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4 Raja Amari’s Screen of the Haptic: Red Satin (Tunisia, 2002)

Florence Martin Indiana University Press ePub

At the end of The Nights, Shahrazad marries the Sultan, and Dunyazad marries his brother. The description of the marriage feast is replete with details on the various attires both brides wear. Shahrazad’s first dress is of a deep red:

Presently they brought forward Shahrazad and displayed her, for the first dress, in a red suit; whereupon King Shahriyar rose to look upon her and the wits of all present, men and women, were bewitched for that she was even as saith of her one of her describers: –

A sun on wand in knoll of sand she showed,

Clad in her cramoisy-hued chemisette

Of her lips’ honey-dew she gave me drink

And with her rosy cheeks quench fire she set.1

In Raja Amari’s film, however, the bride does not wear red: her mother does. And the story is not about a fiancée’s long journey to marital bliss; rather, it is the story of a beautiful widow who marries off her daughter at the end of the film, yet who dances seductively, all clad in a fiery red dress. One could see the film as a different take on Shahrazad’s wedding to Shahriyar, or, better yet, as a new storytelling technique inspired by Shahrazad’s but taken in an entirely new direction. Amari as postmodern Shahrazad tells us a secret story by going against the grain of the viewer’s expectations.

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Medium 9780253356772

1 Rights and Wrongs on the Radio

Harri Englund Indiana University Press ePub

“Government says it is committed to ensuring that rural areas are developed.” Broadcast in the main news bulletin of the Malaŵi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) in 2006, this headline did not announce news in any obvious sense.1 Novelty was less important than the timeless legitimacy of the state, whatever the composition of the government conducting its affairs.2 The headline, in point of fact, was itself timeless. The year of its broadcast could have been any of Malaŵi’s independence since 1964, when after three decades of Kamuzu Banda’s autocratic regime, the country was ruled by two ostensibly democratic presidents, Bakili Muluzi (1994–2004) and Bingu wa Mutharika (2004 to the present). When I first arrived in Malaŵi in the twilight years of Banda’s regime, it was the MBC’s weather forecast that represented to me the station’s disregard for imparting information. I discovered that the weather forecast had had the same refrain for decades, regardless of the season: “The winds will be light and variable but gusty in stormy areas.” With its caveat and tautology, it seemed to sum up an ethos whose principal interest was to broadcast platitudes that would apply to any time and anywhere in Malaŵi.

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Medium 9780861967131

Chapter 8 Regression and Jouissance

Harrington, Seán J. Indiana University Press ePub

While Fantasia was structured by eroticism in aid of a conscious utopia (the creation of a cross-class consumable product), the succeeding features of the pre-war era of Disney were structured by a threat levelled against the idealised image of primordial union with the figure of the mother: an unconscious utopia. This chapter begins its discussion of what would become Disney’s most affective narrative formula by clarifying the concept of the regressive, followed by analyses of Dumbo (1941) and Bambi (1942). These discussions introduce different aspects of the regressive narrative, the concluding points of which will be amalgamated in a conclusion to Part Two of this text: a conception of the Disney form as a regressive cinematic apparatus, utopian in its presentation.

The Regressive

The facets of adulthood and compliance with paternity are considered profoundly negative in the classic Disney era. This path away from the adult in favour of un-castrated childhood represents a regressive choice in the film’s narrative. Rather than orienting the narrative along the lines of the Oedipal dilemma, the viewer is brought backwards along earlier organisations of structure. This is the essence of the Disney narrative, an essence which is intrinsically transgressive in terms of patriarchy, yet seemingly too commodified and impotent to raise issue among censors or mainstream critics. It is this contradiction that exists between transgression and innocence that leads to so many of the critiques and parodies of Disney in popular culture; these critiques shall be discussed in the conclusion to this text.

