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Meet Me In St. Louis & Raging Bull

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The 1940's were a time when most were living with the effects of war every day. Whether it be stomaching the violence of war or trying to deal with the absence of male family members in the family unit, everyone was shaken by World War II. Therefore it is easy to see how a movie such as Meet Me in St. Louis was born. It takes us back to a time that is associated with wholesome family values and a world with less major problems before war had directly affected Americans of modern times. A film of a different nature, Raging Bull, takes place in these violent times displaying to us not what the people of the 1940's longed for, rather showing some of what society lived with back then. These two movies seem as different as night and day when viewed together, yet they simply show different sides of the spectrum of the same themes. The source that led to the desire to produce such movies is one and the same, violence.

Although I am yet to know serious effects of war, I know what it is like to want to escape from something and to find that escape in watching a movie. For many people in the 1940's watching Meet Me in St. Louis was they're escape from violence in society at that time. It makes perfect sense that a movie in which the biggest conflict is whether or not a family leaves their home together would be a success in a time when family unity was not as easy to come by. Vincente Minnelli directed it and provided the audience with singing and dancing, themes of love and romance, and overall a great deal of good values. His film represents the importance of family and relationship and he is able to show us this very well on screen.

Mise-en-scene was one method Minnelli used in displaying this sense of family unity and value. It is apparent in scenes of family interaction, whether it is conversation in the kitchen, celebrating holidays together, or sharing a family dinner together at the table. Behavior in this movie revolves around being loving considerate family members no matter what the action. Any smiles or excitement not motivated by direction were utilized and helped keep with the movies themes. When Mr. Smith brings about the conflict of the family having to move despite their wish to stay, almost immediately the family members disperse and leave him to himself. Even though they are greatly upset, all it takes is a song by Mr. and Mrs. Smith to bring them back into each other's company and show they will be family no matter where they live.

Violence rarely arises in this film and is dealt with in a wholesome way. When everyone thinks Tooty was hit by John Truit he is attacked by Ester, but when confronted with the truth she sincerely apologizes and quickly returns to her innocent nature. The turning point in the movie occurs when Tooty becomes violent with the snow people representative of her family. This act of violence provides Mr. Smith with the revelation that moving would only cause problems within the family and thus he changes his mind. There is no death, the audience is not exposed to blood or fighting, and violence is quickly and easily defused. Many people watching this movie in 1944 wished it had been that easy to resolve all violence. They could only experience it by watching a movie taking place in 1903.

The time this movie takes place also provides some character traits and plot elements. Family dinners are shared in each other's company. Grandpa Smith is not in a nursing home. He is very much an important functioning member of the family. This shows just how important family was back then and how in 1903 family came before anything. The family revolves around the respected father. Dinner will not be served early without his approval and he can even make a family decision about moving on his own. In the early 1900's the father worked hard all day to support the family and was given respect and the authority to run the household as he pleased. This is the same respect and authority my mother has today. Parties break out into song and dance in the living room. Back then everyone knew specific dance routines because song and dance was a much more major form of entertainment. Rose tells her sister "Nice girls don't let men kiss them until after they're engaged". Marriage was a girl's future and it would be planned around this. These are just a few examples of how 1903 was different from 1944 and especially different from today. All these things combine in a movie that accomplishes its goal of distracting the viewer and temporarily taking them away from a more difficult life and a violent society.

Raging Bull does just the opposite. It is an in your face display of just how violent people and life can be. This movie takes place in the 1940's when most people were trying to escape violence and shows you a man whose whole life revolved around it.

Its purpose is to expose the audience to its gruesome nature to make the audience



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