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Rumble Fish

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In thinking of films that are able to exemplify many film elements that are put together in an interesting and organized manner the movie Rumble Fish comes to mind. The director Francis Ford Coppola demonstrates how metaphors are able to help decipher a deeper meaning of the film. Rumble Fish is a film that is about growing up and seeing new things that have never been seen before. The two main characters who are brothers Rusty James and the Motorcycle Boy, experience internal conflicts. Rusty James the younger of the two looks up to his brother and wants to be like him. However the elder has grown out of his previous demeanor of always fighting and he doesn't want his brother to follow in his steps. Throughout the film he ask Rusty James why he is following him. The Motorcycle Boy knows that his brother is somewhat trapped in the city and someone needs to get him out or set him free. He looks to the fish in the pet store to explain this and it is how he relates to his brothers problems. This is the scene that will be examined of when Rusty James is in the pet store with his brother and they are looking at the fish. It has been explained how much everyone in town looks up to the Motorcycle Boy, and on numerous occasions Rusty James said he was going to look like him when he was older. Even though the Motorcycle Boy never shows much affection, he wants something better for his brother, and even though he never tells his brother to leave until the end when he knows he is going to die, he tries to let him know through the fish. So until this point in the movie the viewer never really knows how the Motorcycle Boy feels about his brother.
The pet store is a metaphor for the lives of these two brothers. The Motorcycle Boy feels the fish are angry because they are trapped in the fish tank, he says if they were in the river they would not fight. To him Rusty James is the fish and if he got out of their town he would realize that there is something more in life.
The scene starts with a dissolve of the clouds and a sign the says "Pet Store.

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Fish         Ford Coppola         Internal Conflicts         Looks         Deeper Meaning         Motorcycle         Fight         Tank         Viewer        




" The camera shows a double framing shot of Rusty James in the doorway of the pet store, where he pauses for a moment, and it seems that he might be unsure of whether he wants to go in or not. There is a cut to the Motorcycle Boy and he is staring into the fish tank. This scene contains the natural lighting that most of the other scenes have. Even though, the lighting is repetitive it is considered a motif of the film. Rusty James and his brother are tracked from fish tank to fish tank. The camera shot is at a straight on angle shot from the other side of the fish tank, which puts the two brothers in a double framing shot. The camera tracks the two brothers from each fish tank to the next as the Motorcycle Boy explains to Rusty James what the "rumble fish" are. The tracking does not add much to the scene however keeping both brothers together is important because it allows the viewer to see the facial expressions of both men. Tight framing is used when there is a two shot of the brothers from the other side of the fish tank, and the camera also shows exaggerated close-ups of the two brothers that are used for reaction shots. The dialogue is monotone, except for times when the Motorcycle Boy sounds sound by the condition of the fish, or the way Rusty James sounds when his brother is trying to explain what the fish are. All is he able to add to the conversation is, "I like the colors." Then when the officer enters the camera angles change somewhat. Since Rusty James and the officer are standing there is a low angle shot, and with the Motorcycle Boy who is kneeling there is a high angle shot. The editing consists of shot reverse shot between the three characters, with distinct close-ups that show detailed facial expressions. The Mise En Scene in this scene is limited compared to others, the lighting used is the standard used through most of the picture. The costumes are very realistic with Rusty James continuously wearing his tank top, however they are not elaborate. Coppola was able to create a film of this caliber and not have to use all the fancy film techniques of the time, and that is one reason why it is such a masterpiece.
When the two brothers are looking at the fish it is somber, in the way the speech is projected in such a low manner. The elder also tends to look quite somber, he relates to the fish and it makes him think about the life for himself and his brother so he becomes depressed. However, since both brothers are so enthralled with the fish it tends to be a light-hearted scene. When Rusty James listens to his brother about the fish let alone anything he finds it all interesting and he is happy to hear anything he has to say. Rusty James does look and sound quite confused when his brother is talking to him, he continuously scratches his head and also has a dumbfounded look on his face. The lighting does not change much in this scene however the natural lighting that is throughout the whole movie almost makes this movie what it is.
For the majority of the scene the camera is on the opposite side of the fish tanks, and even when it is not the scene always maintains an objective point of view. It is obvious that the camera is in an objective point of view because it is on the opposite side of the fish tank or it is directly in the face of Rusty James, the Motorcycle Boy or the officer. The objective angle across from the fish tank is exceptionally effective because it gives the viewer a chance to see the faces of the two brothers when the elder is explaining and the younger is trying to comprehend. The objective point of view adds to the way the viewer sees the way Rusty James feels about his brother.
As said before this scene says a lot about the intelligence level of Rusty James and also how much he looks up to his brother. As far as the Motorcycle boy is concerned this scene exemplifies how much he cares about his brother even though he is not able to show it. Even though Rusty James has such a hard time comprehending what his brother is taking about he still pays such close attention and does everything he can to understand what he is saying. He even tries to make comments that will add to the conversation. The Motorcycle Boy shows that he cares about his brother by the use of his metaphor of getting the fish out of the pet store compared to getting his brother out of town. Even though Rusty James may not be able to link these ideas together, the fact of him caring about his brother is brought out.
This film is full of scenes that are done beautifully, and there are many that could have been analyzed. However, noticing the metaphor of the fish to the two brothers it seemed that this would be a perfect scene to analyze. Most of the other scenes all contained the film elements that would allow for a wonderful analysis, however they did not always have the deeper meaning tied in. As far as the film elements this scene showed them as well as any other scene, with a beautiful example of the natural light used throughout the film. This is so very important to the overall meaning of the film because the title is explained. The Motorcycle Boy tells Rusty James that the fish are "rumble fish," and he thinks that is the fish were put in the river they would not fight anymore. He is explaining that people just like the fish would not fight so much if they had space, and this is the message that Coppola was trying to convey in creating this film.



