Film, Media and Music

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Chris Beasley and Heather Brook

This book interrogates the interplay of cultural and political aspects of contemporary Hollywood movies. Using ‘security’ films dealing with public order and disorder (Part I), romantic comedies and other movies presenting intimate relationalities (Part II), socially engaged films offering overtly critical messages (Part III), and analysis of Hollywood’s global reach and impact (Part IV), it articulates and illustrates an original cultural politics approach to film. The book employs an expanded conception of ‘the political’ to enquire into power relations in public, private, and policy arenas in order to advance a new framework and methodology for cultural politics. It demonstrates how movies both reflect and produce political myths that largely uphold the status quo as they shape our dreams, identities, and selves.

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Chris Beasley and Heather Brook

The final chapter in Part II of the book attending to analysis of citizen-to-citizen relationalities concerns fraternity, or masculine homosociality, and its significance in ‘bromance’. It is commonplace, indeed ubiquitous, in Hollywood films to foreground men and their interactions. However, the attention given to intimate relationality between men in bromance movies distinguishes them from the usual representations of men and male-to-male friendships and links them with ‘chick flicks’ and romantic comedies. This chapter continues our exploration of gender, intimacy, and heteronormativity to demonstrate that the realm of the personal is politically salient for men as well as women.

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The big picture

The ‘metropole’ and peripheral ‘others’

Chris Beasley and Heather Brook

In this last Part of the book we turn to global agendas. Chapter 12 reflects on the current state of the filmic ‘metropole’ and specifically Hollywood’s cultural politics in the context of its global reach and impact. We ask, in this chapter, whether cultural globalisation is a matter for concern.

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Against the grain?

Socially critical movies

Chris Beasley and Heather Brook

While this book contends that all movies are political, some are more self-consciously political than others. In Part III (chapters 10 and 11), the emphasis is on a spectrum of films centrally engaged in social critique. These films are marked by relatively overt questions regarding social justice and power relations. In this chapter we outline the key characteristics, historical contexts, and typical subject matter of such films in order to clarify the boundaries of what Hollywood constitutes as ‘political’.

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Steve Chibnall

By the spring of 1953 it was clear that British cinema had found a film-maker who could handle the technical demands of the thriller in a cinematic rather than a purely theatrical fashion. With The Yellow Balloon, Lee Thompson had demonstrated an aptitude for visual storytelling and a flair for imaginative shot composition while coaxing compelling performances from his actors. Late in 1952 he noticed a new book from Victor Gollancz which was causing a stir, reaching its fifth impression within two months of publication. It may be a worn-flat cliché, but this was to be the book that changed Lee Thompson's life. He read the book called Who Lie in Gaol by Joan Henry, and fell in love with her. Lee Thompson quickly set to work with Joan Henry and Anne Burnaby to develop a screenplay which would blend social criticism and melodrama with the leavening ingredient of comedy.

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‘Where is the father?’

Masculinity and authorship

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Diana Holmes and Robert Ingram

This chapter argues for a fundamental ambiguity in François Truffaut's representation of gender relations. Truffaut's Cinema is frequently concerned with the role of the father, both in the literal sense of the male parent and in the wider figurative sense of the older male figure. The father also plays a role in the construction of identity, representing, in a culture where the public domain is gendered masculine, the intervention of society's laws and codes into the mother/child duo. Some of Truffaut's films are also concerned to reimagine paternity in a positive way. The 1971 film Les Deux Anglaises et le continent is also concerned obliquely with the absence of fathers. This film develops the theme of paternal absence, L'Histoire d'Adèle H. that of the father's oppressive power.

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Steve Chibnall

Based closely on his own successful stage play, Lee Thompson's Murder Without Crime is a confident but largely unadventurous first step in film making. Lee Thompson clearly signposts Murder Without Crime as a tall story, a macabre entertainment with enough Grand Guignol to grip the spectators in the stalls and enough ironic self-awareness to please the more intellectual patrons in the circle. Lee Thompson's debut box (or ottoman) of tricks went out on the ABC circuit as a double bill with an American film about a GI finding romance in Europe, Four Days Leave. Although the cutting room remained sacrosanct, directors of Lee Thompson's generation had more influence over the final cut of a picture than their predecessors. The Yellow Balloon may be frustratingly limited in its social critique, but as a piece of film making it was rightly praised for its performances and technical proficiency.

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Phil Powrie

As he had done after La Lune dans le caniveau, Jean-Jacques Beineix had gone on a three-month cruise in his yacht after the release of 37°2 le matin, visiting Stromboli before going on to the Peleponnese islands. Given the polemics to which Beineix's previous films had given rise, reviewers' reactions to Roselyne et les lions were in the main surprisingly positive, if somewhat muted. The general feeling was that the film was slow and simple, and the finale excessive. Reviewers, indeed, and even more so interviewers, made much of the apparent parallels between Roselyne et les lions and Luc Besson's Le Grand Bleu, seeing these films, along with Annaud's L'Ours, as part of a trend: films which focused on animals as much, if not more, in the case of Annaud's film, than humans.

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Steve Chibnall

This chapter discusses J. Lee Thompson's return to Britain and Europe after establishing himself as a Hollywood director. The films discussed after his return are: Return From the Ashes, Eye of the Devil, Before Winter Comes, The Most Dangerous Man in the World, Country Dance, and The Passage. As if sensing that he needed to purge himself of Hollywood indulgence, Lee Thompson returned to his Elstree roots to make a taut black-and-white thriller, steeped in irony and nihilism: Return From the Ashes, based on Hubert Monteilhet's novel Phoenix From the Ashes. Before Winter Comes was set in occupied Austria at the end of the Second World War, and the location is a displaced persons' camp on the border between the British and Russian zones. The Most Dangerous Man in the World, made an ambiguous reference to both Chairman Mao, and was shot in Hong Kong as well as in Wales.

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Steve Chibnall

According to Raymond Williams, the most powerful physical image created in the period of major naturalistic drama is the living room as a trap. Yield to the Night was a watershed film for J. Lee Thompson. It marked a moment of revelation which would profoundly influence his career trajectory. The trauma of leaving his family and the excitement of his new relationship did indeed seem to intensify Lee Thompson's desire for independence and experiment in his professional life. The nervous energy released is evident in Woman in a Dressing Gown's restless camerawork, insistent directorial style and, most of all, in the high-octane performance which he encouraged from Dressing Gown's star Yvonne Mitchell. However, Melanie Williams pointed out that, in the way it echoes the claustrophobic perspectives of Yield to the Night, Dressing Gown's mise-en-scène implies the idea of housewife as domestic prisoner.