All 8 entries tagged British Cinema From 1990

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January 04, 2007

European Cinema and Media Glossary: From A–E

Glossary of Terms for European Cinema


Please note that this glossary will be on more than one page as the server limit appears to be about 5,000 words for each ‘post’.

*A glossary of this nature will always be a “work in progress”. The adavntage of it being based on the internet is that it can be continually updated as new terms, techniques and methods emerge. Terms sometimes gather alternative meanings as well. So this glossary will, in the spirit of Web 2, be a dynamic one. It is intended to serve a wide target audience of anyone interested in cinema in general but especially European cinema.

Visitors are of course welcome to contribute by asking for terms and or words to be included. I will do my best to accomodate them however there are many other tasks to develop, which is also why it will be a work in progress as I’m developing glossaries relating to other areas of the media simultaneously.

If I find any useful online freely available references which can develop terms in greater depth they will be hyperlinked.

Please note that bold and italic words are cross-referenced

Aberrant decoding. This is term used to describe a reading by part of an audience which is entirely different from that intended by the producers of the media text. More often known as reading against the grain this usually happens when the readers of the text have quite different values and beliefs to the producers of the text. See also cultural effects theory and codes and conventions.

Adorno and the Frankfurt School. Theodor Adorno and the Frankfurt School of Social Research were amongst the earliest social scientists to closely critique and analyse and critique the growth of the culture industries which are now in effect ‘lifestyle’ industries. Adorno argues amongst other things that the apparent ‘diversity’ of market segmentation and the cultivation of ‘lifestyle ‘ is entirely bogus. Lifestyle can be describe in his terms as a death mask of individuality covering the bland features of the ‘consumer clone’. See also Passive Audience and Mass Culture.

Advertising. (TAM). The advertising content of media forms such as Newspapers, magazines and TV and commercial radio often takes up as much space as the editorial content. It is often advertising rather than the actual number of sales which creates the large profits of a media product. (Count for example the number of pages which are adverts in GQ). Increasingly there is a growth of advertorial content. Media institutions which have a totally public service broadcasting function (BBC) are not allowed to advertise commercial products. They usually advertise their own programmes and products. Advertising is a discourse where frequently all normal physical and social arrangements are held in abeyance. We regard the claims made in adverts as a joke, but we buy the products often in spite of , or because of the jokes.

Aestheticisation of Everyday Life. This is the claim that the division between art and everyday life is being eroded in two ways. Firstly artists are taking objects of everyday life and making them into art objects. Secondly people are making their everyday lives into aesthetic projects in terms of style, appearance and household furnishings. This may reach a point where people see themselves and their surroundings as art objects. Consumers have now broken down the hierarchy between ‘high’ and ‘low’ art. See Culture Industries

Against the grain. See Reading against the grain.

Ambient sound. This refers to the ‘natural’ background sound present in a scene in film, TV or radio

Anti-classical. See Art film

Art film. Art film is often described as a European phenomenon and is considered as a genre by critics such as Neale. Often Art cinema is associated with auteurs. European art cinema often uses different modes of storytelling such as long takes combined with great depth of field (Visconti in Ossessione for example). The narratives are less likely to be concerned with the’ classical’ Hollywood structure of a central character moving in a linear fashion through trials and tribulations to a comfortable resolution. Endings may reject neat narrative closure, and there may be multiple points of view. There is likely to be little emphasis on identification with the characters compared to the Hollywood style institutional mode of representation. Typically those films designated as ‘art films’ require more work from the spectator.

Audience. Audience has always seen as important by film distributors and exhibitors. Many commentators understand media audiences to be a construction of the media companies rather than a a social reality based upon conceptions of individual viewers or citizens. As such it is a marketing term which needs to be treated with suspicion. There has been a lot of work by film theorists about how the individual spectator is positioned by the film text. Often this has been without reference to actual audiences. Those interested in a more sociological approach to responses by audiences have done some research on this. The research of Jackie Stacey is very useful in this regard. The qualitative research methods employed show that there are pluralistic readings of a text and that many women read filmic texts against the grain of the preferred reading offered by the construction of the film or the reinforcement of this by the critical establishment. This shows that the social reality and lived experiences of an audience can have a very different effect. (See the monograph by Marita Sturken on Thelma and Louise for comment on the enthusiastic reception by women audiences in the cinema).

Audience work. Far from being ‘couch potatoes’ or passive audiences who merely absorb what is on screen in an unthinking way. Audiences are required to do a certain amount of work to derive pleasure from a film. This work will include: processing information; directing attention to; interpreting in relation to some agenda; evaluating. (This is a point strongly made by Adorno and Horkeimer clearly showing that they have nothing to do with the ‘Hypodermic Syringe’ model of Ideology.

Auteur. Originally this expression was used in the 1920’s . The term was centred around a debate concerning the artistic quality of films. Films where there was very strong directorial input were compared with films where scripts were commissioned from separate scriptwriters and directors were under the thumb of studio producers. This fed into a major debate about cinema and its relations to ‘high art’ / ‘low art’ (popular culture). By the 1950s a group of French critics (again) reinvented the use of the term auteur. They were very keen on American / Hollywood cinema and argued that just because a director had little control over the production process apart from the staging of shots it could still be seen that individual directors had very distinctive styles which could be seen in the mise-en -scene. As a result of this debate the idea of auteur can mean either a directors style through mise-en-scene (Hitchcock, John Ford), or else as a ‘total author’ of both the script and the film itself. ( Orson Welles , David Lynch in the US or Bergman and Godard in Europe).

Blum-Byrnes Agreement. Agreements in 1946 and 1948 were established between the French and US governments which guaranteed a quota of exhibition time to French films as part of a wider trade agreement.

Buddy movie. A basic aspect of the ‘buddy movie’ is that men understand each other better than they understand their women. ( Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid ) The primary relationship in Thelma and Louise film is between the women who understand each other’s ways of being in the world. better than their men do thus reversing the conventions of the Buddy movie.

Camera Movement. (TAF). Camera movements include very important techniques in gained specific visual effects and are fundamental to how a film is made and the visual style which it uses. The main techniques are currently:

  • Pan. This is when a camera moves either to the left or the right. Usually there is a moving object on screen but this is not necessary. Empty space can create meaning. If there isa moving object the camera tends to lead rather than follow the object. Whether the pan is a slow or fast one also contributes to the mood and dynamics of that part of the film.
  • Handheld camera / cinema verite. Originally this was quite usual in documentary style filming or news reporting. A wobbling image as the cameraperson follows a subject gave a feeling of being present and ‘reality’ to the viewer. This can often be used to make a moent more tense. A good example of this being used as a technique is in thebatle scenes near the beginning of Saving Private Ryan when the americans are invading the beach. The wobbly images give an excellent feeling of being present on the beach.
  • Steadicam. The steadicam is special camera which is handheld by the cameraperson. The camera uses gyroscopes to ensure that it remains level and thus remves the feel of a handheld camera (see above).
Tracking Shot.
  • Zoom. Stricly speaking a zoom shot isn’t a camera movement but an adjustment of the lens which gives the feel of movement. A zoom lens is a special kind of lens which was originally developed in the 1950s. It was a technological develpment which helped to attract audiences. It is possible either to zoom-in or zoom forward on a person or object. The shot can also create the illusion of displacement of time and space. A zoom-out or zoom backwards places a person or object in a wider context. Zooming in can be strongly linked with voyeurism. Hitchcock’s Rear Window provides an excellent example of voyeurism and zooming.

Cinema verite. See Camera movements.

