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Television drama and the politics and aesthetics of identity

This book poses the question as to whether, over the last thirty years, there have been signs of ‘progress’ or ‘progressiveness’ in the representation of ‘marginalised’ or subaltern identity categories within television drama in Britain and the US. In doing so, it interrogates some of the key assumptions concerning the relationship between aesthetics and the politics of identity that have influenced and informed television drama criticism during this period. The book functions as a textbook because it provides students with a pathway through complex, wide-reaching and highly influential interdisciplinary terrain. Yet its re-evaluation of some of the key concepts that dominated academic thought in the twentieth century also make it of interest to scholars and specialists. Chapters examine ideas around politics and aesthetics emerging from Marxist-socialism and postmodernism, feminism and postmodern feminism, anti-racism and postcolonialism, queer theory and theories of globalisation, so as to evaluate their impact on television criticism and on television as an institution. These discussions are consolidated through case studies that offer analyses of a range of television drama texts including Big Women, Ally McBeal, Supply and Demand, The Bill, Second Generation, Star Trek (Enterprise), Queer as Folk, Metrosexuality and The Murder of Stephen Lawrence.

Theory, practice and difference

While women directors continue to be a minority in most national and transnational film contexts, there are those among them who rank among the most innovative and inventive of filmmakers. Filmmaking by women becomes an important route to exploring what lies outside of and beyond the stereotype through reflexivity on violence and conflict, and through visual and narrative explorations of migration, exile, subjectivity, history or individual and collective memory. By documenting and interpreting a fascinating corpus of films made by women coming from Latin America, the US, Portugal and Spain, this book proposes research strategies and methodologies that can expand our understanding of socio-cultural and psychic constructions of gender and sexual politics. It critically examines the work of Hispanic and Lusophone female filmmakers. It 'weaves' several 'threads' by working at the intersections between feminist film theory, gender studies and film practices by women in Latin America, the US, Portugal and Spain. The book explores the transcultural connections, as well as the cultural specificities, that can be established between Spanish, Portuguese, Latin American and Latino contexts within and beyond the framework of the nation state. It suggests that the notion of home and of Basque motherland carry potentially different resonances for female directors.

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This book provides a comprehensive account of Robert Guédiguian’s numerous films since 1980, combining stylistic analyses with historical, political, and generic context. More importantly, it makes the case that Guédiguian’s work represents one of the most discretely original but radical projects of contemporary French cinema: to make politically committed films with friends, predominately in a local space, over a long period of time. The book starts with a consideration of the philosophy of friendship and its relation to politics, relation, difference, time, and space. It concentrates on Guédiguian’s early life in the Estaque neighbourhood of Marseilles, where he became politically active and developed the friendships that would continue in his filmmaking, as well as Guédiguian’s disillusionment with the Communist Party. It then examines the political pessimism of the 1980s through Guédiguian’s four early films. The book examines the turn toward local activism and utopianism in the 1990s, and follows Guédiguian’s work as it spreads into diverse experimentation with genres and registers in more recent work. It emphasises Guédiguian’s political assessments and his frequent meditations on history, violence, and utopia. But it returns consistently to the underlying themes of friendship, and thus intervenes at the crossroads of affect, politics, philosophy, and art.

Open Access (free)
Editor: Paul Grainge

As a technology able to picture and embody the temporality of the past, cinema has become central to the mediation of memory in modern cultural life. The memory of film scenes and movies screens, cinema and cinema-going, has become integral to the placement and location of film within the cultural imagination of this century and the last. This book is a sustained, interdisciplinary perspective on memory and film from early cinema to the present. The first section 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 second section examines the politics of memory in a series of chapters that take as their focus three pivotal sites of national conflict in postwar America. This includes the war in Vietnam, American race relations and the Civil Rights Movement, and the history of marginality in the geographic and cultural borderlands of the US. The book explores the articulation of Vietnam. The final section concentrates on the issue of mediation; it explores how technological and semiotic shifts in the cultural terrain have influenced the coding and experience of memory in contemporary cinema. It 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. The book also examines the stakes of cultural remembering in the United States and the means by which memory has been figured through Hollywood cinema.

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The costume adventure series

This book explores the history of swashbuckling television from its origins in the 1950s. It is the first study of one of the most popular and enduring genres in television history, the costume adventure series. Harlech Television's (HTV) Arthur of the Britons and Southern Television's The Black Arrow, which both aired in December 1972, were the first new British costume adventure series since Sir Francis Drake in 1961. The book then maps the major production cycles of the Anglophone swashbuckler both in Britain and in the United States and places the genre in its historical, cultural and institutional contexts. It analyses the cultural politics of the swashbuckler, considering how it has been a vehicle for the representation of ideologies of class, gender and nationhood. The book further shows how the success of The Adventures of Robin Hood in the 1950s established a template for a genre that has been one of the most successful of British television exports. It considers how America responded to the 'British invasion' with its own swashbuckling heroes such as Zorro. Finally, the book focuses on four British swashbucklers of the 1980s, Dick Turpin, Smuggler, Adventurer and Robin of Sherwood, that represent a distinct cycle within the genre.

