This introduction engages with issues such as Britain’s traditions of intellectualism and anti-intellectualism and how these pertain to the history of British film. We consider how far British films conform to class-based, ideologically informed notions of ‘high art’; the tensions between highbrow and low art in British cinema; the complexities of state-funded and independent British filmmaking; and the question of how far artistic creativity, entertainment and commerce might co-exist within a conceptual British ‘art’ cinema. Attention is paid to the relationship between the modernist movement and British cinema; the relationship between British cinema, Hollywood and US popular culture; historical conditions in which British art cinema develops and flourishes; and the transnational nature of much of what we call British cinema, and British art cinema in particular.
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.