Character. In the standard Hollywood realist text : ‘Action typically pivots on central characters who are rendered in psychological depth and tend to become objects of identification for readers. These characters are fictional persons whose fate is tied up with the progress of the narrative, indeed on whom may be centred the very disruption that sets the narrative in motion’ (Kuhn Annette. 1982. Women’s Pictures : 31). See also Institutional mode of representation and eye-line match.

Citizenship. This concept builds on earlier ideas of citizenship which focused upon economic, political and social concerns. Economic citizenship gave people the right to trade, political citizenship gave people the rights to vote and have representative electable governments with powers limited by law. Social citizenship gave people the right to health care, education and pensions. See also cultural citizenship.

Close Reading. Making a close reading can get down to the level of individual shot construction, in which subtleties of coding can be carefully analysed. See also preferred reading and reading against the grain.

Close up. Usually a shot of the head from the neck up. Could also be a wringing of hands. See performance and shot.

Closure. See narrative closure.

Codes and Conventions (General). Cinema uses a number of methods to organise meaning production. Some are general to narrative forms and others are specific to cinema. Cinematic conventions work to make the product appear to be seamlessly produced which means that it appears as though meaning had already existed prior to the construction of the film. In fact the cinematic codes and conventions of production produce an axis of meaning which will interact with both the reactions of audiences and the exhibitionary context.

  • Photographic conventions. Framing, long-shots, medium shots, and close-ups all generate particular forms of meaning: To the extent that close-ups are most commonly of central characters in film narratives, they may function to constitute that psychological realism of character which is a mark of the classic narrative. ( My ephasis: Kuhn Annette. 1982. Women’s Pictures: 37).
  • * Mobile framing*. This effect can be produced by different camera movements and can produce a narrative meaning in several ways. A zoom-in can emphasise detail which can be read as bearing a particular significance within the narrative. Camera movements can also move the plot along through panning and tracking.
  • Editing. Mainstream cinema has institutionalised a set of rules for editing. The normal Hollywood system of editing is called ‘continuity editing’ which ensures through making careful cuts that the production is as seamless as possible thus making the system of production invisible and creating a coherent fictional world into which the spectator is drawn. Various ellipses of space and time achieved by fades or cuts will move the plot along. Not all film-making follows this convention see Jump cut.
  • * Narrative conventions*. All narrative genres have conventions by which the narrative is governed. A road movie for example implies discovery, the obtaining of some self-knowledge. Usually the main protagonist / s are male. Usually the movie follows an ordered sequence of events which inexorably lead to a bad end (Easy Rider: Dennis Hopper : 1969) or a reasonable outcome ( Paris Texas: Wim Wenders: 1984). Thelma and Louise ( Ridley Scott : 1991) controversially undermined the male aspects of the road movie genre. It achieved this by having the main protagonists being women escaping from differing, but oppressive, backgrounds. It also showed that a variety of all those things conventionally conceived of as ‘liberating’ from male perspective were male constructions and coded as such. This film reverses the dominant genre conventions of coding outside space as nature / feminine. By comparison men in the film are sometimes coded in domestic / feminine space. The ending of Thelma and Louise was controversial, but by neither showing death, prison nor some-kind of compromise return to their respective roles in life, nor by escaping to another country the film showed the current impossibility of escaping from gender relations which privilege men in this society.
  • Evolving conventions. Genre isn’t static. A genre and the conventions which govern it evolve over time and are transformed through a complex interaction of economic, technological, political, social and cultural factors . Part of the work of genre analysis is to establish these factors. Think of what conventions have changed in the genres you have chosen to study. (See also Genre cycle).

Connotations. Connotations are associations with words or concepts have for a reader of a text. High production values such as glossy paper can connote sophistication and glamour. This is why expensive shops and products have very sophisticated types of packaging. Hollywood cinema has made its reputations on high production values such as seamless editing and very expensive sets etc. The way in which Hollywood products are promoted are also dependent upon high production values to make audiences think they are getting more than they probably are. This is why anything up to half the cost of the actual film can be devoted to marketing, promotion and advertising. This helps Hollywood dominate the film market and makes it hard for independent companies to compete.

Conventions. See also Codes and Conventions. Conventions are established procedures within a particular form of media ( painting, film , novel etc) which are identifiable by both the producer of the artefact and their audiences. Conventions are thus conventions can be understood as agreements between the producer and audience. These will sometimes remain fairly static and at other times there will be moments of strong challenge to these conventions. The French nouvelle vague can be understood as challenging a range of cinematic conventions.

Convergence. This is the current process whereby new media and communications technologies are changing not only our media equipment but changing the ways old media institutions have worked. It is also globalising and changing our systems of gaining knowledge. The process is still in transition with new developments rapidly emerging. In a few years these processes will have matured and will be less dynamic.

Costume. While it is a variety of prop it is specifically linked with specific characters as well as contributing to the general setting. Changes in costume can be used as indicators of changes of attitude, status, time and place.

CNC. Centre Nationale de la Cinematographie. The French state organisation that oversees film policy issues including subsidy ones.

Critical Realism. In East German cinema critical realism was a popular aesthetic amongst the filmmakers. ‘Inspired by the films of Italian directors, the approach may be described as an East German variant of neorealism. It observes rather than leads, offers a realistic depiction of controversial issues and opens them up for debate’ (Claus, Horst. 2002 p 140).

Cultural Citizenship. Cultural citizenship is about access to systems of representation within the arts and media to ensure that all have the knowledge and capabilities to represent themselves. Also see citizenship.

Culture Industry. The term is used to designate organisations that produce ‘popular’ culture such as TV, Radio, books magazines, newspapers and popular music. It is now extended to beauty salons and hairdressing salons as well as museums and galleries and sports organisations and events. They are of growing importance in Western society. Contemporary everyday life is filled with images as part of the output of the cultural industries. The first people to properly identify the Culture Industry were the Frankfurt School social scientists Adorno and Horkheimer. They were very critical of these industries seeing them as being ideologically controlling particularly of the poorest people offering false hopes and imaginaries. Adorno was extremely critical of social scientists who were colluding in this growing ideological industry. He had originally had a post in New York when he was forced to emigrate from Germany by the Nazis. The post was concerned with developing social scientific methods for identifying and creating audiences for media industries. See also Media and Culture Industries.

Cultural effects theory. This suggests that how the audience or audiences of a text are positioned will have a significant impact upon how they interpret that text.

Cut. TAF). This is used in film and TV to change a shot from one place or viewpoint to another. See film editing and shot, It is achieved by splicing two pieces of film together. There are a range of different cuts which can achieve quite different visual effects. Cuts give a film its rhythm. Getting the tempo right is essential. The editor often works with the director to make a rough cut or director’s cut. Further adjustments are then made often after audience research has been carried out on the endings of Hollywood films before the final cut is made.

  • Continuity Cut. These cuts take the viewer seamlessly and logically from one sequence to another moving along the narrative.
  • Cross cuts. These cuts are used to alternate between two sequences or scenesthat are occurring in different spaces but at the same time. Normally these are used to create a feeling of suspense. As such they are frequently used in genres such as action adventure, the western, thrillers and gangster films.
  • Cutaways. These shots take the viewer away from the main scene of the action. They are often used as a transition before cutting into the next sequence or scene. For example: in a court scene the day’s proceeedings are coming to an end, there is a cutaway shot to the outside of the courthouse, then a cut to the next day nside a lawyer’s office.
  • Jump cut. This cut demonstrates a jump in time and disrupts the ‘normal’ continuity editing. It was used as a device by several internationally famous directors during the 1920s and then dropped out of fashion. The development of sound played a major contribution in overwhelming a more diverse range of styles. French directors in the 1960s such as Louis Malle, Fraoncois Truffaut and most famously Jean-Luc Godard used this editing style. Godard’s first feature film a bout de souffle / Breathless is best known for this. The jump cut calls attention to the constructed reality of the filmic text, to the spectator’s ongoing labour of generating a fictional world out of often contradictory stylistic cues, and to Godard’s own expressive, auteur presence. (Editor emphasis, Neupert, 2002 p 216).
  • Match cuts. These are the exact opposite of the jump cut. These cuts make sure there is a spatial-visual logic between the differently positioned shots within a scene. Where the camera moves to and the angle of the camera make visual sense to the spectator. See also eye-line matching.


