November 24, 2014

"Top 10 4th Wall Breaks in Film."



I dug that up in the process of writing that last post, where I was going to go on about whether the performance artist — sitting in her "homey setup with a lamp, an ottoman, a tasteful rug, and an end table decorated with a pot of bright orange flowers" — had a don't-break-the-4th-wall conception of her performance art. 

From the Wikipedia article "Fourth Wall":
The idea of the fourth wall was made explicit by philosopher and critic Denis Diderot and spread in 19th-century theatre with the advent of theatrical realism, which extended the idea of an imaginary boundary between any fictional work and its audience.
That article contains what might be the most ludicrous in-need-of-editing sentence in all of Wikipedia:
One play that uses the fourth wall extensively is The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), which uses it for comedic effect.[citation needed]
ADDED: Why I'd never caved and created the tag "performance art" until now, I don't know, but going back and adding it retrospectively was hard. Check it out. I've got 45 posts with the tag now.

35 comments:

Christy said...

Perhaps (education needed) rather than (citation needed.)

MadisonMan said...

Not a fan of WatchMojo. The narration bugs me.

Ann Althouse said...

"The narration bugs me."

I noticed that, but I thought the content was pretty good. It was too dumbed down, though, and the choices were obviously all recent things. I mean, what about Groucho doing "Strange Interlude" in "Animal Crackers"?

Texas Annie said...

Agreed MadisonMan, her voice is almost as irritating as her pacing, which is almost as irritating as her words.

Laslo Spatula said...

Candidates for the Top Ten Wall Breaks in Film:

The Shawshank Redemption.

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.

Escape from Alcatraz.

Pink Floyd: The Wall

Earthquake.

Some arty foreign fim involving the fall of the Berlin Wall.

You get the idea.


Laslo Spatula said...

How could I forget "Samson and Delilah"?

Laslo Spatula said...

Also, maybe not an 'official' breaking of the Fourth Wall in Films, but: Alfred Hitchcock's cameo appearances in the films he directed. Accomplished the same effect of the director making you aware that you are watching a film.

Laslo Spatula said...

Best Wall-Eyed Actors in Film:

Marty Feldman

Jack Elam

Bette Davis, almost.

Laslo Spatula said...

And: "The Hills Have Eyes" dude. Indeed.

MadisonMan said...

Laslo, Feldman breaks the fourth wall admirably in Young Frankenstein, which was probably before WatchMojo's time.

Laslo Spatula said...

@MadisonMan: I remember that well. Which brings the question: how many Mel Brooks' films DIDN'T break the Fourth Wall?

Laslo Spatula said...

I am being 'Good Laslo'. Althouse should throw me a biscuit.

richlb said...

The best 4th Wall breaks are when they are quick and do nothing for the plot. I'm thinking of when Eddie Murphy glances at the camera in "Trading Places" when the old guys describe what pork belly futures are for; or when John Cusack and Tim Robbins grab a beer offscreen while driving in Tape Heads. Just that brief nod to the audience that, yeah, we know this is not real, that gets me.

Also, I used to love the way they consistently broke the 4th wall on It's Garry Shandling's Show. Probably the best use of the device ever on TV.

Laslo Spatula said...

Mel Brooks also has one of the best Ball Breaks in Film when Harvey Korman gets shot in them in 'Blazing Saddles'.

Laslo Spatula said...

A List of the Top Ball-Breakers in Film? Hmmm.

William said...

In one of the Road pictures, Bing and Bob are stranded in the desert. Suddenly Bob Crosby appears. He has a shotgun and shoots a duck. Then he walks off. Bob Hope asks "what was that all about?" Bing says "That was my brother. I promised to give him a shot in my next movie."

William said...

I wonder if someone is watching the films of Bill Cosby and editing them for unintentional 4th wall breaks.

Laslo Spatula said...

Did Meade break the Fourth Wall of the Althouse Blog by marrying Althouse?

tim in vermont said...

Wow that video was tedious.

Laslo Spatula said...

richlb pointed out John Landis' "Trading Places." Landis also has something that happens in all of his films -- another example of the director nodding to the audience that they are indeed watching the work of a director (like the aforementioned Hitchcock cameos).


From Wiki:

See You Next Wednesday is a recurring gag in most of the films directed by John Landis, usually referring to a fictional film that is rarely seen and never in its entirety. Each instance of See You Next Wednesday in Landis's films seems to be a completely different film.
Examples:
In The Blues Brothers (1980), SYNW is glimpsed on a billboard which also features a huge gorilla. It also appears on the cinema sign behind where the Nazi Pinto crashes through the road. It also says under the title on the marquee "Starring Donald Sutherland".

In An American Werewolf in London (1981), SYNW is a porn film being shown in a seedy London porno theater.

In Trading Places (1983), a poster for SYNW is glimpsed in Ophelia's (Jamie Lee Curtis) apartment. On this poster it is directed by William Wyler and stars Laurence Olivier, Merle Oberon and David Niven (the real director and stars of the 1939 version of Wuthering Heights). The poster features the quote L'un des 10 meilleurs Films du Monde ("One of the 10 Best Movies in the World").

