540 Chapters
Medium 9780253006882

4 Apocalyptic Antennae: 1954 and the End of Storytelling

Rashna Wadia Richards Indiana University Press ePub

1954 and the End of Storytelling

By direction of the President of the United States, all broadcasting is interrupted for a few moments to declare the city of Los Angeles under martial law. Inside the briefing room, amid now-quieted news reporters, civilian and military leaders gather to inform the public about “the most serious crisis this city has ever faced.” A tight medium shot of General Robert O’Brien (Onslow Stevens), looking straight into the camera and addressing the public directly, follows. His grim visage spells doom as he declares that curfew begins at 1800 hours, at which time any person seen lingering outdoors might be arrested by the military police. Then he begins to explain the reasons for such drastic measures, and the scene cuts to a series of shots of men and women gathering around television sets and radios. When the apocalyptic threat of gigantic mutant ants – originally discovered in the New Mexico desert but now nesting “somewhere in the storm drains beneath the streets of Los Angeles” – is televised, viewers stand aghast, gazing feebly at the small screen in bars, diners, and department store windows (Figure 4.1). In the background, military trucks rumble through the city streets, although their presence seems to provide no comfort to the assembling crowds, who only watch the televisual transmission in terror.

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Medium 9780861967094

“The Poetry of Poverty”: The Magic Lantern and the Ballads of George R. Sims

Ludwig VoglBienek John Libbey Publishing ePub

George R. Sims: frontispiece to The Dagonet Ballads (1879).

George R. Sims: journalist and writer; born 1847, died 1922. Knighted by the King of Sweden and Norway in 1905, he “never received a native honour”. “Panache” and “an indulgent sense of fun”, concludes Philip Waller in the Dictionary of National Biography, acidly, “often made him appear trivial”. “I have always been very vague”, the secretary to the Oxford University Press had written to a contributor to the Dictionary’s Supplement, in 1934; “about the importance of G.R.S.”.1

But Sims was important – not least for his impact on late 19th- and early 20th-century visual story-telling and the representation of urban poverty. Both the importance and the repeated put-downs stemmed from his unparalleled success, his extraordinary versatility, his celebrity, and his astoundingly prolific output: for example in one week of 1921, at age 74, he told an interviewer, he had written “an act of a new play, two songs, […] a Grand Guignol story”, and “10,000 words of newspaper copy”.2

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Medium 9780253014436

2. Turning Away from “Concocted Spectacle”: Alfred Newman’s Score for David and Bathsheba

Stephen C. Meyer Indiana University Press ePub

By 1951—the year in which both David and Bathsheba and Quo Vadis premiered—the practice of supplementing box office receipts by commodifying cinematic music was already well established. This commodification took a variety of forms. Later in the decade (after the long-playing record became established as a commercially viable medium for recorded sound), “original sound track” albums became important. But in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the principal media for the dissemination of film music (outside of the films themselves) were concert music (such as the Spellbound Concerto that Miklós Rózsa created from his score for Hitchcock’s Spellbound, or the Sinfonia Antarctica that Vaughn Williams developed from his score for Charles Frend’s Scott of the Antarctic) and popular songs, either taken directly from the film or else cobbled together by adding words to prominent themes from the film score. These songs (and, to a lesser degree, the concert music as well) could then be recorded and/or sold as sheet music. Along with various picture books, novelizations, and other kinds of material, these ancillary products orbited around mid-century films like so many moons around a central planet.

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Medium 9780253008343

6 In Search of the Father: Fahrenheit 451 (1966), Day for Night (1973)

Gillain, Anne Indiana University Press ePub

FAHRENHEIT 451 AND DAY FOR NIGHT BOTH PRESENT AN IMAGE of a small human community, the function and organization of which are clearly delimited. The team of firemen and the film crew both have their head (captain/director), their base (fire station/hotel), their equipment (cranes and trucks), their work-instruments (flame-thrower/camera), and their goal (to achieve their respective missions). The first burns books; the second is shooting a film. In these two works, lyrical shots – “magical,” as Truffaut called them – rather than depicting human exchanges, dwell on moments of speechless ecstasy when fire is consuming pages or when film is coiling at the foot of the editing table. In these microcosms, in which human activity more than ever takes on the appearance of play, destruction and construction confirm the status of two cultural objects: the book and the film. “Confirm” is a term that is too weak to describe the veritable cult devoted to these two objects. Both reign supreme in human affairs; in Fahrenheit 451, as in Day for Night, we find that the economy of desire is entirely subordinate to their power. These films are peculiarly complementary because they raise the question of cultural experience, and of its roots in an affective experience that is dominated by parental figures. But these works – and their power resides in this – lead one into a larger reflection on the transmission of knowledge, on communication, and on death. In studying them, we come to appreciate the filmmaker’s gift in being able to invest autobiographical specificities with a universal relevance, in which everyone can find elements of his or her own experience.

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Medium 9780253015167

2. The Filmmakers

Roy Armes Indiana University Press ePub

NOURI BOUZID has pointed out the significance of the June 1967 Arab defeat for his own generation of filmmakers, who were born in the 1940s and made their breakthrough in the 1980s.1 The generation born since 1960 and making its breakthrough in the 2000s is very differently placed. These filmmakers were either small children or not yet born in 1967. The shared political experiences shaping their lives have been the Yom Kippur War in 1973; the outbreak of the fifteen-year civil war in Lebanon in 1975; the eight-year Iran-Iraq War, which began in 1980; the successive assaults by Israeli forces on both Palestine and Lebanon; and the two Palestinian intifadas. As a result of the upheavals caused by these wars, many of the filmmakers have shared the experience of voluntary or enforced exile, often beginning in childhood or adolescence.

Their individual national experiences differ greatly, however. In the Maghreb, the new filmmakers constitute the first generation born after independence, but they have also experienced the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and life under often brutal dictatorships. In Lebanon, they grew up in the midst of seemingly interminable civil conflict and constant repetitions of foreign invasion and occupation, extending up to the 33-Day War of 2007. In Palestine, they experienced the continual tightening of Israeli rule, the Palestinian response to this (the two intifadas), and more recently, the blockade of Gaza and its bombardment in 2008. In Syria and Iraq, those whose parents had not been driven into exile grew up under Baath party rule and experienced at first hand the constraints imposed by the tyrannies of Hafez al-Assad and Saddam Hussein.

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