S. E. Hinton had cut out a photograph of a boy and a motorcycle in a magazine, and kept the picture. The image stuck with her, and it inspired her to write a story. Rumble Fish was originally published in October, 1968, as a short story in Nimrod, a literary supplement to the University of Tulsa Magazine. This early work is an encapsulated version of the novel; the main difference between the two versions is the viewpoint narrator.

In the short story, Hinton switches viewpoints several times. When Hinton first attempted to convert the short story into a novel, she struggled with the decision of which character to use as her narrator. She wrote a draft using Steve Hays as her narrator, but did not like the completed manuscript. Steve was too smart, too well spoken, and too observant. He reminded her too much of Ponyboy Curtis and Bryon Douglas, the narrators from her first two novels, respectively. She decided to tell the story from Rusty-James’s point of view because he was a wholly different character than the ones she had devised in the past. Hinton considers Rumble Fish to be her most literary work.

In terms of themes and imagery, Rumble Fish is ambitious. Fate and destiny are the forces guiding Rusty-James’s life. Hinton explores this theme, too, in the characters of Dallas “Dally” Winston in The Outsiders (1967) and Mark Jennings in That Was Then, This Is Now (1971). In both cases, Hinton sets the reader up to accept that these characters were doomed from the start. However, because the reader sees Dally and Mark through Ponyboy’s and Bryon’s eyes, there is still some shred of hope for them. Hinton’s choice to make Rusty-James a predestined failure and show the reader the world through his eyes creates a tone for the story of hopelessness.

Rusty-James has given up on living even before the story begins. If there is nothing he can do to change his fate, why would anyone care about what happens to him? Hinton disproves the notion of fate by showing readers what has become of Steve in the five years that have passed since Motorcycle Boy’s death. Steve could have easily become like Rusty-James, but instead chose to leave their hometown and go to college. The difference between Steve and Rusty-James is a difference in attitude. Steve believes one can make his or her own luck, Rusty-James does not.

Hinton uses animal imagery to further identify her characters. Steve is often referred to as a rabbit; Motorcycle Boy as a panther. Rusty-James often refers to himself as a dog. Rusty-James’s choice illustrates that he sees himself as someone who is loyal. However, Motorcycle Boy calls Rusty-James a chameleon. This would imply that he sees Rusty-James as the kind of person who is always trying to fit in, compromising himself to be accepted.

In the pet store, the rumble fish are separated, one fish to a bowl. If two fish are put in the same bowl, they will fight to the death. They must be detached from others to survive, much like Motorcycle Boy. However, as Rusty-James and Motorcycle Boy’s father points out, Motorcycle Boy is not crazy; he had been born too late. He has an acute awareness of the state of the world. He might have fared better in life had he been born in a different era. Fate has played a cruel joke on Motorcycle Boy, and on the rumble fish.

Critical reaction to Rumble Fish has been mixed. Some critics fault Hinton for not writing another Ponyboy, and others do not like that Rusty-James is unable to fully express or understand what is happening around him. One review compares Hinton’s career to one of her characters, claiming her future in writing is as bleak as Rusty-James’s life. However, not all critics agree. Some consider her a brilliant novelist, and some praise Hinton for not sugarcoating her characters’ problems. Others like Rusty-James for the same reasons other reviewers do not. Despite the criticism, Rumble Fish has won many awards, including the American Library Association’s Best Books for Young Adults citation in 1975.