Cornelia Klecker. “Mind-Tricking Narratives: Between Classical and Art-Cinema Narration.” Poetics Today, Vol. 34, No. 1/2 (Spring/Summer 2013): 119-146.
For my purposes, I’ll skip to the parts that relate to art cinema. Overall, Klecker lays out the various types of film narratives that deceive the viewer in one way or another. She breaks them apart in various types and ultimately argues (quite briefly) that, according to David Bordwell’s definitions of film narration, these films fall somewhere between the classical (Hollywood) film style and art film. The reason is fundamentally this: whereas classical films attempt to conceal their plots in favor of their stories, art films expose their plots and sometimes actually conceals the stories. Since these mind-tricking narratives draw attention to how they are told (“plot”), the spectator engages with both what happens (“story”) and how that story is told. Sometimes, as in the case of The Sixth Sense, the spectator doesn’t know until the end (of the first viewing) that there is a difference between the story and the plot. In The Prestige, on the other hand, the narrative revolves around slight-of-hand tricks and constantly urges us to watch carefully, withholding the secret to the trick and suggesting that we will find out at the end. The essay is a helpful entry point to films that, while popular and ostensibly classical in style, toy with storytelling enough to warrant careful attention. The main question that it raises is, does this point about narration really problematize the mind tricking narrative film as fundamentally classical? Or, if not classical, does this really make it an “art film”? The argument potentially reduces the definition of an art film to its narrative, which is only one facet. (Mark Betz, for example, does a magnificent job in Beyond the Subtitle: Remapping European Art Cinema of accounting for the phenomenon of the art film within the realms of industry, nation, and politics.) Other than narrative form, films like The Sixth Sense, Matchstick Men, and Duplicity operate according to pretty standard post-1960 conventional rules. But other films that Klecker names, such as Being John Malkovich, Fight Club, Mulholland Drive, and Run Lola Run do arguably sit in a more liminal space.