Deep Focus Cinematography.

DEFA. Deutsche Film AG. The state controlled film production, distribution and exhibition company in East Germany (GDR) from 1946 – 1993. See also UFA

Denotation. This is a straightforward relationship between a sign and its referent. The word cat and the photograph of a cat both denote a particular type of animal.

Deterritorialised. This expression is often related to genres which are feminised. They tend not to concentrate on territory in the same way that war films, westerns and other more masculinised genres have.

Dialectical. This is fundamental to Eisenstein’s theory of montage Originating in Hegel’s philosophy the idea centres around the point that an original thesis exists. This is in collision with an antithesis. The outcome of this collision of opposite ideas results in the creation of something entirely new. This is known as the synthesis.

Diegesis / Diagetic. This refers to the content of the narrative which is happening on the screen. This includes the sound , actions of the characters etc. All of these occur naturally within the fictional world of the film. Frequently films use non- diegetic devices for dramatic effects or to inform the audience about something which the characters themselves don’t know:

  • Intra-diegetic sound. This is a sound from a person the audience doesn’t see but whose presence we know exists in the story. There is a disembodied voice. Mildred Pierce 1945 has many examples of this through flashback. Often the character’s voice goes intra-diegetic announcing a flashback acconpanied by a visual dissolve ‘it was yesterday when…’. Flash backs are also intra-diegetic in the sense that they interrupt the narrative flow of the present.
  • Non-diegetic sound by comparison is where there is voice-over or else a soundtrack which heightens the emotional effects on the audience but isn’t present in the on-screen world at all.

Digital Distribution. The opportunities for the makers of short films to be distributed via internet streaming are improving all the time. The most recent deal to allow streaming of independent shorts was made between the Sundance film Festival Organisers and iTunes the Content Management software system owned by Apple as this BBC report of 12 / 01 / 07 notes.

Digital divide. A very important social and cultural concept of the ‘information age’. This term refers to those who have access to a wide range of digital communications systems in terms of cost and knowledge and those who are excluded from this. It is becoming a serious problem of citizenship.

Digital Versatile Disc / DVD. A disc which although the same size as a CD can hold many times the amount of data due to a combination of more sophisticated data compression systems, the ability to store and retrieve data from different levels of the disc. This means that moving images can be stored in a way which is more permanent than tape and maintains its quality over time, whereas tape particles lose their magnetism and lose details. Research is going on to more than double the storage capacity of the current DVD’s by using different laser technologies. The ‘versatility’ referred to in the name means that the equipment incorporates technical standards which means that digital information relating to images – static or moving sounds or text can be stored and retrieved. New standards of quality have been developed and consumers are faced with both Blu-Ray from a consortium led by Sony and HD-DVD (High definition DVD), led by Toshiba. Already third party players are bringing out players which can playback both. (Beginning of 2007)

Discourse. Textual analysis often uses the term discourse to deconstruct or look at the way a text works. This means that the analyst identifies the various discourses present in a text and makes that clear for the reader. A discourse provides a framework of language to construct a particular kind of knowledge on a topic. Discourses organise our thoughts and try to make a closure that is to close off other ways of thinking about a topic. For example, cinematography which continuously sexualises women through voyeuristic techniques is a visual discourse. This can be seen as part of a wider discursive field in which the institution of cinema discriminates against women. A discourse is not a description of reality but a way of ‘fixing’ the topic or constructing a form of social reality in a biased way. Different discourses can therefore change our views of the nature of social reality.

Dissolve: see Editing

Dollying / Tracking Shot (TAF) see camera movements.

DVD. See Digital Versatile Disc.

DVD Recordable. A new breed of domestic machines has now appeared which can record TV or films in DVD format. Whilst currently still very expensive it is probable that they will replace the Video Cassette Recorder in most households in 5 years time. (In fact first written 3 years ago the price has dropped dramatically and video-recorders are fast-disappearing) They can record digital radio signals as well. There is not currently a standardised format which makes things difficult for consumers.

December 27, 2006

_The Constant Gardener_2005. Dir Fernando Meirelles


The Constant Gardener, 2005; dir Fernando Meirelles.

Running from Sudanese Tribesmen

Boxing Day plans were changed due to our host contracting a nasty bug. This afforded me the time to catch up with The Constant Gardener which was on my ‘to watch’ list. The film is well worth anybody’s two hours of viewing time – a key benchmark in my opinion. Cinematically, in its performance, in the interesting but challenging narrative structure as well as its content, it this is certainly one of the best ‘British’ films to come out since the turn of the millenium. I put British in inverted commas because the film has an important feature which many successful British films in recent years have had which is a non-British director.

I had forgotten (what a confession) that it was directed by the Brazilian Fernando Meirelles whose first film City of God made such a stunning impact both in terms of its shocking content as well as its cinematagraphy. After making these two films he certainly must be considered as one of the most interesting directors currently at work. Whether he becomes totally Hollywoodised we will have to see.

Arnold and Tessa Leaving on their mission North

This is the second feature by Meirelles. Meirelles’ first feature was City of God set in the favella or slums of Sao Paolo in Brazil. As can be seen in the awards section below the film has achieved wide critical success. Overall the film has won 18 awards and a further 40 award nominations. It is an adaptation of an original novel by John le Carré also called The Constant Gardener and stars Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz

Fiennes and Weisz in Constant Gardener

Link to programme notes from the Broadway Cinema in Nottingham
You can get a good plot summary here so I won’t reinvent the wheel.

Much of the film was made on location in Loiyangalani also see the Wikipedia entry the slums of Kibera, Kenya.

The film combines the feel of realism throughout, despite the fact that the plot is a typical post cold war conspiracy thriller involving dodgy government dealings with international drug companies and exploitation of the weak. The latter are unwittingly put at risk through the trialling of new drugs. The risk of unacceptable side effects by carrying out trials in poverty stricken countries where news is never made is intertwined with le Carre’s more familiar themes of trust, doubts, and betrayal. Here these themes work their way through the British diplomatic corps. These are themes which will be familiar to viewers of the excellent Tinker Tailor TV series of the 1970s based on le Carre’s work. The film is thus multi-layered and challenging on a number of levels whilst politically it raises fundamental concerns about the nature of global citizenship.

The realism isn’t just an aesthetic effect. The situation in Africa where the crew were filming is so gross that cast, director and le Carre have established the Constant Gardener Trust (link below) in order to provide basic education around these villages. Weisz, Fiennes, and Le Carré are patrons of the charity. It is useful to note that the charity is also interested in what it describes as ‘responsible film-making’ an aim which is shared by this writer.

