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Wisconsin Film Studies

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The Cinema of Sergei Parajanov

James Steffen

Sergei Parajanov (1924–90) flouted the rules of both filmmaking and society in the Soviet Union and paid a heavy personal price. An ethnic Armenian in the multicultural atmosphere of Tbilisi, Georgia, he was one of the most innovative directors of postwar Soviet cinema. Parajanov succeeded in creating a small but marvelous body of work whose style embraces such diverse influences as folk art, medieval miniature painting, early cinema, Russian and European art films, surrealism, and Armenian, Georgian, and Ukrainian cultural motifs.

            The Cinema of Sergei Parajanov is the first English-language book on the director's films and the most comprehensive study of his work. James Steffen provides a detailed overview of Parajanov's artistic career: his identity as an Armenian in Georgia and its impact on his aesthetics; his early films in Ukraine; his international breakthrough in 1964 with Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors; his challenging 1969 masterpiece, The Color of Pomegranates, which was reedited against his wishes; his unrealized projects in the 1970s; and his eventual return to international prominence in the mid-to-late 1980s with The Legend of the Surami Fortress and Ashik-Kerib. Steffen also provides a rare, behind-the-scenes view of the Soviet film censorship process and tells the dramatic story of Parajanov's conflicts with the authorities, culminating in his 1973–77 arrest and imprisonment on charges related to homosexuality.
            Ultimately, the figure of Parajanov offers a fascinating case study in the complicated dynamics of power, nationality, politics, ethnicity, sexuality, and culture in the republics of the former Soviet Union.

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Dark Laughter

Spanish Film, Comedy, and the Nation

Juan F. Egea

In Dark Laughter, Juan F. Egea provides a remarkable in-depth analysis of the dark comedy film genre in Spain, as well as a provocative critical engagement with the idea of national cinema, the visual dimension of cultural specificity, and the ethics of dark humor.

            Egea begins his analysis with General Franco's dictatorship in the 1960s—a regime that opened the country to new economic forces while maintaining its repressive nature—exploring key works by Luis García Berlanga, Marco Ferreri, Fernando Fernán-Gómez, and Luis Buñuel. Dark Laughter then moves to the first films of Pedro Almodóvar in the early 1980s during the Spanish political transition to democracy before examining Alex de la Iglesia and the new dark comedies of the 1990s. Analyzing this younger generation of filmmakers, Egea traces dark comedy to Spain's displays of ultramodernity such as the Universal Exposition in Seville and the Barcelona Olympic Games.
            At its core, Dark Laughter is a substantial inquiry into the epistemology of comedy, the intricacies of visual modernity, and the relationship between cinema and a wider framework of representational practices.

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Depth of Field

Stanley Kubrick, Film, and the Uses of History

Edited by Geoffrey Cocks, James Diedrick, and Glenn Perusek

    Director of some of the most controversial films of the twentieth century, Stanley Kubrick created a reputation as a Hollywood outsider as well as a cinematic genius. His diverse yet relatively small oeuvre—he directed only thirteen films during a career that spanned more than four decades—covers a broad range of the themes that shaped his century and continues to shape the twenty-first: war and crime, gender relations and class conflict, racism, and the fate of individual agency in a world of increasing social surveillance and control. 
    In Depth of Field, leading screenwriters and scholars analyze Kubrick's films from a variety of perspectives. They examine such groundbreaking classics as Dr. Strangelove and 2001: A Space Odyssey and later films whose critical reputations are still in flux. Depth of Field ends with three viewpoints on Kubrick's final film, Eyes Wide Shut, placing it in the contexts of film history, the history and theory of psychoanalysis, and the sociology of sex and power. Probing Kubrick's whole body of work, Depth of Field is the first truly multidisciplinary study of one of the most innovative and controversial filmmakers of the twentieth century.

