By looking at the changing economic, institutional and cultural circumstances governing the production and circulation of British films since the 1980s, this chapter explores the emergence of various kinds of ‘British art cinema’ that emerged during this period. In particular, it indicates the way in which public funding, lottery revenues and television finance have underpinned the emergence of a range of British films that join a tradition of international art cinema. Although the films concerned exhibit many of the ‘classic’ features of art cinema – personal self-expression, formal invention, generic self-consciousness – the chapter indicates how the conventions of ‘art cinema’ have continued to mutate and extend in different directions. This chapter therefore attempts to map some of the diverse strands of British art cinema that have emerged since the 1980s and weigh up the critical discourses that have attached to them. In particular, it looks at the significance of the ‘realist’ tradition for British art cinema and the way in which this has fuelled debates about ‘poetic realism’ and ‘social art cinema’. It also looks at the more overtly modernist/postmodernist strand of British art cinema and its links with both other art practices and more general socio-political currents.
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.