This chapter is a chronological overview of some of the key developments in science fiction animated films, using the concept of the “thick text” as a way of understanding how the specific language of animation facilitates the metaphysical and metaphorical address of the genre. The discussion suggests that SF animation speaks to significant moments in the advances in technology and film form, while also referring to the rich tradition of SF literature and illustration. This enables such films to operate as modernist texts in times of social and cultural transition, and to explore notions of “space” and “time” as literal, aesthetic, and analogous phenomena. SF animation allows for a “scripted space” that nevertheless reimagines the world and self-reflexively foregrounds the relationship between scientific and technological interfaces and human creativity, consistently offering key insights about late-capitalist, postindustrial society and the human condition.
After distinguishing propaganda as a pedagogical practice with roots in religious proselytizing from agitation as directed at immediate mobilization, this article discusses the militantly atheistic Bolshevik propaganda films made during the Russian Civil War. These films, one of which was made by filmmakers Dziga Vertov and Lev Kuleshov, depicted the forcible exposure of the relics of Russian Orthodox saints, whose remains were held by the faithful to be incorruptible. This article argues that the desire of film propagandists to demonstrate both the truth and the persuasiveness of their lesson led them to fabricate a representation of spectator response, through the montage device later called the “Kuleshov Effect,” that ironically commits the visual falsification of which the Bolsheviks accused Orthodox clerics.
This article examines the relation between modernism and cinema. It highlights the two most important aspects of this relationship. One is the way that a modernist aesthetic informed independent and avant-garde film making in the 1920s, and the other is a more sociological argument about the function of mainstream cinema in acculturating twentieth-century men and women to the increasing virtuality of modern life. The article also traces the origin of the modernist cinema, and discusses its nature and content.
Dissent, Truthiness, and Skepticism in the Global Media Landscape: Twenty-First Century Propaganda in Times of War
Megan Boler and Selena Nemorin
After the terrorist attacks in September 2001, an event that came to be known as 9/11, the United States under President George W. Bush embarked on an unprecedented propaganda campaign. Increased access to the Internet led to the proliferation of online forums and blogs that have given rise to a new media landscape, one in which propaganda, skepticism, truthiness, and dissent are the order of the day. This new mediascape provided a means to organize global mass protests against the war in Iraq. A form of dissent that dramatically increased in popularity during the decade is satire, and specifically “fake news” such as the Colbert Report and The Daily Show, that view news media as propaganda. This chapter explores U.S. propaganda in the twenty-first century and the role of social media in activism, political change, and/or revolution. It discusses the use of the Internet in political mobilization and protest movements through blogs, and viral videos. It also looks at citizen journalism and its implications for freedom of speech.
Given the power and ubiquity of the human face in social life, it is unsurprising that the represented face in close-up plays a central role in narrative film. This chapter begins by characterizing and defending a cognitive cultural approach to the represented face in film. It goes on to survey research on how representations of the face function in film narratives, beginning with early film theorists Hugo Munsterberg and Béla Balázs and extending through more recent research on close-ups, empathy, emotional contagion, and point-of-view editing. All this leads to an analysis of the represented face in The Silence of the Lambs, concentrating on how faces are used to portray opposition and to elicit various spectator effects. The chapter demonstrates that a cognitive cultural approach to film enables better understanding of the film medium generally, but also of a particular film in its cultural and historical context.
