Film, Media and Music

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Jeffrey Pence

This chapter focuses on the agonistic dimension of contemporary technological changes as manifested in cinema. While its new technical and stylistic possibilities suggested an early potential to contribute to political or aesthetic innovation, cinema actually carried the burden of memory in modernity. The collapse of the cinematic into its postcinematic other symptomised by Oliver Stone's film parallels a more widely perceived decline of perspective and critical authority in postmodernity. The postcinematic effort to manage memory through denaturalised representation aims to ameliorate the traumas of subjective, familial and social life. The palpable dysfunctions of technologised memory in Atom Egoyan's work encourage suspicion in viewers towards the images and actions before them. Egoyan continuously contrasts an acculturated, technologised metropole with the residual attractions of an organic cultural identity.

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National snapshots

Fixing the past in English war films

Fred Inglis

At the very end of Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg presents us with a screen-filling view of the Stars and Stripes. Michael Powell's and Emeric Pressburger's wonderful inauguration of a small cinematic epoch of war films is, of course, A Matter of Life and Death. The war films of the 1950s together constitute the assented-to record of the emotions and moral judgments called upon to set in order those disorderly events. The 1950s films, with remarkable grace and celerity, dramatised and taught the same lessons within the family frame of the English at war. From the vantage point not only of the victors but of human emancipation at large, the retelling of the defeat of fascism makes for stories with plot, point, moral grip and a powerful ending. Its constituents are to be found in the English war films of the 1950s.

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The national health

Pat Jackson’s White Corridors

Charles Barr

White Corridors, a hospital drama first shown in June 1951, belongs to the small class of fictional films that deny themselves a musical score. Even the brief passages that top and tail the film, heard over the initial credits and the final image, were added against the wish of its director, Pat Jackson. Jackson's first wartime assignment was a short film released in November 1940, Health in War, an early example of the type of documentary that takes the enforced changes of the time as the foundation for a better future. The achievement of White Corridors is to find both an appropriate topical subject in the National Health Service (NHS) and an absorbing way of dramatising it as a commercial project. White Corridors can be seen as an unofficial sequel both to Health in War and to the unrealised Beveridge film.

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The movie-made Movement

Civil rites of passage

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Sharon Monteith

Historical facts as we retrieve and interpret them are only one facet of the movie-made Movement. This chapter assesses what films made after the civil rights era of the 1950s and 1960s express about the failure of the Movement to sustain and be sustained in its challenges to inequality and racist injustice. It argues that popular cultural currency relies on invoking images present in the sedimented layers of civil rights preoccupations but that in the 1980s and 1990s movies also tap into 'structures of feeling'. Movie memories circulate among producers, directors, and audiences; an archival memory-store of civil rights iconography, or an 'arcade' of motifs, to borrow Walter Benjamin's terminology, finds space in the popular cultural imaginary that is contemporary cinema. Mississippi Burning was the first Hollywood blockbuster to focus on the Movement.

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‘Mortgaged to music’

New retro movies in 1990s Hollywood cinema

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Philip Drake

This chapter argues that the selectiveness and historical contingency of this remembered, memorialised past is increasingly dependent upon, and recycled within, audiovisual representations such as those found in popular film. It considers how 1990s Hollywood cinema has activated a selective, revised sense of the past, and how memory approaches to film history are able to analyse this. The chapter explores how popular cultural memory is drawn upon as an aesthetic and commercial strategy of Hollywood; that is, how the styles of the past provide a powerful means through which a film can be branded and marketed to audiences. It focuses on the use of music as a significant means through which memories of the past may be evoked in the present. Music is able to index popular memory and nostalgia in ways that are specific to the medium, and quite unlike visual forms.

