Kevin M. Flanagan
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Interiority, claustrophobia and decadence in cosmopolitan London cinema of the 1960s and 1970s
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This chapter identifies and surveys a counterintuitive strand of London films made by non-native filmmakers whose thematic and spatial focus is not on the breadth, freedom and possibility of the public city but rather on its private spaces. These ‘inner space’ films dwell on issues arising from the obsessive over-identification with interior spaces (apartments, flats, studios, workplaces), often to the extent that the central characters forsake the city streets in favour of private worlds of their own making. The chapter traces a cosmopolitan strand of inner space cinema that gels with issues explored by key British writers of the moment, but that very deliberately defines the city from the position of the outsider looking inward. American director Joseph Losey and Hungarian writer George Tabori’s film Secret Ceremony (1968, adapted from a novella by Argentine writer Marco Denevi) explores an obsessive, codependent relationship between mother and surrogate daughter that largely plays out inside Debenham House in Holland Park. The other film explored in depth is Tabori and Losey’s Leo the Last (1970), about the coming-to-political-consciousness of a deposed European aristocrat (Marcello Mastroianni) who is exiled to a West London home and who undergoes a personal transformation based on his gradual engagement with the outside world. Taken together, the films explored in this chapter advance an unconventional notion: the inner spaces of London, as represented and explored by those who look at the city from without, are key sites for dramatising and defining a full understanding of the metropolis. With their attention to issues typically outside the remit of urban experience (small-scale observation, confinement), they provide new windows on a frequently studied moment.

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Global London on screen

Visitors, cosmopolitans and migratory cinematic visions of a superdiverse city


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