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Medium 9780253016126

1. A Crisis of the Movement-Image and Counter-History

Marcia Landy Indiana University Press ePub

A FORM OF history making, associated with the cinematic treatment of national history, involved monumental and antiquarian modes of filmmaking; these flourished in pre–World War II cinema and were described by Deleuze in Cinema 1 as characteristic of the movement-image. In this chapter, I examine films that are representative of the movement-image as exemplified by the Hollywood western, a cinema where history and myth converge to express ethical leadership, the presence of a people, an organic relation to nature, and the performance of requisite action. Two westerns from the mid-silent era are addressed: James Cruze’s The Covered Wagon (1923) and John Ford’s The Iron Horse (1924). This form of filmmaking—much as with the earlier epics by D. W. Griffith, The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Intolerance (1916)—underwent a crisis in identity and belief in the post–World War II world, giving rise to forms that revealed altered modes of perception, affect, and action, as these effect thinking differently about historicizing. Hence, I also discuss three Hollywood films from the sound era that exemplify the crisis of the action-image from the interwar years up to World War II: John Ford’s Stagecoach (1939), George Marshall’s Destry Rides Again (1939), and William Wellman’s The Ox-Bow Incident (1943).

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Medium 9780861967131

Chapter 3 The Phallus and Disney Animation

Harrington, Seán J. Indiana University Press ePub

Before beginning the analysis of these first Disney films, it is necessary to mention several points concerning fantasy and film. As stated, fantasy acts as the “mise-en-scène of desire” (Cowie, 1984, p159); fantasy represents a domain in which it is possible to stage solutions to desire; in which we can experience fleeting moments of having what we want. Film as a signifying practice has a very special connection to fantasy. The subject enjoys fictitious scenarios as they allow a space in which fantasies of gratification may be acted out and identified with. Although fantasies are themselves multiple and unique to each subject, their form and structure are similar in that they have this capacity to satisfy an audience. The nature of this satisfaction is of course dependent on the content of the film. In his discussion of the structure of perversion, Serge Andre (2006) mentions that fantasy is at its base intrinsically perverse; what is fantasised can function outside the Law and to an extent the symbolic. Films can likewise become realisations of perverse gratification as they permit the subject a partially restricted fantasy-scape with which to realise scenarios of gratification. While there are administrative bodies in the Real that curtail this enjoyment (such as the puritanical Hays office), the process of a film’s production is capable of combining the fantasies and desires of writers, directors and producers, all of whom influence production. The end result is the product of desires and fantasies met with censorship and restriction. It is no surprise then that the structure of film expresses an implicit disavowal: perverse friction between law and desire, as there are so many conflicting desires already at work in its inception! It is interesting then that the end result seems to satisfy the fantasy demands of an large and generalised audience while simultaneously satisfying the desires of conflicting organisations of individuals that produced it. How then does this perverse disavowal express itself? Perhaps somewhere between the overt and latent content of the film. The first part of this analysis shall begin by describing the overt content of the Disney films that contains what can hazardously be referred to as ‘perverse’ imagery. That is not to say perverse as some perceived form of aberrant sexuality, but rather perverse as demonstrating a hypocritical sexuality; a sexuality of disavowal. In this way it will be possible to create an understanding of the particular manner in which Disney presents the ‘perverse’.

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Medium 9780253017451

Maciste Goes to War: Maciste alpino (1916)

Jacqueline Reich Indiana University Press ePub

ALTHOUGH BY FAR NOT THE FIRST WAR TO BE FILMED – THAT distinction belongs to the Anglo-Boer War of 1899–1902 – World War I was the first that used both fiction and nonfiction to recount its story on screen.1 With Britain, Russia, and Germany leading the way, the governments of the Triple Alliance and the Allies all moved at various speeds to mobilize the film industry for war propaganda. Film soon became the most effective medium for promoting various national political agendas, another modern weapon, along with airplanes, tanks, and mustard gas, to combat the enemy.2 For Gian Piero Brunetta, cinema also functioned as an instantaneous site of the war’s monumentalization, celebration, and canonization of heroism on the battlefield, even before movie cameras were allowed at the front or monuments themselves could be erected to memorialize the cause.3

