As distinct from those films that directly ‘quote’ from Brief Encounter,
there are many more that seem in various ways to echo it. We can’t know to
what extent the filmmakers involved had Brief Encounter in mind, but the
fact is that its essential scenario and moral core still retain their
emotional power, despite the shifts in cultural mores, irresistibly
suggesting the long shadow it casts. Those titles considered here involve,
to varying degrees, a relationship whose outcome foregrounds the conflict of
desire and – what? – convention, other obligations, decency and other
circumstantial and/or moral pressures that one or both protagonists take
into consideration. It is not simply a matter of ‘duty’ but, as well, a real
concern for the well-being of other people and for one’s own self-respect,
the two being intricately connected in Brief Encounter. And there are
recurring images, visual and aural, that recall the old film.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book considers memory as a specific framework for the study of popular film, intervening in growing debates about the status and function of memory in cultural life and discourse. It 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 book explores the political stakes of cinematic discourse in its production of national memory. It also examines the discursive and institutional apparatus that has come to support the memory of Classic Hollywood in British cultural life. The book also 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.