Getting help to track down the culprits

The film goes well beyond the ‘worthy but boring’ kind of a film which can so often happen. Rachel Weisz’s performance is genuinely passionate and it is no surprise to learn that she persistently followed up Meirelles after audition’s because she felt deeply that it was a part for her:

Weisz gleefully admits that, as soon as she saw the script, she was desperate to convince Meirelles that she was worth getting hold of. She claims that he had no idea who she was beforehand – “he wasn’t really familiar with any British actresses” – but flew over to London from LA in order to audition, and felt no shame in pursuing him afterwards. “I wrote him a very passionate letter,” she smiles. “I really wanted the role.” (Full Guardian story here)

Film and Adaptation

A pensive Ralph Fiennes

Several of the reviews below make a strong reference to the original book and comment that sections are not included or that the contorted plot isn’t so well represented. I tend to take this type of criticism with a pinch of salt. It is clear that the spirit of the original book has been kept and that is the most important thing. Adaptation inevitably means compromises and issues of translation across different media. films should be inherently cinematic and so far the work of Meireilles excels at this. If you want the book you should read the book. Films work differently and also they are far more industrial products than books are. Whilst book publishers can have far more discretion regarding the length of thier product, especially when is from an established author, a film needs to keep within common industry practices. Distribution and exhibition are everything and has been pointed out elswhere in this site the multiplex system offers less choice with more screens rather than diversity.


The film was nominated for the 2005 Golden Globe Awards in the following categories: best film, best director and best supporting actress (Rachel Weisz). Weisz won the Best Supporting Actress at the 2005 Golden Globes for her performance in the film, as well as the 2005 Screen Actors Guild award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role. On January 31, 2006, the film was nominated for four Academy Awards: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Film Editing, and Best Supporting Actress for Weisz, which she won.

In the UK it has led the BAFTA nominations with 10 categories including both Best Film and Best British Film. Weisz and Fiennes were nominated for the leading role category at the BAFTA. It instead won only one BAFTA for Best Editing by Claire Simpson.

Weisz and Fiennes, have won the leading role awards at the London Critics Circle Film Awards and British Independent Film Awards. Overall Weisz won five awards for the film .

The Constant Gardener Trust

Unusually the film spawned not only a critical reaction but genuine shock amongst the audiences. The powerful reaction to the content of the film lead to the establishing in the Constant Gardener Trust. Writer John le Carre and the actors Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz are all supporters of the trust. Yet again British media has shown that it can stimulate citizen response in the real world a precedent which had been set in the 1960s with Ken Loach’s Kathy Come Home which stimulated the start of Shelter the charity for the homeless.

Oxfam site dealing with issues of trade and medicines

Review Links

Film Australia review

BBC Review

BBC News Entertainment review

BFI / London Film Festival

Channel 4 review

The Guardian review

Time Out review

Tiscali review

Commentaries Relating the Film to the Drug Companies

Sonia Shah author of a book on the international drug companies writing in The Nation

December 21, 2006

The Heritage Film in British Cinema Part 1

The British Heritage Film: Part 1

Thompson and Hopkins Howard


It is argued by several leading critics that the idea of the ‘heritage film’ has been identified by critics themselves and that the tendency to create and market these films targets and reinforces a from of right-wing nostalgia. It does this by creating a mythical past using very select and romanticised mise en scene of costume, architecture and transport for example. Thus these films function as an escape from the political and social issues of the present

What is meant by ‘Heritage Film and Heritage?

Rickman and Winslett in Sense and Sensibility

The 1980s saw the growth of a cultural phenomenon which has often been described as the heritage industry. The description can be applied to a range of creative and cultural industries which provide a powerful link between tourism, the past and the film and television industries. Here Andrew Higson who did much to develop this as a critical category in relation to British cinema explains how he and others identified this shift in cultural consciousness as they saw it.

The past is differentiated from history which as a discipline has a range of methods attached to an academic discipline based upon the priciple of gathering evidence of events, opinions etc from a previous period. The past is understood as a more mythological construction which is much more culturally subjective.

The English costume dramas of the last two decades seem from one point of view a vital part of this industry. For this reason, I and others have labelled them heritage films, though that is not a term that their producers or indeed many of their audiences would be familiar with or even approve of… (Higson, 2003 : p1).

As will be seen below the genre of the ‘heritage film’ has provided Britain with some of its greatest commercial successes of the 1990s as well as the 1980s. This is now being repeated in the new millennium. Some have dismissed these films as very conservative. They can certainly be viewed as extremely nostalgic and very selective in their presentation of the past. But they could be viewed in a more complex way.

2005 Version of Pride and Prejudice dir Joe Wright

It is argued by some critics that the cinematic treatment which was given to the books they are named after was far less critical of the status quo than the original books were. Here it is possible to point to the novels of E. M. Forster which were far more attuned to the social tensions that were arising in Edwardian Britain than the filmic treatment.

Certainly Edwardian Britain wasn’t as rosy as some would like to paint it. Britain’s place in the world was being challenged industrially by both Germany and the USA. In terms of foreign policy even during the Boer war taking place at the beginning of the century Germany had been supportive of the Boer rebels. Tensions continued to build up with the ‘Anglo-German Naval race’ which started in earnest after 1907.

Anglo_German Naval Race

On the home front the Liberal government was faced with a serious constitutional crisis over the passing of Lloyd George’s famous budget. The rise of suffragism part of far greater social movement for votes for women and an ever increasing polarisation in Ireland between nationalists and unionists were all significant political and social features of the period which is better seen as one of transition with all the uncertainties which that term implies. Certainly it was not all halcyon days.

Alternative takes on Heritage

Stuart Hall has made a useful analysis of the notion of ‘heritage’ arguing that it functions to exclude social and cultural issues of the present by creating mythical visions of the past.

Empire Windrush

As a country, since World War Two Britain has undergone a significant re-composition of its population. Huge demographic changes were brought about by the massive growth of immigration fuelled by the long post-war industrial boom which saw Britain create a period of full employment and better working and social conditions under a welfare state.

Empire Windrush Passengers disembarking UK

Hall agrees that the Heritage film is a form of construction by the critical community which has spread much further than the corridors of the academic world.

It has come to signal not just a particular group, or cluster of interrelated groups, of films, but a particular attitude to those films, and indeed to the audiences presumed to frequent them. Heritage cinema is very largely a critical construct but its currency in academic debates …has subsequently been extended into journalistic and even popular usage. (My emphasis: Hall, Sheldon. 2001: p 191)

Howard’s End: The first of the 1990s heritage films

Poster of Howard

Some of the critiques depend upon whether a narrow or a wide definition of heritage is used. Merchant-Ivory produced and directed Howard’s End (1991) was the first ‘heritage film’ of the decade. The treatment of Forster’s original text relies on a country house aesthetic with the camera feasting upon the haute bourgeois interiors. This palpable pleasure in parading the visual splendour of the past undermines the social criticism of Forster’s novel. argues Gibson (2000: 116). Looking at some of the romanticised images Gibson certainly has a point.

Higson (2003) in his case study on Howard’s End also expresses a concern that this film is a particularly good example of films which choose a deliberately liberal canonical text upholding in a reasonable ‘authentic’ way the liberal notions expressed within the book. Nevertheless director and producer undermine that liberalism by constructing a stylistic mode which, by focusing on the mise en scene, allows a conservative sensibility to become prioritised.

It is important to bear in mind Stuart Hall’s comments cited above. Although the texts can be read by critics as a reactionary construction of British heritage in fact the arguments are not based upon actual audience research. It is not unreasonable to assume in the tradition of deconstruction which argues that meaning of a text is not fixed that the American audiences for Howard’s End made very different readings of the film. It should not be forgotten that many of the English viewers of the film were far more likely than American audiences to have some familiarity with the British history of the period. Much deeper social and political readings of the off-screen concerns of the film by members of the audience were very likely.