In Coming to America (1988), a poster for SYNW is shown on a subway station. It stars Dan Aykroyd, Sybil Danning, Jamie Lee Curtis, Moe Howard, and James Brown.

etc etc.

tim in vermont said...

I see that the tediousness of the video has been amply covered in the comments.

Quaestor said...

That Wiki entry is indeed absurd, nor is it accurate. The best Fourth Wall buster in Shakespeare's canon is good old Dick Plantagenet, who often outlines his plans to the audience. He's typically witty, like any good villain. But he's not being funny. Pistol breaks the wall a few times in Hank Five, but he's only mildly funny to me. However, the Elizabethans thought he was a riot.

Speaking of good villains I was in a tavern conversation last night on the subject of Bond heavies. We agreed that they all fade to mere thuggery in comparison to Goldfinger for the same reason Richard III is such a standout.

Returning to the topic I was once in a troupe that included a gifted character actor who often succumbed to the wall busting temptation. I particularly remember one performance of Sheridan's The Rivals. The egregious ham was in the role of Bob Acres (aka Fighting Bob) playing against me in the role of Sir Lucius O'Trigger. If you don't know the play just be aware that Bob is facing a duel with pistols over Miss Lydia Languish, and he's getting some very peculiar advice from Sir Lucius, a notorious duelist. Our Bob had been hitting the bottle backstage and our audience that night was rather quiet (You get that sometimes, particularly with Sheridan and Goldsmith. Sometimes the beautiful sets, the silk, the lace, and the powered peruques overwhelm) Suddenly, Bob started to direct his lines to the audience and not to me. (country pumpkin Bob boasts of his reputation as a brawler to the urbane Irish swordsman) The crowd started to pay attention to the dialogue for the first time (our Malaprop had already had some of her best lines go to waste, for example the "allegory on the banks of the Nile") Bob rescued the performance by "abusing" the text. Let that be a lesson to purists.

Rick Turley said...

Orginal BBC version of "House of Cards" and the two sequels.

The Godfather said...

I recently performed in a community theater production of Thornton Wilder's "Our Town", which breaks the 4th wall constantly. Our director emphasized this feature of the play by keeping the house lights on throughout the performance, and having actors enter and exit through the house, in addition to the devices in Wilder's script (taking questions from the audience, having the "Stage Manager" talk to the audience). I believe the audience generally liked these devices. The video clip is proof, however, that this can be overdone.

Bill said...

Much, much more on the Fourth Wall via http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FourthWall

Hazy Dave said...

I thought the whole blog was performance art?

MikeR said...

That wikipedia article quote is somewhat misquoted. Doesn't look so bad to me.

chillblaine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MisterBuddwing said...

"Breaking the fourth wall" by talking directly to the camera is pretty monotonous, IMHO.

I prefer subtler breaks, ones which toy with the wall instead of actually breaking it.

One of my favorites is that moment at the end of "Sunset Boulevard" when Gloria Swanson, totally mad, makes her little speech in front of a crowd of bemused newsmen and mentions "those wonderful people out there in the dark" - namely, us:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMTT0LW0M_Y

And just for a quick laugh, there was that moment in the comedy "Stay Tuned" in which John Ritter - who's been given a cable remote control by the Devil that plunges him into one hellish TV or movie spoof after another - ends up in a place he really doesn't want to be:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKBsohgTKiY

John Lynch said...

Annoying narration. Just show us. Stop talking.

jr565 said...

dID YOU EVER see funny games? There breaking the 4th wall used to non comedic effect. Not sure if I hate the movie, but it is pretty disturbing.

Chris Arabia said...

Burt Reynolds in Smokey & The Bandit and John Belushi in Animal House.

In Trading Places, there was another good one when Eddie Murphy is in the police car and right before it pulls away he looks as if to say, "Can you believe I'm going to jail over this?"

EDH said...

"Shut that bitch up!"

Birches said...

I can't believe I watched the whole thing!

Anonymous said...

When the X-Men spinoff movie, Deadpool, gets created it will be chock full of 4th wall piercing (which follows the actual comic book's lead.

Test footage for the film, which has led to it being green-lighted is here: http://youtu.be/LoXGsv9nsNs (NSFW)

John Byrne's run on She-Hulk in the 90's was notable that during his term on the book, She-Hulk was aware she was a character in a comic and had conversations with the audience, and the writer/artist himself.

Whereas Byrne's She-Hulk 4th wall was broken for comedic reasons, in Grant Morrison's Animal Man, it was done for dramatic purposes.

The title character, after his family was killed by his enemies, is despondent, and is on a peyote fueled vision quest looking for answers, when he turns toward the reader, and freaks out at seeing the readers. "I CAN SEE YOU!"

It gets weirder from there , as Grant Morrison ended his run on Animal-Man by introducing himself into the comic, and had an extended conversation with the title character, then eventually to the audience at the end of the book.