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Middle-class identity and documentary film

5 Approaching the invisible centre: middle-class identity and documentary film So far in this book I have considered various engagements with screen documentary made by viewers other than myself. In this chapter I turn attention to some of my own responses to documentary films, and explore how my identity, particularly its middleclass aspect, has shaped these reactions. The purpose behind this move is not to wallow in narcissism, nor to ‘restore’ a middleclass, white and male subjectivity to the centre stage of film and media studies – if it has ever been truly

in Watching the world

are evident in films about service life, though differences in rank receive surprisingly little emphasis once individuals are socialised into the institution by initial training. In spite of this, distinctions are implicit in the convention that those who give the orders are upper or middle class, as They Were Not Divided (d. Terence Young, 1950) illustrates, with NCOs occupying an ambiguous supervisory role. On the

in The British working class in postwar film
Recollections of war

hesitate any longer. He proposes to Iris as she is about to leave the hotel and she accepts. The obvious social distinction in the film is between officers and other ranks. Pilots are assumed to be commissioned officers, and commissioned officers are middle or upper class. The schoolmaster, Peter Penrose, soon takes on the speech of his roommate, the languid, upper-class David Archdale. Other ranks are working class and are

in The British working class in postwar film
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The treatment of the young offender

Viewed from this middle-class perspective, relative deprivation, aided and abetted by the mass media, fuels working-class crime. The conundrum is that the ideal solution would be to eliminate deprivation, reducing the relative advantages of being middle class in the process. This is unlikely to tempt a middle-class electorate seeking a reduction in crime. The mass media make an easier scapegoat. Working-class youth presents a

in The British working class in postwar film
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The postwar child in films

enforced mingling of the classes (including the appearance of middle-class patients in public assistance institutions after air raids) led to a greater awareness of social inequalities and the inadequacies of welfare provision. 2 The response was a shift to centrally financed services which included school dinners (provided for one in thirty children in 1940, but one in three by 1945), free school milk, National dried milk for babies

in The British working class in postwar film
class and the politics of impulse in Time Without Pity (1957), The Gypsy and the Gentleman (1957), Blind Date (1959) and The Criminal (1960)

instead focused exclusively on the foibles of the bourgeoisie through the representation of hermetic upper- and middle-class milieux. Thus, apart from secondary, usually devious characters like Frank Clements’s partner-in-crime, Harry, or Sally’s fiancé Bailey in The Sleeping Tiger , Losey’s English working class are, initially at least, notable largely for their absence. This neglect seems odd coming from the director of the

in Joseph Losey
Etre et avoir

2 Seeing, feeling, knowing: Etre et avoir This chapter draws on a small study conducted in July 2003, using questionnaires submitted by self-selected and largely middle-class cinemagoers who watched the French documentary Etre et avoir (2003) at an arthouse cinema in Brighton, England. My initial vectors of inquiry were cinemagoers’ operative generic assumptions about documentary (which Etre et avoir was seen to either fulfil or to refuse), and their perspectives on issues of veracity and the so-called crisis over trust and the essential truth claims of the mode

in Watching the world

further nine Odeons in 1934 and ten in 1935, each with 1,000 to 1,500 seats. 23 The dominant market for many of these cinemas was the burgeoning suburban middle class and in particular housewives, who attended the new matinées. With some four million new semi-detached, suburban houses built in the inter-war years, Deutsch’s appreciation of this new audience was acute. Jackson observed that ‘few suburbs were too select to

in From silent screen to multi-screen
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Observateur and Cahiers du cinéma all remained blind to the sly critique of the bourgeoisie in films such as Les Biches and La Femme infidèle, choosing instead to detect in Chabrol’s work a celebration of the middle classes. In a review of Que la bête meure (1969) for Le Nouvel Ohservateur entitled ‘La bouffe et la bagnole’, 3 Michel Mardore chastised Chabrol for having lost any critical distance on the bourgeoisie that

in Claude Chabrol
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Consumer culture’s killer instinct and the imperial imperative

product usage and consumption; the creation of a new middle-class couple; the re-articulation of the social body as quantifiable and anonymous, as opposed to a collectivity of individuals with specific rights; and, finally, the suppression of France’s imperial past in favour of the new demographic state. Though these same themes (preserved through the 1970s and 1980s) are reiterated in Nikita (Besson

in The films of Luc Besson