Helena Bonham Carter in Howard

Criticism without audience analysis: How useful is it?

The above points highlight the weakness of constructing criticism of texts with having a research relationship. Higson and other critics were making a critical ‘leap of faith’ by creating their perfectly reasonable interpretations based upon the prevalence of the right-wing mood of the nation at the time. The film of Howard’s End was made at the end of the Thatcher period. However there is no clear evidence how British audiences understood and experienced this film; what Hall described as attitude towards these films.

Hall however does make an important point about the lack of representation of many features of contemporary British society which is a part of the country’s heritage in the fullest sense of the term. Hall here was discussing the lack of representation of Afro-Caribbeans and the contribution of the Slave trade in all manner of ways to Britain today. This is a part of British ‘heritage’ which demands ‘recognition’. In this sense much of the heritage industry is very isolated from social and cultural reality.


The doyen of English Heritage was enaged enough to represent an evil episode in British history. Follow this link for Simon Schama on the historical episode being represented. When will British cinema can stop making romanticist cinema for an American market which appears to view Britain as quaint and face up to the bad bits of history as well as the proud bits. Turner was more honest about 150 years ago it seems. Art isn’t just ‘beautiful’!


Channel 4 Review

Link to official site with a trailer available

Link here for the Guardian review by Derek Malcolm

December 17, 2006

24 Hour Party People(2001). Dir. Michael Winterbottom

24 Hour Party People (2001), dir: Michael Winterbottom


Michael Winterbottom

Above: Michael Winterbottom

Michael Winterbottom is one of Britain’s most interesting film directors working today. A director like Ken Loach has developed a certain typical ‘feel’ to his films. Loach combines this with an underlying politics linking in to his filmmaking methods. By comparison Winterbottom maintains a political edge to his films which is less didactic than that of Loach. Perhaps that is unsurprising as he cites Lindsay Anderson as a strong influence. Winterbottom frequently gains the title of being ‘eclectic’ or a ‘genre-hopper’ which seems to be a negative criticism.

Not a Genre Monkey

It should by now be clear to reviewers that Winterbottom isn’t a genre filmmaker and if his films touch upon genres, just as this one touches on the rock movie genre, then it is because there is a deeper project at stake. He takes up projects and he is usually giving them a political twist. This twist may be within the aesthetic approach of the film itself rather than a direct aspect of the content. The latter approach based directlu upon content is more in the nature of the social realist approach. This is the kind of approach espoused by directors like Loach.

Steve Coogan as Tony Wilson

Above: Steve Coogan as Tony Wilson founder of Factory Records

Ignoring the aesthetic and intellectual influences

It is interesting that none of the reviews this article has linked to below comment upon his aesthetic approach even though these are from the more ‘intellectual’ end of the media. Perhaps this is unsurprising because a seemingly recurrent theme in Winterbottom’s films is the media. The way Winterbottom deals with the question of ‘point of view’ is also interesting. In 24 Hour Party People there is little in the way of point of view from a subjective perspective. Although the story is told by Steve Coogan, who’s character Tony Wilson is the founder of Factory Records, the cinematic narrative moves around. Not only does Coogan / Wilson break the ‘fourth wall’ by frequently addressing the audience directly, often the narrative comes from a Coogan who suddenly speaks from the future about the on-screen diegesis.

Winterbottom and the Media

Welcome to Sarajevo is one of Winterbottom’s films that effectively acts a critique of the media. Through the finding of a small boy in the chaos that was war-torn Sarajevo a TV reporter breaks through the professional patina of the media. The reporter starts to take a personal interest in what he is reporting thus the irony of presenting viewers with the spectacle of News which is inherently voyeuristic is highlighted. The voyeurism of ‘Bad News’ is reliant upon spectacle in war footage or else the aftermath of natural disaster.

Increasingly of course, the rise of ‘citizen reporting’ by amateurs with digital video is creating a different news aesthetic. Perhaps Winterbottom will return to that aspect of media in a future film project.

A Brechtian Aesthetic

Whilst Welcome to Sarajevo was in more of a humanistic mode 24 Hour Party People creates a more Brechtian approach. The distanciation effect or verfremdungseffekt through the breaking of the fourth wall by directly addressing the audience isn’t just a ‘postmodern’ vanity – indeed the film adds layers of irony by effectively critiquing postmodern irony itself. It enables the audience to take a more critical stance in considering the content of the film.

Rather than being an uncritical sycophantic or hagiographic film about pop and rock heroes being ‘done down’ in some dramatic way, the film carefully eschews drama and personal point of view to take a more detached view. Here Steve Coogan becomes an excellent casting choice. How much Coogan represents the ‘real’ Tony Wilson is entirely irrelevant. His irony and quick wittedness are perfect for a film which is constructed as a critique, not of Factory Records or the Hacienda Club or even youth culture in general, rather it leads the more critical mind to be analysing the workings of the system itself.

The Rock Movie Genre

The rock movie genre really took off in the 1960s. There were of course films about Elvis Presley first of all. But the rock movie really took of with A Hard Days Night by Richard Lester with the free flowing camera work that came to characterise the MTV pop-video. Sid and Nancy by Alex Cox was more of a standard biopic although it was hard hitting and critical. Not least of the kind of entrepreneurial opportunism of a character like Malcolm Maclaren. MacLaren is the sort of character who is implicitly critiqued off-screen in 24 Hour Party People, precisely because the whole of the Manchester (Madchester) scene was set in motion by the raw energy of the Sex Pistols, the band which brought Maclaren fame and fortune.

Andy Serkis as Soundman Martin Hannett

What Winterbottom’s film seems to be examining among other things is the inevitable tensions between the creation of a youth culture which is dependent upon naivety combined with lashings of energy and enthusiasm and the workings of industry and business. Here, as we see, Factory Records and the Hacienda Club cannot sell out. There is quite literally nothing to sell, instead the idealism is eroded and eventually heavily compromised by the real forces of chaos and anarchy in society the ‘lumpen’ criminal classes.

There is no such thing as a utopian 24 Hour Party in which the workings of the system can somehow be ignored in some utopian space. The criminal classes eventually come to control the door and the massive drug fuelled scene in the Hacienda. The drug scene itself can be seen as a part of the reaction of young people to a ‘no future’ type’ of a culture in which the living is done for today not tomorrow.

Tony Wilson and Factory Records

The story is based upon Tony Wilson who is a young ex-Cambridge graduate who has found a post in Granada TV. He is a part of the regional magazine programme doing cheesy features on various aspects of the region.

Wilson at the Sex Pistols Gig

Wilson is incredibly frustrated and eventually manages to get a music programme on the TV devoted to the ‘New Wave’ punk music. From here he eventually manages to get some bands to agree to start a record label with no contract. They are free to walk away at any time. The success of this leads to the establishing of the Hacienda Club. As a cultural space it was fantastic for a time, as a business it was a flop and running it bled Factory records dry.

When Factory Records was seeking an injection of new capital to produce a new record the entrepreneurs from London Records offered Factory Records £5 million. It was then that the audience really find out the meaning of the agreement not to have a contract. There is nothing to sell and of course Factory Records becomes history.

Exposed underlying contradictions in society

But this film isn’t so much about the nasty music business. On the contrary it is represented as a straight business like anything else. If anything, it is the drug gangs who are most in line for Winterbottom’s critical eye. But even they are seen as a certain kind of response to the post-industrial crisis of Manchester.

