cutting on the action

photography and film – facts, ideas, values

FILM PhD The Screenplays of Robert Towne 1960-200

The Screenplays of Robert Towne 1960-200

is a 2007 Ph.D.  Thesis


Elaine Lennon

It came from a long list of published film theses in the latest post in Film Studies for Free.
Linked to here because I’m a sucker for anything whatsoever about Polanski’s Chinatown.

Bits and bobs:

P. 51

Renoir, who is Towne’s personal idol, and was an acquaintence of Towne’s good friend and collaborator Warren Beatty, is paid explicit homage in the satire Shampoo [1975], which is a loose re-working of La Regle du Jeu [1939, itself a homage to Beaumarchais’ Le Marriage de Figaro].


Robert Towne himself has commented on the problem of understanding screenwriting, that

No one, I think, can really say what makes an effective screenplay because no one really knows what makes a screeplay effective.


In creating a character, Robert Towne says, “You must ask what it is he or she is really afraid of. It’s my best way of getting into a character.” Towne thinks the writer has more control over his art than the director. “When I write,” he says, “the only limits are my imagination and my ability to do it.”


…The notion of writing moving pictures is absurd. One can’t write a picture. One describes a picture. And one thing can be said about a really good screenplay: it reads like it’s describing a movie already made. So if you look at a movie and read the screenplay and the movie seems fully realized in it, recognize and wonder. It’s nearly as miraculous as getting struck by lightening and living to tell the tale.

Towne’s pictoral gifts as a screenwriter give further emphasis to his controlling contribution to a finished film. It is significant therefore that a signal influence on the writing of Chinatown, central to his body of work, was in fact a photo essay seen by Towne in a magazine supplement in 1069, which depicted ‘Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles’ in a series of photographs by John Waggaman, accompanied by a text written by Laurence Dietze.

August 21, 2010 - Posted by | Chinatown, film [its techniques] | , ,

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