At the same time, cinema was undergoing its own form of modernization as narratives and editing became more sophisticated and camera mobility improved, resulting in new technologies of storytelling on screens. Film spectatorship consistently increased during the early 1910s across the Continent, and the medium became part of everyday life and entered the vocabulary of contemporary culture. Modris Eksteins notes how many times references to films and moviegoing appear in the diaries and letters of British and German soldiers, evidence not only of the infiltration of the new medium in popular consciousness but also of the idea that the war experience, simultaneously real and surreal, seemed to belong more on screen than in real life.4 What eventually did emerge on screen during the war, however, was far from a mirror image of what was happening on various fronts. Through heavy censorship, propaganda, and manipulation of both fiction and documentary film, what the average spectator saw in theaters was an imaginary war, “represented as the sum of heroic actions carried out by a handful of individuals,”5 a description that could easily fit Maciste alpino.

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Medium 9780253356772

9 Beyond the Parity Principle

Harri Englund Indiana University Press ePub

The first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” While the Second World War had attached new urgency to the definition and implementation of human rights, the 1990s wave of liberalization in Africa and elsewhere revived this project in the context of crumbling autocracies and widespread poverty. Much as its principled attention to all human beings could inspire fresh political, economic, and legal challenges to the status quo, the discourse on human rights was often highly selective in practice. Of the first article’s emphasis on freedom and equality, only the idea of freedom came to inform the public interventions by Malaŵi’s human rights activists and democratic politicians. As has been seen, the very concept of human rights was translated into Chicheŵa through the concept of freedom.

It would be futile, however, to expect that a conceptual shift from freedom to equality would by itself rectify the neglect of social and economic rights that the emphasis on political and civil liberties has seemed to reinforce. As central concepts in liberal political and moral theory, freedom and equality have been shown to carry multiple meanings and open up potentially contradictory possibilities. Feminist theorists, for example, have argued that once decoupled from its association with personal autonomy and self-rule, “freedom” can prompt questions of how social relations and institutions both enable and constrain subjects (Hirschmann 2003: 35–39; see also Friedman 2003). Such questions become particularly contentious when they no longer assume a categorical distinction between the subject’s desires and socially prescribed conduct, or that submission to external authority necessarily subverts the subject’s potentiality (Mahmood 2005: 31). As for “equality,” some philosophers have at least since Rousseau recognized how the apparent neutrality of formal equality can consolidate existing inequalities by denying differences in situations, resources, and needs (Hirschmann 2003: 223–224). Moreover, equality comes with variable complexions and goals, with the demand for one type of equality (such as equal rights) inconsistent with the demand for another type (such as the equality of incomes) (Sen 1992).

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Medium 9780253018434

1 Re-Birth: The Birth of a Nation and the Growth of the Klan

Tom Rice Indiana University Press ePub

The Ku Klux Klan has become a serious menace to American Institutions. A careful investigation has revealed that the ease with which Klan solicitors are able to sell memberships is directly attributable to the romantic color cast about the Klan name by your motion picture The Birth of a Nation. Whatever we may think of the Klan of 1865, we must agree that the Klan of 1923 is far from romantic or heroic. We feel that it is your duty to use your tremendous power to undo the damage unwittingly done [to] the country when your [film The] Birth of a Nation was shown and we call upon you to cooperate with all good American citizens to stamp out this growing evil. May we have an expression of your personal opinion of the Klan and such assurance as you feel necessary that you will take steps to tear away the mantle of heroism in which you once dressed the nightriders [?]