Nevertheless a telling critique of them comes in the ironical explanation provided by Coogan who explains that the cycle of capital has broken down precisely because they are parasites and don’t reinvest in the business they are bleeding. Instead they spend it on drink, guns, houses, fashion and women.

Winterbottom places the audience in a triangular frame. Idealist youth / business / anarchic lumpen criminal elements make up the sides of the frame. Winterbottom doesn’t give the audience any kind of didactic answer. He has posed a question of whether this will always be the case. It is up to us as audience to come up with a solution to the dilemma.

An Analysis of History

Winterbottom’s position here shouldn’t be confused with the cyclical version of history which keeps surfacing within the film. W. B. Yeats is frequently referenced and he was a believer in this idea. In brief it is the notion that what arises will be sucked back down as his famous line Things fall apart the centre cannot hold elaborates.

Winterbottom poses us with a more complex dialectical situation. Either the synthesis of the contradiction will move forward onto a higher plane or there will be a negation. In this case the idealism of Factory records and the cultural movement around it fades away. It goes down as a cultural moment, a fascinating experiment. Perhaps if Walter Benjamin were written about it he would describe it as a rupture or fissure within capitalism providing an opportunity to envisage another kind of society. In its heyday Factory and the Hacienda were remarkably free and utopian but it became a victim of its own success, unable to move forward.

Although Winterbottom’s critique is about a period long gone, the question is posed with every youth ‘New Wave’, will it sell out or will it collapse under its own internal contradictions? With the continuing hype around the Web with business and utopian discourse continuously clashing it is an ever present question.

Overall it is a film worth seeing for a range of reasons, and on the linked reviews below it is a clear that the film has been considerably underrated by the critics and reviewers with its theoretical and critical influences and antecedents carefully ignored – but then many of the best films are underrated. It happened with Lindsay Anderson’s films too.


I just loved the ridiculously priced office table :-).


BBC Coventry & Warwickshire Review

Interview with Steve Coogan

Who’s Who in the Film. Helpful to track down the role an various characters portrayed in the film

Information about the set of 24 Hour Party People

Guardian Review of 24 Hour Party People

Observer Review by Philip French

A more in depth Guardian interview with Michael Winterbottom. The best of the these linked articles.

Winterbottom a well kept secret

Senses of Cinema article on Winterbottom’s output

British Council Brit Film pages on Winterbottom

BFI Biography of Winterbottom

Seen the film, read all this and the above links, seen the film again? Now you can contribute in a really informed way to this BBC discussion page on the film.

Here is a link to a Realplayer interview with Steve Coogan on Channel 4. Currently I can’t get it to play but you might have better luck (technical ability).

Link to the official Cannes site. A press conference with Winterbottom be accessed here.

Alternatively you can contribute to discussion in the comments box below.

December 11, 2006

British Cinema: Films of 2006


I have to confess I haven’t seen too many British films brought out in 2006. This is due to two main reasons. Firstly I like to get the DVDs and I like to wait until the premium price has come off it. This is usually a reasonably swift but I don’t have that urge to see the latest as soon as it hits the screens (that is if the distributors and exhibitors allow it to).

However I’m teaching some British cinema post 1990 and clearly the OCR board is so fed up with getting essays on The Full Monty and Four Weddings and a Funeral they’ve had to send a reminder out to teacher’s that we are 6 years into the 21st century. Of there is a danger of losing a sense of history but that’s a strong tendency media studies which is best resisted.

Anyway 2006 turns out to have been quite a good year for British films many of which court controversy (thankfully). As I haven’t seen many yet this is a round up of reports and recommendations and hopefully pleasures to come.

British Films of 2006

The Wind That Shakes the Barley

Ken Loach on the Set of wind that Shakes the Barley

Well one film that made the headlines is Ken Loach’s The Wind That Shakes the Barley now out on DVD. As a winner of the Cannes Prix d’Or this comes as something of a surprise. Loach has forged his own vision of a socialistic social realist aesthetic often combining history and politics. I’m looking forward to this one as it deals with the very thorny issue of Britain’s relationship with Ireland and focuses upon the the period when the Black and Tans gained historical notoriety for their brutality. This period has lived in the Nationalist consciousnes ever since. Whatever its strengths and weaknesses getting a prize at Cannes isn’t going to earn Loach a Caribbean island (he wouldn’t want it anyway.) Sight & Sound December 2006 shows that it isn’t now on release and it made £3.88 million in the box office.

Shoot the Messenger Dir: Ngozi Onwurah

Shoot the Messenger 2006

I missed this one which was screened on BBC2 and is a BBC comissioned film. There is a report on it here.

As you can see from the negative response of some viewers they want representations of ethnic or other minorities to be sqeaky clean, ‘Sunday best’ kind of films. I remember this kind of argument emerging when Stephen Frears’ My Beautiful Laundrette came out in the 1980s. Looked at now it stands the test of time very effectively and its real strength is bringing out the contradictions in people’s identities and emotions which is what made that film a piece of art. The argument here is also reminiscent of the issues around Turtles can Fly (see Opinion 1 on this blog). The social reality is that identity by ‘ethnicity’ is leaky. People are more complicated than that! It is certainly a film I shall be trying to get hold of.

Click here for the Edinburgh film Festival report and a hyperlink to a video about the film.

London to Brighton. Dir: Paul Andrew Williams

London to Brighton 2006

This is a film that has made an impact well beyond its budget. Generically it turned into an unintentional gangster thriller (Sight and Sound Dec 2006, p 16). As such it is one to watch as it fits in well with the long-term genre for gangster movies in Britain which is analysed elswhere on this blog:

... where Williams could have opted for Guy Ritchie style crass humour he finds a more restrained and chillingly effective alternative. Its a film worthy of Mike Hodge at his best…

One of the key important points to make about this film is that the director Paul Andrew Williams found his own financier. (Look at the BBC video interview here to find out more). – You will need to click on the link and have Realplayer installed. He didn’t go straight to the UK film Council, although he did apply at a later a stage and was accepted by the UKFC. The Time Out review is here.

The Road to Guantanamo. Dir: Michael Winterbottom

The Road to Guantanamo

A full review of this film is under construction. The first part of this piece is already posted currently giving about one dozen linked reviews and links to trailers and extracts. suffice it to say here that the film did exceptionally well at the Berlin Film Festival. It is also notable that the film is so far unique by arranging to have near simultaneaous release on TV, DVD in the cinema and very imprtantly on the internet as a download. The advantage of this is that the attempts to control the distribution and multiplex by companies purely trying to profit from large US marketing budgets and the ‘Yoof Market’ are being circumvented. For more on the multiplex phenomenon see separate article on this blog.

The Queen (2006) dir Stephen Frears

Helen Mirren in The Queen 2006 by Stephen Frears

Link to Britfilms synopsis

Red Road (2006) dir Andrea Arnold

Red Road 2006 by Andrea Arnold

Link to Brtfilms synopsis

This is England (2006) dir Shane Meadows

This is England 2006 Shane Meadows

Link to Cineuropea review

December 10, 2006

British Cinema: The Irresistable Rise of the Multiplex


The development of the multiplex cinema has changed the face of film exhibition. Simultaneously multiplexes have contributed to the denuding of town centres of traditional entertainments, whilst contributing to the growth of cinema audiences. Prior to the development of the multiplex cinema audiences in Britain were at an all time low.

There is a seeming paradox that multiplexes offer more screens and fewer films. Below this phenomenon is explored in relation to the increasing domination of the global film industry by Hollywood. The problem of distribution and exhibition of British and /or other cinemas is also considered.

