolta and Newton-John singing and dancing. Grease also promoted itself as “the movie filled with more song, more dance, more of everything that makes a great musical unforgettable,” which it serves to associate itself with other classical musical films that came before.

The notion of high concept applies aesthetically to Grease as well, with its infusion of celebrity and popular culture of the ‘70s. Though the film is set in the 50’s, the combination of contemporary culture of current times attempts to appeal to broad audience markets. Hence, audiences are served up with song styles and artistic elements of modern times. Grease provides the music of contemporary artists such as Olivia Newton-John herself, Sha Na Na, which fittingly, were a band that parodied the musical style of the ‘50s, as well as the title song being performed by Frankie Valli, which was written by Barry Gibb of The Bee Gees. And at the same time, this combination of eras provided the film’s director, Randal Kleiser, to play around with the high technological aspects of the film, creating a film that contains a “’70s look at the ‘50s”, as in the director’s words, “Stylistically, the actors will break into song - that's old - but we are using all the '70s film techniques we can muster, like split-screens and high-powered sound". Audience interest were able to be generated through the combined use of high technology and pure fantasy. This became the expectation, and benchmark for all other upcoming Hollywood musicals.

Also, characterization in the film helped sell Grease to its target market of teenagers. The characters portrayed in the film served to promote school roles beyond the normal or physical level. In Danny Zuko, he possesses the cool look with his jacket and slick hair that helps him move above the social class in school and have girls craving for his company. Psychologically speaking, with the teen demographic watching Grease, it gives them the ability to connect with the characters and the story, which making them perceive the characters, namely Danny and his jock friends, as cool; and that they could get girls like Sandy if they follow into Danny’s footsteps and be cool like him. Other than that, Grease relied on various other stereotypical character types to sell the film, including nerds, the popular girl, the bad guys, the teachers, to everything that portrays stereotypical high school culture.

Grease’s high concept can also be attributed to nostalgia, through its attempts to expand the film’s appeal to adults who had experienced the ‘50s, with its setting and the portrayal of a more innocent and cheerful decade. Grease was released in a decade that was strife with conflict in the real world. Thus, according to Jameson, F. (1991) the power of nostalgia in the film’s utopic landscape helped audiences escape from the contemporary social milieu.

Lastly, in the marketing, the film was also given a brand identity through a unique title logo. The logo, which is styled as a small red car with the liquid-like shape of the word “GREASE” fitted into it was used in every single advertising and merchandising efforts for the film. It was present in the poster, the soundtrack, trailer, the official tie-in novelization, and utimately, in the film itself. The logo served as the key image that the general public associated with the film.

All in all, Grease was a success as a high concept film, and became a pop culture phenomenon. It easily drew audiences with a simple concept explanation of one sentence, and everything else was able to fit into place nicely. The film could carry themes that connected with the target audiences; and the reputation of mega stars like Travolta and Newton-John carried the marketing of the film and the narrative itself through the end. It wasn’t a surprise that the film ended up a hit, and spawned a continuous legacy with a sequel, and countless revivals of shows on Broadway and the nation.

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