April 09, 2007

Women and British Cinema: Some avenues for research

Women and British Cinema: Some avenues for research

Introduction 

Many of you will have studied some history of British films in your AS film Studies. The critical research project in Media Studies offers the opportunity to develop that area of study. Below is a list of British films which could be useful in helping you to establish a research project on the topic of Women and Film. This is not intended to be exclusive. It is possible to take almost any film and link it into the topic of women and film from the major perspectives of film analysis and criticism. There are a range of common critical methodologies currently used to analyse films. Methods and methodologies like anything else are subject to change. Below are some common ways of approaching films. Please note there will be overlaps, categories are not usually discrete! The film industry will try and utilise genres and stars to target a specific audience for example. Common critical approaches to film that you will need to consider include:

· Audience:

o Is a film targeted at an audience which is primarily female? (How can we tell? – issues to explore: gender and genre / stars, gender and genre / representation of women).

o Is a film primarily targeted at men? (How can we tell? – issues to explore: gender and genre / stars gender and genre / representation of women)

· Genre:

o Here you need to focus on genre theory. See Blog entries on genre. You could examine several films from a specific genre perspective. You will need to read up on genre theory and identify how films have been targeted at audiences by gender. Examples of genres which have been traditionally ‘women’s films include:

§ Costume dramas / melodramas / romantic comedies

§ Genres such as Biopics (biographical films may (not will) tend to have a target audience gender bias depending upon the historical person being represented. Examples of biopics include: Hilary and Jackie / Iris / The Queen

Star Theory:

  • See blog entries on stars and theory. Questions you may wish to consider include:
  • Does Britain produce actresses whilst Hollywood produces stars?
  • Have there been shifts in the representation of female stars in relation to shifts in the position of women in wider society? 
  • Does cinema encourage or follow social change in society ?
  • What has been the relationship of British women stars to Hollywood?
  • The recent controversy surrounding Helen Mirren's comments on 'date rape' raise issues about the responsibilites of 'celebrities' and also how audiences react to controversy of that nature.

British women stars you may wish to study can include:

· Auteur / ‘Art House’ Cinema:

o Stephen Hill has suggested that from the 1970s the typical British genre film, often comedy, was squeezed out of the cinemas as American money went back to America and TV took over the function of being the main environment for the exhibition of British films.

o Hill suggests that this stimulated a new model of ‘Art Cinema’ for British film makers targeted at quite specific but relatively stable and known audiences:

§ Some of the films continued the social realist tradition such as Ken Loach & Mike Leigh

§ Others films were self-consciously ‘arty’ experimenting with new forms and ways of dealing with narrative

§ Other films were representations of what are considered as ‘high art’ texts such as re-workings of Shakespeare plays, the books of Jane Austen (Sense and Sensibility) or E. M. Forster (Passage to India, Howards End).

· Useful films to consider for women and film critical research unit

o The films below deal with many of the issues of the representation of women, issues of audience, genre, Stars and performance and art house cinema. All of the films have quite developed critical discourses often from a feminist methodological perspective which will help you to develop your research ideas and give you more of a background feel to your chosen topic area.

§ The Wicked Lady. British star, Use of pirate / highwayman film to allow women different cultural space

§ Brief Encounter. Post war re-establishing of women’s ‘traditional’ position in society

§ Taste of Honey. British ‘New Wave’ realism

§ The L-Shaped Room. British ‘New Wave’ realism

§ Darling. The ‘Swinging Sixties’

§ Bahji on the Beach. Woman director / about changing position of women in relation to changing Britain

§ Orlando. Woman director / challenge to gender/ based upon famous woman writer who had at least a second wave feminist consciousness

§ Sense and Sensibility. Role of women historically / woman stars / can male directors be sensitive to women?

§ Secrets and Lies. Male director and representation of women

§ Elizabeth. Male director and representation of women / representation of great historical woman. Comparisons with Kapur’s “Bandit Queen”

§ Ratcatcher. Woman director

§ Bridget Jones’ Diary. Is this a ‘post-feminist? Representation of women? Is it a progressive or regressive representation of women?

§ Bend it Like Beckham. Representation of changing position of women in society / woman director.

§ Charlotte Gray. Woman director / woman as ‘hero’ non passive

§ Vera Drake. Historical representation of women could be compared to British New Wave realist films. Male director representing issues primarily affecting women. Could a woman do this better?

§ Dirty Pretty Things + Last Resort + Ghosts. Representation of women on the margins. (Could also go non-British and look at Moodysson’s Lilya 4-Ever see separate Blog entry)



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