Tag Archives: books

March 2018


Melodrama Unbound: Across History, Media, and National Cultures

Edited by Christine Gledhill and Linda Williams
Columbia University Press

 

For too long melodrama has been associated with outdated and morally simplistic stereotypes of the Victorian stage; for too long film studies has construed it as a singular domestic melodrama unboundgenre of familial and emotional crises, either subversively excessive or narrowly focused on the dilemmas of women. Drawing on new scholarship in transnational theatrical, film, and cultural histories, this collection demonstrates that melodrama is a transgeneric mode that has long spoken to fundamental aspects of modern life and feeling.

Pointing to melodrama’s roots in the ancient Greek combination of melos and drama, and to medieval Christian iconography focused on the pathos of Christ as suffering human body, the volume highlights the importance to modernity of melodrama as a mode of emotional dramaturgy, the social and aesthetic conditions for which emerged long before the French Revolution. Contributors articulate new ways of thinking about melodrama that underscore its pervasiveness across national cultures and in a variety of genres. They examine how melodrama has traveled to and been transformed in India, China, Japan, and South America, whether through colonial circuits or later, globalization; how melodrama mixes with other modes such as romance, comedy, and realism; and finally how melodrama has modernized the dramatic functions of gender, class, and race by orchestrating vital aesthetic and emotional experiences for diverse audiences.

About the Author

Christine Gledhill is a visiting professor in cinema studies at the University of Sunderland. She is the author of Reframing British Cinema, 1918–1928: Between Restraint and Passion (2003); editor of Home Is Where the Heart Is (1987); and coeditor of Doing Women’s Film History: Reframing Cinemas Past and Future (2015).

Linda Williams is professor emerita in film & media and rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley. Her books include Hard Core: Power, Pleasure and the “Frenzy of the Visible” (1989/1999); Playing the Race Card: Melodramas of Black and White from Uncle Tom to O.J. Simpson (2001); and On The Wire (2014).

October 2017

Media and Class : TV, Film, and Digital Culture

Edited by June Deery, Andrea Press

Although the idea of class is again becoming politically and culturally charged, the relationship between media and class remains understudied. This diverse collection draws together prominent and emerging media scholars to offer readers a much-needed orientation within the wider categories of media, class, and politics in Britain, America, and beyond. Case studies address media representations and media participation in a variety of platforms, with attention to contemporary culture: from celetoids to selfies, Downton Abbey to Duck Dynasty, androyals to reality TV. These scholarly but accessible accounts draw on both theory and empirical research to demonstrate how different media navigate and negotiate, caricature and essentialize, or contain and regulate class.

In the Name of the Mother: From Fascist Melodrama to the Maternal Horrific in the Films of Dario Argento

by Marcia Landy

in Italian Motherhood on Screen pp 21-44

In this chapter, Landy explores melodrama as a contentious literary and cinematic form in Italian culture through its alignment with a politics of the body by way of sensational affect. Bordering on, at times metamorphosing, into the horrific, the melodramatic imagination entertains scenarios of murder, monstrosity and bodily mutilation perpetrated by or on maternal figures.

 

September 2017

Rebecca d’Alfred Hitchcock by Jean-Loup Bourget

I have just published a monograph (in French) which deals with Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca. I start by examining the movie’s complex genesis, the respective contributions of Selznick and Hitchcock and the decisive role played by Orson Welles’ radio version of the novel. I then replace both novel and movie in the context of the subdued Gothic tradition exemplified by Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, draw attention to various Hollywood attempts to resort to 1st person narration in film, and conclude that although Rebecca does constitute a turning point in Hitchcock’s career and oeuvre, it should also be re-assessed in the light of some of the director’s English movies, specifically Easy Virtue and The Skin Game.

À Manderley, fastueuse demeure gothique de la côte des Cornouailles, se joue un drame fascinant. La jeune épouse du riche Maxim de Winter, désemparée dans un milieu où elle évolue pour la première fois, se trouve perpétuellement en butte au souvenir de la première femme de son époux, l’énigmatique Rebecca, qui semble hanter encore les lieux.
Tiré du best-seller de Daphné du Maurier, Rebecca, sorti en1940, est la première réalisation américaine d’Alfred Hitchcock. Mais était-ce vraiment son film, ou celui du producteur, David O. Selznick, internationalement reconnu pour Autant en emporte le vent (1939) et réputé pour son interventionnisme ? Deux visionnaires pour une œuvre magistrale, analysée en détail dans un ouvrage combinant description de séquences, études comparatives et lectures critiques.