The First Multiplex

The first multiplex was built in a shopping mall in Kansas City in 1966. This happened at a time when the American film industry was suffering from the break-up of the big Hollywood vertically integrated companies. There were several reasons for this. Anti-monopoly legislation was introduced. This came at a time when TV had begun to steal audiences. Furthermore there was greater disposable income going into other leisure industries which were competing for the cinema audiences. By the 1980s the multiplex model dominated the American exhibition system and the time was ripe to open up new markets.

The Multiplex in Britain

The first British multiplex opened in Milton Keynes in 1985. It had ten screens seating over 2,000 people. It also had a restaurant, brasserie and social club. It was positioned to have a cachment area of approximately 1.5 million people within 45 minutes drive. This kind of metrics is important to decide where to site multiplexes.

There were 2 or more showings of individual films each evening and there would always be at least one U Rated film which helped to make the venue attractive for families. It was now possible for Adults to watch one film and children another.

The auditoriums were now designed with far better standards of comfort for the seating which is spacious and very relaxing. The screen can easily be seen from all the seats. Combined with the best screening technologies available the cinema could now offer a wide range of people a far better quality viewing experience.

The Milton Keynes Multiplex

The cramped, knackered seats, bad sight-lines, poor sound and small screens with poor facilities especially parking consigned the local independent cinema to history in most major cities over a ten year period.

Inside the Milton Keynes Multiplex

Much of the multiplex boom was linked in with the massive growth of the consumption led lifestyle economy usually concentrated upon out-of town shopping centres. These usually had free parking and often good rail connections.

The British Multiplex in the 1990s

Northampton Multiplex Cinema

The construction of larger multiplexes of over 8 screens was premised upon a catchment area of about half a million people living within a 20-25 minute drive away. Since 1991 there has been the development of the smaller multiplex 5-6 screens in smaller towns and cities such as Leamington-Spa, Lincoln and Kettering.

During the 1990s five companies dominated the multiplex market controlling about 88% of the screens. These are: Rank Odeon , National amusements / Showcase, UCI, Virgin, Warner Village. There is now a return to ‘brownfield’ sites with ‘megaplexes’ being constructed. There is a 31 screen megaplex being built on the Battersea power station site, and a 21 screen venue has been built in Bradford. The Star site in Birmingham has 30 screens and is part of a large shopping and restaurant complex. Technically in the inner city it has good proximity to the motorway and nearly 3,000 car parking spaces are available.

The multiplex can be seen as part of the ‘MacDonaldisation’ of society by providing a homogenised entertainments service. The buildings, unlike the Odeons of the 1930s, are frequently system-build and standardised. Carbuncles on the face of the British built environment, pure money generating machines. The labour systems are increasingly de-skilled as fewer, less skilled, projectionists can operate the largely computer based projection systems. The buildings are designed to create a through-flow of people so seats in the foyers are rarely provided. Membership of Trade Unions is discouraged for the workforce. (Hanson, 2000).

Less Choice Not More

David Lister has summed up the position in Britain with a strong degree of scepticism as he comments below:

Another Cannes staple is the lack of British films, an omission usually more than compensated for by a performance of a British government minister. The sun, sea and crowds tend to give our visiting ministers a sense of euphoria or perhaps just heatstroke. Labour’s Chris Smith once announced that he intended all British multiplexes always to show at least one British film. Guess what, it never happened.

The expansion of screen numbers has paradoxically seen fewer films being screened. Instead blockbusters are often being screened on several of the screens each night: ‘A small proportion of major Hollywood studio films receiveore a disproportionate amount of resources in terms of marketing and screen time.’ ( Hanson, 2000 : 55 ). Multiplexes often hold over successful films for extra weeks to maximise their profitability. As a result independent films rarely get a look in despite the promises that were made at the time the first multiplex opened in Britain that one independent film would always be available.

During 1997 of the 284 films exhibited in the UK 153 were American and 21 were US/UK joint productions. The distribution of most of the Hollywood films went through 5 major distributors: UIP, Buena Vista, Twentieth Century Fox, Columbia and Warner Brothers.

The rest of the distribution sector is comprised of small independent companies promoting most of the British, other European, and other overseas films. These films are finding it much harder to get screen time despite the fact that there are more screens.

Independent cinemas have been unable to compete with the multiplexes even when trying to show mainstream products. This is because unacceptable conditions are placed on the exhibitors, such as taking a certain number of products from a distributor. In any exhibitors have managed to make good profits and this section of British cinema continues to be successful. This is at the expense of British and other non-Hollywood coming to screens.

Here’s how it works. The lower the risk of the film not attracting big audiences the greater the per-centage cut of the takings the distributor takes. this automatically makes small budget films a big risk for exhibitors because the marketing budgets are so small. Remember hollywood blockbusters sometimes spend 50% – Yes, that is half of the budget! – on marketing. The marketing budget of a film like Titanic will be more than the cost of several British films added together.

Overall there is an illusion of diversity and consumer choice being promoted. Hansen (2000) rightly notes that the situation is ambivalent on the grounds that multiplexes replacing badly designed, uncomfortable cinemas or providing a service where none previously existed is the upside of this development. But this point needs to be developed further, surely neither situation is satisfactory. Multiplexes only serve the interests of large-scale commercial enterprises. Both planning issues and issues of cultural citizenship issue need to be addressed. cultural citizenship is the matter of rights of represntation of people. Arguably these rights are overridden by the greed of large companies.

Planning and Environmental Issues

Many contemporary urban planners are stressing the importance of ‘polycentric’ planning, that is the importance of developing local community ties as well as reducing the huge traffic flows on motorways which has been encouraged by the out-of-town development.

It isn’t just a British phenomena it is a worldwide one. Below is an image of the first multiplex in Vietnam:

First Multiplex in Vietnam

Locally available entertainments which are not reliant upon car usage and which can provide high quality viewing and be sensitive to the expressed needs of the local audience in terms of programming would be an extension of cultural citizenship in the face of rampant commercialism.

Here is a link to Friends of the Earth criticism of the multiplex

Where do we want cinema to go?

This ambivalence about cinema and its role in British culture is one which isn’t discussed enough. Do we want huge sheds primarily designed to part teenagers and people in their early twenties from their money whilst closing down alternative avenues? We can certainly say that what we have now is ‘popular culture’ in the sense that enough people go for the spectacle for the industry to exist. Should multiplexes be forced to take a certain amount of european Films? would this just lead to the creation of quota quickies. Is the problem worth worrying about?

It certainly seems to be the case that the multiplex system totally dominates British cinema and that it is geared up to showing Hollywood productions and maximising profits. Exhibition companies tend to do well out of this and in Britain we can’t complain too much as many technicians are employed in making Hollywood films. To some extent Hollywood films create a sort of global popular culture although the audiences that enjoy them may read them differently according to their own experiences.

Lots of room for dicussion here so please make use of the comments boxes. Ciao fo now :-)

December 09, 2006

British Cinema: Bibliography

Here is a useful range of books and articles originally used on my British Cinema open studies courses. It isn’t meant to be comprehensive neither is it currently categorised by levels of knowledge. This will be further developed in the coming weeks.

