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A cinematic response to pessimism
Davide Panagia

In this chapter, the author begins with a dangerous contention he hold to be true: film is in direct competition with God for the creation of worlds. The issue of aesthetic absorption bespeaks a further element of Stanley Cavell's writings on film-learning that Dienstag's "Letter" sidesteps; namely, the matter of ekphrasis. "A reading of a film," Cavell states, "sets up a continuous appeal to the experience of the film, or rather to an active memory of the experience (or an active anticipation of acquiring the experience)." It is at the point at which memories count as the fragmented traces upon which to construct a claim about film's legitimacy that Cavell encounters Dienstag's mood of pessimism which affirms that "Nothing is permanent".

in Cinema, democracy and perfectionism
Letter to M. Cavell about cinema (a remake)
Joshua Foa Dienstag

This chapter engages in a critical encounter with the work of Stanley Cavell on cinema, focusing skeptical attention on the claims made for the contribution of cinema to the ethical character of democratic life. In 1757, Jean d'Alembert wrote an entry on "Genève" in the seventh volume of the Encyclopédie, the great encapsulation of the Enlightenment, of which he was also one of the general editors. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, born in Geneva, had contributed many entries to the Encyclopédie on music and political economy and was well known as a composer and patron of the theater. Determined to oppose Voltaire's suggestion that theater represented cultural and political progress, he wrote a public letter to his editor and friend. It was published in 1758 as Letter to M. d'Alembert on the Theatre. It provoked an extended public exchange and represented Rousseau's permanent break from d'Alembert, Diderot and all his former Enlightenment allies.

in Cinema, democracy and perfectionism
Margaret Kohn

In this chapter, the author suggests that films and even television shows can be texts that encourage reflexivity about moral paradox, political obligation and community. He will do this through a reading of a more recent work in the genre of "the tragedy of remarriage": the television show The Americans. The Americans is a commercially successful spy drama set in Washington, DC in the early 1980s. It incorporates aspects of high and low culture. It combines the elaborate atmospherics of Mad Men with elements of the spy genre, but at its core it is a story about marriage and, to a lesser degree, about politics. The author clarifies how The Americans resembles the other remarriage films and illuminates the issues they raise. Finally, he explains what insights he can draw from the show and whether these insights could fortify democracy.

in Cinema, democracy and perfectionism
Queen Victoria, photography and film at the fin de siècle
Ian Christie

As moving pictures became a reality during 1895-6, Europe's crowned heads discovered the new medium and what it could do for their image. The earliest royal films made in Britain showed Victoria's extended family with a new informality, and were eagerly viewed by their subjects. However, it was the staging of Victoria's 1897 Diamond Jubilee as a vast procession through London, filmed by 18 companies whose products were distributed throughout Britain and the distant territories of the Empire, that showed how powerfully film could project the monarchy in a new way - immediate, accessible and impressive. Victoria's successors, her sons Edward and George, came to the throne having grasped the potential of film. Meanwhile, two of her relations Kaiser Wilhelm and Tsar Nicholas, were also the subjects of early filming Nicholas's coronation in 1896 was the first such event to be recorded on film, but a record of the disaster that followed, when thousands were killed in a crowd panic, was quickly suppressed. Nicholas would remain suspicious of film as a mass medium, while enjoying it as a private family record, until he gave permission for a film to celebrate the tercentenary of the Romanov dynasty in 1913 - the same year that a full-scale acted tribute to Victoria, Sixty Years a Queen, appeared.

in The British monarchy on screen
Editor: Mandy Merck

Moving images of the British monarchy, in fact and fiction, are almost as old as the moving image itself, dating back to an 1895 dramatic vignette, The Execution of Mary Queen of Scots. Led by Queen Victoria, British monarchs themselves appeared in the new 'animated photography' from 1896. Half a century later, the 1953 coronation of Elizabeth II was a milestone in the adoption of television, watched by 20 million Britons and 100 million North Americans. At the century's end, Princess Diana's funeral was viewed by 2.5 billion worldwide. Seventeen essays by international commentators examine the portrayal of royalty in the 'actuality' picture, the early extended feature, amateur cinema, the movie melodrama, the Commonwealth documentary, New Queer Cinema, TV current affairs, the big screen ceremonial and the post-historical boxed set. These contributors include Ian Christie, Elisabeth Bronfen, Andrew Higson, Steven Fielding, Karen Lury, Glyn Davis, Ann Gray, Jane Landman, Victoria Duckett, Jude Cowan Montague, James Downs, Barbara Straumann, Deirdre Gilfedder, Jo Stephenson, Ruth Adams, Erin Bell, Basil Glynn and Nicola Rehling.