Telegram written by W. N. Kramer, publisher of The Spotlight, to David W. Griffith, 10 January 1923

On 10 January 1923, W. N. Kramer, the publisher of Spotlight, an anti-Klan newspaper in Minneapolis, wrote these words to D. W. Griffith, challenging him to respond to his earlier work and to “paint the Ku Klux Klan in its true light.”1 Kramer argued that Griffith’s representation of an idealized historical Klan in The Birth of a Nation was now helping Kleagles (Klan “solicitors”) to sell memberships for a new incarnation of the Ku Klux Klan, which had formed in Atlanta in 1915 and had now spread throughout the country. While Spotlight, like most historians subsequently, referred to the film’s initial release, Griffith’s film had, by 1923, become a prominent and prototypical component of the modern Klan’s publicity. The group utilized The Birth of a Nation throughout the decade, whether arranging its own screenings, making very public appearances at cinemas showing the film, or using the discussions surrounding the film to define and promote itself within American society. The Klan would closely reference and rework particular images from the film, and when it began producing, distributing, and exhibiting its own pictures in the 1920s, Birth would become a touchstone for this “Klan cinema.”

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Medium 9780253010407

3 The Space Is the Place

Kathy Sloane Indiana University Press ePub

If you came to San Francisco, there was
nowhere else to go. And the amazing
thing, the paradox of the whole thing,
is that the club and what went on in
that club [existed] next door to a police
station. This, of course, is big. This
should be on page 1: “The Keystone
Korner opposite the Keystone Kops.”

Dave Liebman

George Cables

God, the music was fantastic. I loved playing there because I could hear. The sound was great, the vibe was great, the music was live. Some rooms you play and you hear the note: pssssst. It sort of disappears or just comes to a thud, boomp, and that’s it. But in Keystone, it was live; the sound reverberated, and you could hear the piano.

David Williams

Next to the Village Vanguard in New York, Keystone Korner was one of my favorite or maybe the favorite room for sound, for the bass. I like to hear it a certain way. And some rooms just have no personality. I’ll spend all night fiddling with the amplifier. Some rooms make the bass sound out of tune. It would be in tune but the intonation would be off, and I’d be all night trying to tune the bass. So much of what we do is about the sound. It’s all about the sound.

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Medium 9780861966899

Chapter 22 Germain Lacasse, Joseph Dumais and the language of French-Canadian silent cinema

Richard Abel John Libbey Publishing ePub

The rampant and winged vulgarity that is infiltrating our lives by means of the cinema, the gramophone, and even more so by the radio, the emporium and other establishments where articles, often overpriced, are sold cheap, is starting to trouble the informed public, people who value traditions as much as they value our forefathers’ language.”1

Between 1910 and 1960 or so, the religious authorities in Québec as well as the lay conservatives who supported them would voice that opinion, a quotation from Joseph Dumais, an odd character who was a renowned diction teacher in the early 20th century. He also wrote, published, declaimed and recorded a large number of texts almost entirely written in the vernacular. However, the main goal of that work was to parody the vernacular in order to criticize and discipline it, and to link national identity to an elitist and old-fashioned conception of the language.

At the time, a rather strong nationalist movement was emerging in Québec. Its most important political representatives were Henri Bourassa and his newspaper, Le Devoir, and the historian Lionel Groulx and his review, L’Action française. But a nationalist sentiment was also developing in the cultural field. Its “founding text” was an article by the literature professor Camille Roy: “Pour la nationalisation de la littérature canadienne [In support of the nationalization of French-Canadian literature]”. In order to establish a “national”2 literature, the intellectuals of the time wanted to link it to the promotion of a French-Canadian language, which they saw as distinct from the French used in France.3 They founded the “Société du bon parler français [Society for Proper French]” and embarked on an exhaustive inventory and compilation of the language spoken in Québec. Probably because of the social model that they held dear, however, that language was defined above all as an earthy language, an old French whose vocabulary corresponded to a rural, traditionalist and Catholic economy, following the political model of monarchical France and the “classical” French symbolically associated with it.

