Wayne State University Press

Contemporary Approaches to Film and Media Series

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Contemporary Approaches to Film and Media Series

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The Films of Hal Ashby

By Christopher Beach

Analyzes the films and filmmaking career of director Hal Ashby, placing his work in the cultural context of filmmaking in the 1970s.

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From Tinseltown to Bordertown

Los Angeles on Film

Celestino Deleyto

Los Angeles is a global metropolis whose history and social narrative is linked to one of its top exports: cinema. L.A. appears on screen more than almost any city since Hollywood and is home to the American film industry. Historically, conversations of social and racial homogeneity have dominated the construction of Los Angeles as a cosmopolitan city, with Hollywood films largely contributing to this image. At the same time, the city is also known for its steady immigration, social inequalities, and exclusionary urban practices, not dissimilar to any other borderland in the world. The Spanish names and sounds within the city are paradoxical in relation to the striking invisibility of its Hispanic residents at many economic, social, and political levels, given their vast numbers. Additionally, the impact of the 1992 Los Angeles riots left the city raw, yet brought about changing discourses and provided Hollywood with the opportunity to rebrand its hometown by projecting to the world a new image in which social uniformity is challenged by diversity. It is for this reason that author Celestino Deleyto decided to take a closer look at how the quintessential cinematic city contributes to the ongoing creation of its own representation on the screen. From Tinseltown to Bordertown: Los Angeles on Film starts from the theoretical premise that place matters. Deleyto sees film as predominantly a spatial system and argues that the space of film and the space of reality are closely intertwined in complex ways and that we should acknowledge the potential of cinema to intervene in the historical process of the construction of urban space, as well as its ability to record place. The author asks to what extent this is also the city that is being constructed by contemporary movies. From Tinseltown to Bordertown offers a unique combination of urban, cultural, and border theory, as well as the author's direct observation and experience of the city's social and human geography with close readings of a selection of films such as Falling Down, White Men Can't Jump, and Collateral. Through these textual analyses, Deleyto tries to situate filmic narratives of Los Angeles within the city itself and find a sense of the "real place" in their fictional fabrications. While in a certain sense, Los Angeles movies continue to exist within the rather exclusive boundaries of Tinseltown, the special borderliness of the city is becoming more and more evident in cinematic stories. Deleyto's monograph is a fascinating case study on one of the United States' most enigmatic cities. Film scholars with an interest in history and place will appreciate this book.

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Hitchcock’s British Films

Maurice Yacowar

Originally published in 1977 and long out of print, Maurice Yacowar’s Hitchcock’s British Films was the first volume devoted solely to the twenty-three films directed by Alfred Hitchcock in his native England before he came to the United States. As such, it was the first book to challenge the assumption that Hitchcock’s “mature” period in Hollywood, from the late 1940s to the early 1960s, represented the director’s best work. In this traditional auteurist examination of Hitchcock’s early work, author Maurice Yacowar considers Hitchcock’s British films in chronological order, reads the composition of individual shots and scenes in each, and pays special attention to the films’ verbal effects. Yacowar’s readings remain compelling more than thirty years after they were written, and some—on Downhill, Champagne, and Waltzes from Vienna—are among the few extended interpretations of these films that exist. Alongside important works such as Murder!, the first The Man Who Knew Too Much, Secret Agent, The Lady Vanishes, and Blackmail, readers will appreciate Yacowar’s equal attention to lesser-known films like The Pleasure Garden, The Ring, and The Manxman. Yacowar dissects Hitchcock’s precise staging and technical production to draw out ethical themes and metaphysical meanings of each film, while keeping a close eye on the source material, such as novels and plays, that Hitchcock used as the inspiration for many of his screenplays. Yacowar concludes with an overview of Hitchcock as auteur and an appendix identifying the director’s appearances in these films. A foreword by Barry Keith Grant and a preface to the second edition from Yacowar complete this comprehensive volume. Anyone interested in Hitchcock, classic British cinema, or the history of film will appreciate Yacowar’s accessible and often witty exploration of the director’s early work.

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Hollywood Goes Oriental

CaucAsian Performance in American Film

Karla Rae Fuller

An in-depth look at the portrayal of Asian characters by non-Asian actors in classical Hollywood film.

