What is a genre in cinema? Study of comedy

Recent analyzes of cinema economics have shown that comedy films are the ones that work best in France. We think for example of La Grande vadrouille ( Gérard Oury,1966), which was for a long time the French film that made the most entries in French and world theaters. However, if this genre seems to be able to be identifiable by all, it is nevertheless very difficult to define comedy today, so much this genre varies according to the times and the cultures.

It is by seeking to reduce these blurred outlines, while taking an interest in the notion of genre in cinema, that we are going to look at two models of comedy, the classic Hollywood comedy illustrated by Ernst Lubitsch and Frank Capra, and comedy “À l’italienne” (see the article by Louis D’Orazio), of which Mario Monicelli is one of the representatives – in reference to the programming of the film library. As you watch 123movies tv you can have the best choices here.

The first step

The first step is to define what a genre is in cinema, while asking why this generic determination is essential. This word taken from Latin refers to the idea of category, of grouping: establishing generic classifications is therefore ultimately what makes it possible to construct a discourse on cinema, by classifying films according to fields, eras, cultures. Genres obviously only exist if they are recognized as such by critics and the public. For comedy, this seems simple since laughter alone seems to be able to attest to the relevance of bringing such and such a film into the category of the comic genre: if one laughs in front of a film, it is because it is a comedy, and the more we laugh, the more successful the film is.

However, everything is not always so concrete in the generic determinations. This becomes more complicated if we think for example of the melodrama according to Jean-Loup Bourget in Le Mélodrame hollywoodien. Bourget summons up four easily identifiable criteria within the works, and if one of them is not present in the film, it is because the latter is not a melodrama. There must be a victim, a drama, great excitement, twists and turns and the film must not be Manichean.

Definition of Melodrama

This definition of melodrama is therefore very strict and makes it possible to attribute the generic determination in a concrete way. This classification by genre allows in a second step the birth of a metafilmic discourse, the directors having fun creating within the films sets of repetitions and variations in a set of narrative, iconographic and stylistic conventions. Genres therefore structure our relationship to the world and to the cinema. We can distinguish two main categories: romantic genres – melodrama.


However, the weakness of the generic identity of the comedy compared to the example of the melodrama that we have just cited is recalled by Jacques Aumont and Michel Marie in the Dictionnaire theorique et critique du cinema. Henri Bergson was already one of the first to define the different categories of comedy in Le Rire: the comedy of words, situation or even character. If there is comedy, it does not always take its source in the same cogs, and that is what makes this genre very diverse.