Playing with Cinema: The Master of the Con Game Film

Yannis Tzioumakis

in The Spanish Prisoner

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print April 2009 | ISBN: 9780748633685
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748671236 | DOI:
Playing with Cinema: The Master of the Con Game Film

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This main focal point of this chapter is The Spanish Prisoner’s generic status. It introduces the labels ‘con artist film’ and ‘con game film’ and argues that Mamet’s film is an example of the second category. Although con game films share a number of traits and conventions with crime films and thrillers (almost universally film critics have labelled The Spanish Prisoner a crime film and/or a thriller) they also present fundamental differences. Arguably, the most important difference is that while the disruption of the equilibrium in the narrative of crime films is marked by physical violence, in con artist films it is marked by failure in a character’s cognitive abilities to recognise the truth behind appearances. This failure is also “anticipated” on a spectatorial level as the dense plots of such films and their complicated narration prevent all but the most alert of spectators from grasping the finer details of elaborate confidence tricks that constitute the narratives of such films. After introducing the key characteristics of the con artist and the con game film, the chapter provides a close analysis of The Spanish Prisoner as a representative example of the latter generic label.

Keywords: Genre; Con artist film; Con game film; Crime film; Thriller; Narration; spectatorship

Chapter.  13727 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Film

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