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4 A Nameless Genre

Harri Englund Indiana University Press ePub

“A man who works in an Asian’s store in Limbe in Blantyre is said to have made his children drink beer when he did not have money to feed the children.”1 This headline introduced a story about destitution that epitomizes many of the themes and rhetorical devices in Nkhani Zam’maboma. The man was said to live in a particular neighborhood in Ndirande, a township in Limbe’s twin city Blantyre, and his troubles came to a head when the Asian boss failed to pay his salary. Tired of poverty, his wife abandoned him, leaving behind children crying from hunger. Unable to find food in the house, the man went to look for leavings of masese, opaque homemade beer, in the cartons drinkers had thrown away. He returned to give the beer to the children as if it was porridge, with the result that the children became drunk.

Just as the stories involving witchcraft carried allusions to various other issues, so too did this story evoke a range of themes, amenable to further expansion by listeners all too familiar with the hardship and injustice it depicted. It illustrated the thin line separating ordinary poverty from destitution. When listening to it with villagers in Dedza District and migrants in Chinsapo Township, I began to realize how a single story could evoke a range of grievances and reflections among its public. Some listeners in the township would describe their own experiences of employers skipping the payment of salary. Others gave further examples of the arbitrary and exploitative labor conditions in the enterprises owned by the merchant class of South Asian extraction.2 They described workers being locked up to prevent them from taking a break, the rejection of their requests to attend funerals, unexplained deductions taken from salaries. The domestic trouble mentioned in the broadcast story sounded familiar to listeners in both rural and urban settings, the ideal of the man-as-provider and the woman-as-housewife crushed under the weight of poverty. Although the act of giving beer to hungry children was the detail that made this story out of the ordinary, the entire scene it conveyed was at variance with the carefully cultivated image of a nation enjoying the fruits of development in the MBC’s official news bulletins.

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Medium 9780253008343

3 Queen-Women: Jules and Jim (1962), The Last Metro (1980)

Gillain, Anne Indiana University Press ePub

JULES AND JIM AND THE LAST METRO WOULD SEEM TO HAVE little in common apart from an adulterous schema involving one woman and two men. While it is central in the first film, this situation remains marginal in the second one, which depicts the activities of a theater under the Nazi Occupation. Moreover, there is a contrast between black-and-white and color, between the adaptation of a novel and an original screenplay, between the outdoors and an enclosed space, and between the study of a trio as against a polyphonic construction that brings together 15 characters. Nevertheless, both films were made to celebrate Jeanne Moreau and Catherine Deneuve, both of whom played an important role in Truffaut’s personal life. Jules and Jim and The Last Metro are works inspired by the idealization of a female figure. Their autobiographical dimension, however, extends beyond the recent past; each film, like a palimpsest, reveals several different layers of memories in Truffaut that are joined together through a play of analogies. Speaking about Jules and Jim in 1975, he made the following admission:

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Medium 9780861967131

Chapter 9 Hegemony

Harrington, Seán J. Indiana University Press ePub

The concept of hegemony is uniquely situated to illustrate how a company such as Disney became instrumental in achieving ideological homogeneity within a nation and indeed internationally. While having supplanted American folklore in the Depression era, and risen to popularity in pre-war Western nations, Disney had not yet achieved its capacity to directly affect consumers globally. This capacity can be shown to have developed during World War II, during which Disney actively participated in achieving hegemony both for the American government and to its own ends. This argument shall be based on a discussion of propaganda films that target both home and foreign audiences, with an array of different ideological propositions spanning industry/consumer relations, pan-American unity and intra-American homogeneity.

At its base, hegemony is a process of making an ideological position seem common sense and naturalised to the mass. As a concept, it was formulated by Antonio Gramsci during his imprisonment by Mussolini. Gramsci (from his prison note books as edited by Hoare, 1971) proposed a division between what he termed a war of manoeuvres (armed revolution) and a war of position: the battle of ideas. The idea war must take place for a war of manoeuvres to be effective. Otherwise the combatant party will not have the support of the populace and will be unable to establish a new order. This struggle is essentially for a cultural leadership that Gramsci terms hegemony.