Filmmakers as Folk Psychologists: How Filmmakers Exploit Cognitive Biases as an Aspect of Cinematic Narration, Characterization, and Spectatorship
This chapter examines the relation between folk psychology and cognitive biases in film narration, characterization, and spectatorship. More specifically, the chapter explores the “peak-end” rule and duration neglect as aspects of the way viewers encode their experience of films in long-term memory. As the work of psychologist Daniel Kahneman shows, the “peak-end” rule anticipates that a viewer’s memories of hedonic peaks and dramatic climaxes are more salient than parts of a film less emotionally charged, and further suggests that viewers are less sensitive to the duration of long films if enough hedonic peaks are sprinkled throughout its running time. The chapter concludes with an analysis of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Blind Chance (1981) as an illustration of the “James Dean” effect, which predicts that viewers adjudge a short, happy life as being more desirable than a longer life containing brief bouts of unhappiness
The well-known problem with “adaptation” is that the word is fraught with normative assumptions. Adaptation implies comparison, and comparison implies standards, grounds of comparison. Instead, a dialogue with a past that once was there but cannot be “restored” is a productive deployment of anachronism as a figure of intertemporal thought. Chapter 10 offers a detailed commentary on an “adaptation” of the author’s own that adopts an attitude of loyalty, rather than fidelity, to the text it engages: Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. Flaubert wrote his novel in a strong and critical contemporaneity. The historicity of the cinematic images of most Madame Bovary films thus obliterates from the novel its own historicity, substituting for it a theatrical mask that puts everything at a distance. The audiovisual work discussed here seeks both to actualize the novel and to be loyal to it in the manner of its actualizing.
Japanese Modernism and “Cine-Text”: Fragments and Flows at Empire’s Edge in Kitagawa Fuyuhiko and Yokomitsu Riichi
William O. Gardner
This article notes that Kitagawa Fuyuhiko's writings from the 1920s and 1930s, together with the contemporaneous works of prose author Yokomitsu Riichi, are strongly marked by the confluence of the literary and the cinematic. Kitagawa and Yokomitsu's engagement with film was not limited to a fascination with the precision, objectivity, or mobility of the “camera eye.” Rather, it extended to the entire ability of the cinematic apparatus to capture the temporality of objects in motion, and of the ability of the filmmaker to organize segments of space into a new synthetic whole. The article explores this confluence through a brief examination of four instances of “cine-text”: Kitagawa' poetry collection War, Yokomitsu' novel Shanghai, the concept of literary formalism Yokomitsu proposed around the year 1930, and the theory of the “prose film” that Kitagawa unveiled in the following decade.
Miriam Bratu Hansen
This article suggests ways in which the notion of cinema as vernacular modernism could be useful to the project of writing transnational film history, and presents examples from Japanese and Chinese films of the 1930s to show how vernacular modernism can be productive as a critical term. It considers the films Forget Love for Now, Every Night Dreams, and Shennü: The Goddess, which look at themes of motherhood and prostitution. The framework provided in the discussion framework could be made productive for cinemas in other parts of the world, with different historical trajectories of capitalist modernization, everyday modernity, and aesthetic modernism.
This article identifies a particular subgenre of the road narrative, the transgender road narrative, analyzing the film Transamerica and the novel Nevada as representative examples. The first part draws on transgender studies scholarship, showing how these texts both depict a long history of trans (im)mobility and engage with the affective geographies of gender transitioning, including the idea of the body as home. The second part draws on ecocriticism and environmental humanities scholarship, comparing how Transamerica and Nevada depict landscapes and environments in relation to trans bodies. This article thus takes this subgenre as an opportunity to explore the intersection of transgender issues and environmental issues and subsequently to develop a new line of inquiry that we might call “trans ecology.” (This article has been commissioned as a supplement to The Oxford Handbook of Ecocriticism, edited by Greg Garrard.)
Rosalind C. Morris
This article argues that the doubleness or ambivalence which is discernible in the signifying practices of much modernist aesthetics as self-reflexivity and symbolic instability derives from the fact that modernity is the form of appearance, the concrete realization, of capitalist systematicity. The question of how to represent such simultaneity has, of course, dominated both the aesthetic theory and practice of modernism for well over a century. Modernity also entails the related forces of urbanization, industrialization, and bureaucratization, all sustained by the logic of rationalization. Inevitably, these forces materialize in distinct ways, depending on the cultural infrastructures into which they are inserted. The discussion explores these issues in relation to modernity and modernism in South Africa. As everywhere else in the world, cinema constituted a signal medium of modern industrial culture in South Africa.
This article looks at a new conception of urban space, pivotal to late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Indian literatures and the emergent political culture of Indian nationalism, inscribed into the figure of the modern woman in a wide variety of Hindi films of the 1920s and the 1930s. It argues that the trope of the modern woman offers a phantasmic vision of urban identity in a transitional society—a vision which brought together the desire for modernity and fears about the price of modernization.