Open Access (free)
The cinematic afterlife of an early modern political diva
Elisabeth Bronfen and Barbara Straumann

Elizabeth I anticipated the enmeshment between celebrity culture and political power that characterizes the modern diva. This chapter explores the ways that the body of the queen and its theatricalization intersect with the body of the modern film star, focusing on Flora Robson, Bette Davis and Cate Blanchett in their highly diverse enactments of this early modern monarch. Highlighting the double-voicing at play in cinema's historical reimagination of Elizabeth I, it considers the political contexts in which she becomes culturally significant again (1930s national sovereignty, 1940s war eff01i, 1990s spin-doctoring). If the queen's two bodies bring together her physical being and her symbolic mandate, the mediality of her material embodiment becomes foregrounded. Addressing the conflict between private person and public persona particular to female sovereignty, each of these film divas differently embodies the historical queen as a figure of twentieth century celebrity culture.

in The British monarchy on screen
Contemporary ‘British’ cinema and the nation’s monarchs
Andrew Higson

The quarter century since Kenneth Branagh's Henry V(1989) has seen numerous representations of English and Scottish monarchs, both legendary and historical, in 'British' films. Some of these films function as biopics, some as dramas in which the monarch is the protagonist and some as costume dramas or historical films in which monarchs appear only briefly. At one level these films are more or less conventional products, designed to appeal to particular global markets, and often UK-US co productions. Here the relevant questions are the circumstances of production and circulation, and the extent to which the films rework established genre conventions. At another level, the representation of monarchy in these films plays a key role in the maintenance and renewal of the national institution. In this context, this chapter will examine how these films negotiate the shift from the absolutist power of the pre-modem and early modem monarchy to the 'postpolitical' constitutional monarchy of the contemporary period. As they move toward the present day, the monarch becomes both an ordinary person, the private individual in the family and household, and an extraordinary figure, surrounded by all the ceremony and pomp of royal1itual and costume drama, a spectacular image for a global brand.

in The British monarchy on screen
Screening Victoria
Steven Fielding

Queen Victoria has been depicted on the screen on over a hundred occasions, by some of our leading actors. Her film depictions, while ostensibly about history, may also help to 'reorganise the present', in Pierre Sorlin's description. This chapter will assess the changing - and not so changing - ways in which Victoria has been represented on the screen. Victoria the Great (1937) and (the second version of) Sixty Glorious Years (1938) show the Queen as embodying the imperial consensus of the time. Yet those made after the outbreak of the People's War - such as The Prime Minister (1941) and The Mudlark (1950)- present the monarch as more concerned with her people's economic welfare, as the social democratic consensus emerges. Recent examples have pushed politics into the background and focused on Victoria's emotional life - as in Mrs. Brown (1997) and The Young Victoria (2009). Such works present the Queen as a victim of birth, tradition, politicians and popular expectations - and explore the personal tensions inherent in being the national figurehead. Yet, while increasingly portraying the personal dilemmas of a monarch caught within an unforgivinginstitution, these films also stress the central importance of the monarchy to the nation. Such dramatic licence might annoy historians, but it suggests a vigorous faith in a monarchy that allegedly transcends petty party politics and enjoys direct communion with the people. As such, film representations of Victoria bolster the continuing popularity of an inherently undemocratic institution.

in The British monarchy on screen
Open Access (free)
Sarah Bernhardt, Queen Elizabeth and the development of motion pictures
Victoria Duckett

Sarah Bernhardt's Queen Elizabeth (Henri Desfontaines and Louis Mercanton, 1911) was an international popular success, released in the US as a headline attraction for the Famous Players company founded by Charles Frohman and Adolph Zukor in order to distribute the film. It drew other theatrical stars to the cinema and helped to inaugurate the longer playing narrative film, furthering a new category of spectacle in cinema itself. Yet scholars and historians have long denounced Queen Elizabeth as anachronistic and stagey, material proof of its star's inability to engage with film. Examining specific scenes and shots, this chapter will show that the film's appropriation of a rich history of the stage, painting and literature challenges us to think of early cinema in new and provocative ways. The aim is not to uncover a lost masterpiece, but to demonstrate that only today, at a point at which we can discuss intermediality, transnational art forms and feminism as related undertakings, is it possible to explore Bernhardt's 'moving' Tudor Queen.

in The British monarchy on screen
Open Access (free)
Mandy Merck
in The British monarchy on screen