This chapter presents an account of the development of Olivier Assayas' career, before seeking to explore this idea of what one might call 'catastrophe cinema.' It deals with his distrust of the politique des auteurs, and in particular of the canon of classical Hollywood directors that it championed - he has criticised academic film studies for setting in stone classical Hollywood as the only period worthy of study, the result of an 'historic cinephilia', which has mummified and excluded certain filmmakers. As Fin août, début septembre and Irma Vep demonstrate, Assayas has a complex relationship with notions of authorship. He has allied himself to a particular perspective in both theoretical and practical terms yet he is acutely aware of the dangers of a theory that has been co-opted by academia. The 'catastrophic mode' adopted by Assayas' film might offer an alternative to the traditional critical strategy defended by Elizabeth Walden.
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.