September 2017

“Women in White: Femininity and Female Desire in the 1960s Bombay Melodrama”

by Anupama Kapse in Film, Fashion, and the 1960’s edited by Eugenia Paulicelli, Drake Stutesman and Louise Wallenberg (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2017), pp. 149-168.

Excerpt:

White as a Fabric and Architectural Frame
Clothes have served as a visual shorthand for representing the class or moral stature of popular characters in Bombay cinema since the time of its inception. The hero, heroine, villain, and others could be recognized as stock characters quite simply by what they were wearing: the heroine in a simple, demurely draped sari; the vamp with an “ostrich feather fan, gold wig studded with rhinestones, and leggings under a dark blue bikini bedecked with shiny doodahs”; the Anglicized hero in a black suit, shirt, and tie; the poet or artist in a pristine white kurta pajama; a rich father in a pipe and dressing gown; a poor father in a tattered dhoti and vest; and a villain (often acting as a buffoon) with hair dyed red, bow tie, and bright checked jacket. In the formulaic cinema of the 1960s, narrative patterns were established according to the easy recognition of this stock cast. Characters were simple and bordered on the stereotypical: the virtuous heroine, the sexualized vamp, the rich and overbearing father, and the lascivious villain were standard characters who stood for specific social types with well-defined moral values, or, sometimes, lack thereof.

Indeed, Bombay cinema mobilizes clothing as the primary sign of dramatic enunciation in highly coded and spectacular ways. If, as Peter Brooks has argued, melodrama is a form structured by the extreme polarization of good and evil, then, Bombay cinema is unapologetically melodramatic in its unfailing reliance on costume as an immediate and pervasive sign of this Manichean, black and white universe…

December 2015

Amours, Danses Et Chansons: Le Melodrame de Cabaret Au Mexique Et a Cuba (Annees 1940-1950)

by: Julie Amiot-Guillouet

 

Amiot

L’ouvrage aborde la facon dont les coproductions entre Cuba et le Mexique debouchent dans les annees 1940-50 sur la mise en place d’un corpus de films designes comme des melodrames de cabaret, ou l’apport cubain, loin d’etre purement ornemental, contribue a renouveler profondement les normes generiques en vigueur dans le melodrame mexicain.

Cet ouvrage propose une analyse originale sur les relations cinématographiques entre Cuba et le Mexique à la période classique, à travers la construction de l’imaginaire particulier du mélodrame de cabaret, peuplé de danseuses de rumba au sang chaud et au cœur tendre. Les films dont elles sont les héroïnes sulfureuses s’enracinent dans les traditions génériques de l’industrie du cinéma mexicain, retravaillées par l’apport cubain à travers la musique, la danse, les paysages et les cabarets. Ils façonnent des personnages féminins originaux, introduisant des représentations inédites de danseuses et de femmes fatales qui luttent pour leur autonomie, et jouissent d’une grande liberté dans leur rapport avec leur corps. Cette coopération cinématographique s’explique par la volonté des producteurs, distributeurs et metteurs en scène mexicains de s’imposer sur les écrans cubains, tandis que les Cubains espèrent bénéficier de leur savoir-faire technique et artistique pour jeter les bases d’un cinéma national encore embryonnaire. Toutefois, l’atmosphère « tropicale » mise en œuvre dans les films s’avère un trompe-l’œil commercial lié au regard mexicain qui exotise Cuba. Un postulat dénoncé par les critiques et cinéastes cubains, en particulier au lendemain de la Révolution qui souhaite rompre radicalement avec ce cinéma commercial. La réception et l’historiographie de ces films en font ainsi de puissants révélateurs des imaginaires nationaux qu’ils contribuent à façonner et à véhiculer

June 2017

Scars and Wounds: Film and Legacies of Trauma

Edited by Nick Hodgkin and Amit Thakkar

About: This book examines recent cinematic representations of the traumatic legacies of national and international events and processes. Whilst not ignoring European and Hollywood cinema, it includes studies of films about countries which have been less well-represented in cinematic trauma studies, including Australia, Rwanda, Chile and Iran. Each essay establishes national and international contexts that are relevant to the films considered. All essays also deal with form, whether this means the use of specific techniques to represent certain aspects of trauma or challenges to certain genre conventions to make them more adaptable to the traumatic legacies addressed by directors. The editors argue that the healing processes associated with such legacies can helpfully be studied through the idiom of ‘scar-formation’ rather than event-centred ‘wound-creation’.