British Cinema Bibliography

Aldgate, Anthony. 1983. Britain Can Take It: British Cinema in the Second World War. Oxford: Blackwell

Aldgate, Anthony & Richards Jeffrey 2007 New Edition. Britain Can Take It: British Cinema in the Second World War. London: I.B.Tauris

Aldgate, Anthony and Richards Jeffrey. 2002. Best of British: Cinema and Society from 1930 to the Present. London: I.B. Taurus

Aldgate, Anthony and Richards Jeffrey 2nd Edition. 1994. Britain Can Take it: British Cinema in the Second World War. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press

Babington, Bruce. Ed. 2001. British Stars and Stardom. Manchester: Manchester University Press

Barnett, Corelli. 1993. The Lost Victory. London: Macmillan

Barr, Charles. Ed. 1986. All Our Yesterdays: 90 Years of British Cinema. London. London: British Film Institute

Brown, Geoff. 2000. ‘ Something for Everyone: British film Culture in the 1990s’. Murphy, Robert. Ed. British Cinema of the 90s. London: BFI

Brunsdon, Charlotte. 2000. ‘ Not Having It All: Women and Film in the 1990s. Murphy, Robert. Ed. British Cinema of the 90s. London: BFI

Burton Alan, O’Sullivan Tim, Wells Paul. Eds. 2000. The Family Way: The Boulting Brothers and British Film Culture. Trowbridge: Flicks Books. ISBN 0 948911 59X

Chibnall, Steve and Murphy, Robert eds.1999. British Crime Cinema. London: Routledge

Cieko, Anne: “ Sally Potter : The making of a British woman filmmaker” Tasker Yvonne. Ed.Fifty Contemporary Filmmakers London: Routledge ISBN 0-415-18974-8

Cook, Pam. 1996. Fashioning the Nation: Costume and Identity in British Cinema. London BFI
Cook, Pam. 2002. I Know Where I’m Going! London. London : BFI

Cox, Alex. ‘Britain is Big Enough’. Sight and Sound Volume 13 Issue 1, pp 6-7

Christie, Ian. 2000. ‘ As Others See Us: British Film-making and Europe in the 90s’. Murphy, Robert. Ed. British Cinema of the 90s. London: BFI

Curran, James and Porter, Vincent. eds. 1983. British Cinema History .London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson

Dave, Paul. 2006. Visions of England. London: Berg

Dickinson, Margaret and Street, Sarah. 1985. Cinema and the State: The Film industry and the British Government, 1927-84. London: BFI

Drazin, Charles. 2007. The Finest Hours: British Cinema of the 1940s. London: I.B. Tauris

Durgnat, Raymond. 1970. A Mirror for England: British Movies from Austerity to Affluence. London: Faber

Dyer, Richard. Brief Encounter. London: BFI

Farley, Fidelma. 2002 . ‘Neil Jordan’. Evonne Tasker Ed. Fifty Contemporary Filmakers. London : Routledge

Friedman, Lester. Ed. 1992. British Cinema and Thatcherism. London: UCL Press

Geraghty, Christine. 2000. British Cinema in the Fifties: Gender Genre and the New Look. London Routledge

Gibson, Pamela Church. 2000. ‘Fewer Weddings and More Funerals: Changes in the Heritage Film. Murphy, Robert. Ed. British Cinema of the 90s. London: BFI

Gilbey, Ryan . 2002. ‘Reasons to be Cheerful’ Sight and Sound. Volume 12, Issue 9, p 38

Gilbey, Ryan . 2003. ‘ Written on the Body’. Sight and Sound. Volume 13, Issue 9, pp 16-18

Gillett, Philip. 2003. The British Working Class in Postwar Film. Manchester: Manchester University Press

Hanson, Stuart. 2000. ‘ Spoilt for Choice? Multiplexes in the1990s’. Murphy, Robert. Ed. British Cinema of the 90s. London: BFI

Harper, Sue. 2000. Women in British Cinema: Mad Bad and Dangerous to Know. London: Continuum

Hawkridge, John. 1997. ‘British Cinema from Hepworth to Hitchcock’. Nowell-Smith Geoffrey. Ed. Oxford History of World Cinema. Oxford : Oxford University Press.

Hennessy, Peter. 1992. _Never Again: Britain 1945-1951. London: Johnathan Cape

Higson, Andrew. 2003. English Heritage, English Cinema. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Higson, Andrew. 1993.’Re-presenting the national past: nostalgia and pastiche in the heritage film.’ Friedman. L ed. British Cinema and Thatcherism: Fires Were Started. London: UCL Press.

Higson, Andrew. 1995. _Waving the Flag: Constructing a National Cinema in Britain-. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Hill, John. 1996. ‘British Film Policy’ . In Moran Albert. Film Policy. London : Routledge : ISBN 0-415-09791-6

Hill, John. 2000. ‘ Failure and Utopianism: Representations of the working Class in British Cinema of the 1990s.’ Murphy, Robert. Ed. British Cinema of the 90s. London: BFI

Hill, John. 1986. Sex, Class and Realism. London: BFI

Hofman, Kaja. ‘Does my gun look big in this?’ Sight and Sound Volume 12 Issue 3, pp 10-11

Houston, Penelope. Went the Day Well? London: BFI

Jackel, Anne. 1996. ‘ European Co-production Strategies: the Case of France and Britain’. Moran, Albert Ed. Film Policy. London: Routledge

James, Nick. 2002. ‘Nul Britannia’. Sight and Sound Volume 12 Issue 10, pp 14-17

Kennedy, A.L. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. London: BFI

Landy, Marcia.1991. British Genres: Cinema and Society, 1930-1960. Princeton: Princeton University Press

Lant, Antonia. 1997. ‘Britain at the End of Empire’. Nowell-Smith Geoffrey Ed. Oxford History of World Cinema. Oxford : Oxford University Press.

Lay, Samantha. 2002. British Social Realism. London: Wallflower

Leigh, Jacob. ?. The Cinema of Ken Loach: art in the service of the people. London: Wallflower Press

Low, Rachel. 1985. Film Making in 1930s Britain. London : George, Allen and Unwin

Luckett, Moya. 2000. ‘Image and Nation in 1990s British Cinema’. Murphy, Robert. Ed. British Cinema of the 90s. London: BFI

Lury, Karen. 2000. ‘ Here and Then: Space, Place and Nostalgia in British Youth Cinema of the 1990s’. Murphy, Robert. Ed. British Cinema of the 90s. London: BFI

McFarlane, Brian. The Encyclopedia of British Film. London: Methuen. ISBN 0-413-77301-9

McNab, Geoffrey. 2003.’Eager Beaver’. Sight and Sound. September, Volume 13 Issue 9, pp 20-25

McNab, Geoffrey. 2002. ‘ That Sinking Feeling’. Sight and Sound Volume 12 Issue 10, pp 18-20

Miller, Toby. 2000. ‘The Film Industry and the Government: ‘Endless Mr Beans and Mr Bonds’?’

Monk, Claire and Sargeant, Amy. 2002. British Historical Cinema. London Routledge

Monk, Claire. 2002: ‘The Heritage Film Revisited’. Monk, Claire and Sargeant, Amy eds. British Historical Film. London: Routledge

Moor, Andrew. 2001.’Dangerous limelight: Anton Walbrook and the Seduction of the English’. Babington, Bruce. Ed.British Stars and Stardom. Manchester: Manchester University Press

Moor, Andrew. 2001. ‘No Place Like Home: Powell, Pressburger Utopia.

Moor, Andrew. 2005. Powell and Pressburger: A Cinema of Magic Spaces. London: I. B. Tauris

Murphy, Robert.Ed. British Cinema Book 2nd Edition. London: BFI

Murphy, Robert. 2000. British Cinema and the Second World War.

Murphy, Robert.Ed. 2001. British Cinema Book 2nd Edition. London: BFI

Murphy, Robert. Ed. 2000. British Cinema of the 90s. London: BFI

Murphy, Robert. Ed. Sixties British Cinema. London: BFI

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