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Medium 9780253010773

8 Bringing the Black: Eddie Murphy and African American Humor on Saturday Night Live

Ron Becker Indiana University Press ePub


In the more than thirty-five years that Saturday Night Live has been on the air, only fifteen African Americans have appeared as regular cast members or featured players. Many of these gifted performers were relegated to marginal roles next to their white costars or dismissed after a single season. Some, such as Tim Meadows, Chris Rock, and Damon Wayans, accused the show’s writers of limiting their participation on the show and dismissing their ideas for sketches.1 In spite of SNL’s well-deserved reputation as a force of social critique, the show has been erratic at best in its treatment of African American issues and cast members.

And yet, in the 1980s, an era that would become synonymous with Ronald Reagan’s conservative politics, Eddie Murphy emerged as the breakout star on Saturday Night Live. A crossover performer who attracted both black and white audiences, Murphy was a hybrid figure who blended the brash social satire of comedians like Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor with the more affable, safe, storytelling persona of Bill Cosby. It is this element of mainstream acceptability that has led many scholars to overlook the sociopolitical significance of Murphy’s work on SNL and to dismiss his film and television performances as inherently apolitical, a claim that I argue is based less on Murphy’s actual performances and more on the presumed incompatibility between social critique and crossover success. Referring to Murphy’s film work, scholar Donald Bogle writes, “Murphy’s movies paid lip service to racism (perhaps even exploited it) but took no stands at all.”2 Cultural critic Nelson George characterized Murphy in the following way: “he isn’t angry or intensely political or overly socially conscious.”3 J. Fred MacDonald was less generous in his assessment of Murphy’s performances on Saturday Night Live, dismissing Murphy’s success by noting that the comedian “scored well in two minstrel favorites.”4 The use of the word “minstrel” is telling, since it references not only the form of Murphy’s performances on SNL (in the tradition of minstrelsy and vaudeville) but also the type of humor that Murphy is presumed to be performing: stereotypical and designed for a white audience.

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Medium 9780253016423

3. Acoustic Stylization: The Film’s Sound World

David P. Neumeyer Indiana University Press ePub

Casablanca is unquestionably one of the best-known films from America’s studio era. To be sure, it is not an example of the system at its mechanical, factory-production best (scriptwriting and shooting schedule were notably chaotic), but the film does show what Hollywood professionals could do under pressure. In terms of narrative presentation, it is not a particularly efficient film (by Warner Bros. standards, at least), yet it is all the more interesting because its various elements evince remarkable creativity and skill. It is also a film rich in music. The three chapters of part 2, taken together, constitute an extended reading of Casablanca’s sound track and its music.

In chapter 1, I argued for the sound track as a whole, with its internal dialectic, as the object for study. This idea receives its most elaborate treatment in the present chapter, where James Buhler and I extrapolate to a conception of the film’s sound track as analogous to a musical composition. Sound tracks, like image tracks, are “composed,” not merely recorded. Here we consider the sound track of Casablanca as a whole in order to demonstrate how the “composers” of the sound track manage the complex interaction of elements in the sound track under the concept of vococentrism. In chapter 4, attention turns to the narrative functions of music and pitch design in the famous reunion scene, where Humphrey Bogart’s Rick and Ingrid Bergman’s Ilsa first encounter one another in Casablanca. Chapter 5 widens the scope, placing our reading of the reunion scene in its filmic contexts through similar readings of two closely parallel scenes, both of them confrontations between Rick and Ilsa (after hours on the first night in the café, and after hours on the second night in Rick’s living quarters upstairs). The underscore cue for the first confrontation is in fact the original version that its composer, Max Steiner, adapted and developed for both the reunion scene and the second confrontation. Finally, we circle back to the concept of acoustic stylization—sound track as “composed”—with an examination of the atypically complex sound track in the film’s airport finale. The reunion scene and confrontation scenes, along with the finale, collectively chart the course of Rick’s harrowing journey from utopias—built, crushed, remembered—through disillusionment and cynicism to ultimate affirmation.

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