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Corin Redgrave

In 1958 Michael Redgrave was appearing for the third and last time at Stratford-upon-Avon. The parts he played that year were Hamlet and Benedick in Much Ado about Nothing. The Mountebank's Tale was published by Heinemann, but is now a rarity, a collector's item. It is a tale of two actors, or rather an actor and his double. Joseph Charles is a supremely gifted, cultivated, classical actor in the Austrian theatre. Joseph Charles is preparing a light comedy whose plot relies on the presence of a pair of identical twins. This chapter focuses on three best films of 1950s: The Dam Busters, The Quiet American and The Browning Version. The film The Dam Busters was directed by Michael Anderson. The film The Quiet American was directed by Joseph Mankiewicz.

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Robert Burgoyne

This chapter explores some of the implications of computer generated imagery for the cinematic representation of the past. It focuses on the most contested and controversial area of contemporary fiction cinema's representation of the past, the use of documentary images as a mode of imaginative reconstruction or re-enactment. The chapter presents an argument that has been made by Alison Landsberg, who has coined the term 'prosthetic memory' to describe the way mass cultural technologies of memory enable individuals to experience events through which they themselves did not live. These arguments appear to have a particular salience for understanding the popularity and the larger cultural significance of films such as Forrest Gump, JFK, Glory, The Hurricane and Saving Private Ryan. The most striking uses of digital compositing and morphing in film is found in Forrest Gump, which digitally rewrites some of the most sensitive scenes of the American past.

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Edited by: Paul Grainge

As a technology able to picture and embody the temporality of the past, cinema has become central to the mediation of memory in modern cultural life. The memory of film scenes and movies screens, cinema and cinema-going, has become integral to the placement and location of film within the cultural imagination of this century and the last. This book is a sustained, interdisciplinary perspective on memory and film from early cinema to the present. The first section examines the relationship between official and popular history and the constitution of memory narratives in and around the production and consumption of American cinema. The second section examines the politics of memory in a series of chapters that take as their focus three pivotal sites of national conflict in postwar America. This includes the war in Vietnam, American race relations and the Civil Rights Movement, and the history of marginality in the geographic and cultural borderlands of the US. The book explores the articulation of Vietnam. The final section concentrates on the issue of mediation; it explores how technological and semiotic shifts in the cultural terrain have influenced the coding and experience of memory in contemporary cinema. It considers both the presence of music and colour in nostalgia films of the 1990s and the impact of digital and video technologies on the representational determinants of mediated memory. The book also examines the stakes of cultural remembering in the United States and the means by which memory has been figured through Hollywood cinema.

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‘Look behind you!’

Memories of cinema-going in the ‘Golden Age’ of Hollywood

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Sarah Stubbings

This chapter explores formations of memory in a contemporary British context, specifically as it relates to memories of cinema-going that have been reproduced in local newspapers. It focuses on generational memories of cinema-going in what has been discursively construed as the 'Golden Age' of cinema, a period figured around the Hollywood studio era of the 1930s and 1940s. The chapter explains four main themes: identity, community, morality and decline. It examines these four areas in order to draw out their significance in terms of the process of framing memory in cultural terms. The psychologist Joseph Fitzgerald has argued that 'personal identity is a culturally and historically specific notion', which he locates within modern Western society. The morality evinced by films of the Golden Age is taken by many readers to explain the widespread level of audience participation.

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The long shadow

Robert Hamer after Ealing

Philip Kemp

Robert Hamer's episode, 'The Haunted Mirror', locates him on the shadow side of Ealing, in the maverick strain that included Alberto Cavalcanti and Alexander Mackendrick. This chapter focuses on four Hamer's post-Ealing films: The Spider and the Fly, The Long Memory, Father Brown and The Scapegoat. Kind Hearts and Coronets confirmed Hamer as one of the most individual of British directors, only four years after his directorial debut. For his next film, Hamer embarked on an adaptation of The Shadow and the Peak, a novel by Richard Mason. He was even willing to reconsider The Shadow and the Peak, scheduling it among Ealing's forthcoming projects, and meantime Hamer was assigned to a filmed play, His Excellency. Throughout Hamer's later films he explores the Jekyll-and-Hyde theme of a man pitted against his doppelgänger, a person whom he opposes but feels tempted to resemble.