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Hollywood’s Chosen People

The Jewish Experience in American Cinema

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Howard Hawks

Robin Wood

Prolific director Howard Hawks made films in nearly every genre, from gangster movies like Scarface to comedies like Bringing Up Baby and Monkey Business and westerns like Rio Bravo. In this new edition of a classic text, author Robin Wood explores the ways in which Hawks pushed the boundaries of each genre and transformed the traditional forms in new, interesting, and creative ways. This reprint also contains an exciting new introduction by Wood, which shows how his thinking about Hawks has deepened over time without fundamentally changing. Since its original publication in 1972, Wood's Howard Hawks has set the terms for virtually all subsequent discussions of the director. The provocative chapters demonstrate the ways in which Hawks's films were affected by the director's personality and way of looking at and feeling things, and by his celebration of instinct, self-respect, group responsibility, and male camaraderie. Wood's connections between the professionalism of Hawks's action films and comedies, with their “lure of irresponsibility,” has become a standard way of conceptualizing Hawks's films and the model to which all later critical work has had to respond. This book remains as contemporary as when it was first released, although it is grounded in the auteur period of its publication. Robin Wood has stubbornly resisted the trends of academic film studies and in so doing has remained one of its most influential voices. Certain to be of interest to film scholars and students, this book will also be particularly useful as a text for university courses on Hawks, popular cinema, and authorship in film.

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Humor in Middle Eastern Cinema

Edited by Gayatri Devi and Najat Rahman

While Middle Eastern culture does not tend to be associated with laughter and levity in the global imagination, humor—often satirical—has long been a staple of mainstream Arabic film. In Humor in Middle Eastern Cinema, editors Gayatri Devi and Najat Rahman shed light on this tradition, as well as humor and laughter motivated by other intent—including parody, irony, the absurd, burlesque, and dark comedy. Contributors trace the proliferation of humor in contemporary Middle Eastern cinema in the works of individual directors and from the perspectives of genre, national cinemas, and diasporic cinema. Humor in Middle Eastern Cinema explores what humor theorists have identified as an “emancipatory,” “liberatory,” even “revolutionary” function to humor. Among the questions contributors ask are: How does Middle Eastern cinema and media highlight the stakes and place of humor in art and in life? What is its relation to the political? Can humor in cinematic art be emancipatory? What are its limits for its intervention or transformation? Contributors examine the region’s masterful auteurs, such as Abbas Kiarostami, Youssef Chahine, and Elia Suleiman and cover a range of cinematic settings, including Egypt, Iran, Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia, and Turkey. They also trace diasporic issues in the distinctive cinema of India and Pakistan. This insightful collection will introduce readers to a variety of contemporary Middle Eastern cinema that has attracted little critical notice. Scholars of cinema and media studies as well as Middle Eastern cultural history will appreciate this introduction to a complex and fascinating cinema.

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Im Kwon-Taek

The Making of a Korean National Cinema

Edited By David E. James and Kyung Hyun Kim

Korean cinema was virtually unavailable to the West during the Japanese colonial period (1910-1945), and no film made before 1943 has been recovered even though Korea had an active film-making industry that produced at least 240 films. For a period of forty years, after Korea was liberated from colonialism, a time where Western imports were scarce, Korean cinema became an innovative force reflecting a society whose social and cultural norms were becoming less conservative. Im Kwon-Taek: The Making of a Korean National Cinema is a colleciton of essays written about Im Kwon-Taek, better know as the father of New Korean Cinema, that takes a critical look at the situations of filmmakers in South Korea. Written by leading Koreanists and scholars of Korean film in the United States, Im Kwon-Taek is the first scholarly treatment of Korean cinema. It establishes Im Kwon-Taek as the only major Korean director whose life’s work covers the entire history of South Korea’s military rule (1961-1992). It demonstrates Im’s struggles with Korean cinema’s historical contradictions and also shows how Im rose above political discord. The book includes an interview with Im, a chronology of Korean cinema and Korean history showing major dynastic periods and historical and political events, and a complete filmography. Im Kwon-Taek is timely and makes a significant contribution to our understanding of Korean cinema. These essays situate Im Kwon-Taek within Korean filmmaking, placing him in industrial, creative, and social contexts, and closely examine some of his finest films. Im Kwon-Taek will interest students and scholars of film studies, Korean studies, religious studies, postcolonial studies, and Asian studies.

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