British television and constructs of race

Adjusting the contrast National and cultural identity, ethnicity and difference have always been major themes within the national psyche. People are witnessing the rise and visibility of far-right politics and counter-movements in the UK and USA. Simultaneously, there is an urgent need to defend the role of public service media. This book emerges at a time when these shifts and conjunctures that impact on and shape how 'race' and racial difference are perceived. They are coinciding with rapidly changing media contexts and environments and the kinds of racial representations that are constructed within public service broadcasting (PSB), specifically the BBC and Channel 4. The book explores a range of texts and practices that address the ongoing phenomenon of race and its relationship to television. Policies and the management of race; transnationalism and racial diversity; historical questions of representation; the myth of a multicultural England are also explored. It interrogates three television primarily created by women, written by women, feature women in most of the lead roles, and forcefully reassert the place of women in British history. The book contributes to the range of debates around television drama and black representation, examining BBC's Shoot the Messenger and Top Boy. Finally, it explores some of the history that led to the belated breakthrough of Black and Asian British comedy. The book also looks at the production of jokes about race and colour prior to the 1980s and 1990s, and questioning what these jokes tell us about British multiculturalism in this period.

New heart and new spirit
Editor: Wickham Clayton

The extreme profitability of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ in 2004 came as a great surprise to the Hollywood establishment, particularly considering its failure to find production funding through a major studio. Since then the biblical epic, long thought dead in terms of widespread marketability, has become a viable product. These screen texts, primarily film and television features adapting stories from both the Old and New Testaments, have seen production both inside and outside of Hollywood. Seeking both profits and critical acclaim, as well as providing outlets for auteurist ‘passion projects’ such as Gibson’s film, Darren Aronofsky’s Noah (2014) and Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014), these texts both follow previous biblical epic traditions, as well as appear distinct stylistically and thematically from the biblical epic in its prime. With 2018 seeing the highly publicised release of Mary Magdalene, an attempt at a feminist take on this controversial figure, as well as Gibson’s announcement that he is in production on a follow-up to The Passion of the Christ, there is no clear evidence that the steady production of biblical media will abate anytime soon. Therefore, academic consideration of the modern biblical epic is both timely and highly relevant. With contributions from scholars such as Mikel J. Koven, Andrew B. R. Elliott and Martin Stollery, and a preface from Adele Reinhartz, this collection aims to be a starting point for initiating this discourse.

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Marguerite Duras embarked on a second career as a film director in the late 1960s; by then was already a well-known and highly acclaimed novelist and playwright. Bearing in mind this dual influence, this book presents an outline of Duras's early life and of her later political preoccupations, highlighting the relationship between these two dimensions and her films. Duras's aim was to transcend the limitations of both literature and cinema by creating an écriture filmique. Working within the 1970s French avant-garde, Marguerite Duras set out to dismantle the mechanisms of mainstream cinema, progressively undermining conventional representation and narrative and replacing them with her own innovative technique. The making of Nathalie Granger in 1972 coincided with the period of intense political activity and lively theoretical debates, which marked the early years of the post-1968 French feminist movement. India Song questions the categories of gender and sexuality constructed by the patriarchal Symbolic order by foregrounding the Imaginary. Agatha mirrors transgressive relationship and quasi-incestuous adolescent relationship, as the film resonates with the off-screen voices of Duras and Yann Andréa who also appears on the image-track where he represents Agatha's anonymous brother. Her work, both in literature and in film, distinguishes itself by its oblique, elusive quality which evokes her protagonists' inner landscape instead of dwelling on the appearances of the external world.

The Clash, the dawn of neoliberalism and the political promise of punk
Editor: Colin Coulter

There are few bands that have enjoyed as much adoration or endured as much criticism as The Clash. Emerging originally as a principal voice in the burgeoning mid-1970s London punk scene, The Clash would soon cast off the fetters that restricted many of their peers, their musical tastes becoming ever more eclectic and their political field of vision ever more global. In the process, the band would widen the cultural and political horizons of their audience and would for many come to exemplify the power of popular music to change minds. While The Clash would attract a great deal of critical acclaim, this would always be less than universal. In the eyes of their many detractors, the radical political stance of the band was little more than self-mythologising posture, neatly serving the culture industries in their perennial goal of ‘turning rebellion into money’. In this collection, scholars working out of very different contexts and academic traditions set out to examine this most complex and controversial of bands. Across a dozen original essays, the authors provide fresh insights into the music and politics of The Clash in ways that are by turns both critical and celebratory. While the book seeks to locate the band in their own time and place, it also underlines their enduring and indeed very contemporary significance. A common thread running though the essays here is that the songs The Clash wrote four decades ago to document a previous, pivotal moment of geopolitical transformation have a remarkable resonance in our own current moment of prolonged global turbulence. Written in a style that is both scholarly and accessible, Working for the clampdown offers compelling and original takes on one of the most influential and incendiary acts ever to grace a stage.

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Laurent Cantet is of one France’s leading contemporary directors. He probes the evolution and fault-lines of contemporary society from the home to the workplace and from the Republican school to globalized consumption more acutely than perhaps any other French film-maker. His films always challenge his characters’ assumptions about their world. But they also make their spectators rethink their position in relation to what they see. This is what makes Cantet such an important film-maker, the book argues. It explores Cantet’s unique working ‘method,’ his use of amateur actors and attempt to develop an egalitarian authorship that allows other voices to be heard rather than subsumed. It discusses his way of constructing films at the uneasy interface of the individual, the group and the broader social context and his recourse to melodramatic strategies and moments of shame to force social tensions into view. It shows how the roots of the well-known later films can be found in his early works. It explores the major fictions from Ressources humaines to the recent Foxfire, Confessions of a Girl Gang. It combines careful close analysis with attention to broader cinematic, social and political contexts while drawing on a range of important theorists from Pierre Bourdieu to Jacques Rancière, Michael Bakhtin and Mary Ann Doane. It concludes by examining how, resolutely contemporary of the current moment, Cantet helps us rethink the possibilities and limits of political cinema in a context in which old resistances have fallen silent and new forms of protest are only emergent.