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The Foreign Film Renaissance on American Screens, 1946–1973

Tino Balio

Largely shut out of American theaters since the 1920s, foreign films such as Open City, Bicycle Thief, Rashomon, The Seventh Seal, Breathless, La Dolce Vita and L’Avventura played after World War II in a growing number of art houses around the country and created a small but influential art film market devoted to the acquisition, distribution, and exhibition of foreign-language and English-language films produced abroad.  Nurtured by successive waves of imports from Italy, Great Britain, France, Sweden, Japan, and the Soviet Bloc, the renaissance was kick-started by independent distributors working out of New York; by the 1960s, however, the market had been subsumed by Hollywood.
    From Roberto Rossellini’s Open City in 1946 to Bernardo Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris in 1973, Tino Balio tracks the critical reception in the press of such filmmakers as François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Federico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni, Tony Richardson, Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa, Luis Buñuel, Satyajit Ray, and Milos Forman.  Their releases paled in comparison to Hollywood fare at the box office, but their impact on American film culture was enormous. The reception accorded to art house cinema attacked motion picture censorship, promoted the director as auteur, and celebrated film as an international art.  Championing the cause was the new “cinephile” generation, which was mostly made up of college students under thirty.
    The fashion for foreign films depended in part on their frankness about sex. When Hollywood abolished the Production Code in the late 1960s, American-made films began to treat adult themes with maturity and candor. In this new environment, foreign films lost their cachet and the art film market went into decline.
 

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Glenn Ford

A Life

Peter Ford

Glenn Ford—star of such now-classic films as Gilda, Blackboard Jungle, The Big Heat, 3:10 to Yuma, and The Rounders—had rugged good looks, a long and successful career, and a glamorous Hollywood life. Yet the man who could be accessible and charming on screen retreated to a deeply private world he created behind closed doors.
    Glenn Ford: A Life chronicles the volatile life, relationships, and career of the renowned actor, beginning with his move from Canada to California and his initial discovery of theater. It follows Ford’s career in diverse media—from film to television to radio—and shows how Ford shifted effortlessly between genres, playing major roles in dramas, noir, westerns, and romances.
    This biography by Glenn Ford’s son, Peter Ford, offers an intimate view of a star’s private and public life. Included are exclusive interviews with family, friends, and professional associates, and snippets from the Ford family collection of diaries, letters, audiotapes, unpublished interviews, and rare candid photos. This biography tells a cautionary tale of Glenn Ford’s relentless infidelities and long, slow fade-out, but it also embraces his talent-driven career. The result is an authentic Hollywood story that isn’t afraid to reveal the truth.

 

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John Williams's Film Music

Jaws, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and the Return of the Classical Hollywood Music Style

Emilio Audissino

John Williams is one of the most renowned film composers in history. He has penned unforgettable scores for Star Wars, the Indiana Jones series, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Jaws, Superman, and countless other films. Fans flock to his many concerts, and with forty-nine Academy Award nominations as of 2014, he is the second-most Oscar-nominated person after Walt Disney. Yet despite such critical acclaim and prestige, this is the first book in English on Williams’s work and career.
            Combining accessible writing with thorough scholarship, and rigorous historical accounts with insightful readings, John Williams’s Film Music explores why Williams is so important to the history of film music. Beginning with an overview of music from Hollywood’s Golden Age (1933–58), Emilio Audissino traces the turning points of Williams’s career and articulates how he revived the classical Hollywood musical style. This book charts each landmark of this musical restoration, with special attention to the scores for Jaws and Star Wars, Williams’s work as conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra, and a full film/music analysis of Raiders of the Lost Ark. The result is a precise, enlightening definition of Williams’s “neoclassicism” and a grounded demonstration of his lasting importance, for both his compositions and his historical role in restoring part of the Hollywood tradition.

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Luis Buñuel

The Red Years, 1929–1939

Román Gubern

The turbulent years of the 1930s were of profound importance in the life of Spanish film director Luis Buñuel (1900–1983). He joined the Surrealist movement in 1929 but by 1932 had renounced it and embraced Communism. During the Spanish Civil War (1936–39), he played an integral role in disseminating film propaganda in Paris for the Spanish Republican cause.
    Luis Buñuel: The Red Years, 1929–1939 investigates Buñuel’s commitment to making the politicized documentary Land without Bread (1933) and his key role as an executive producer at Filmófono in Madrid, where he was responsible in 1935–36 for making four commercial features that prefigure his work in Mexico after 1946. As for the republics of France and Spain between which Buñuel shuttled during the 1930s, these became equally embattled as left and right totalitarianisms fought to wrest political power away from a debilitated capitalism.
    Where it exists, the literature on this crucial decade of the film director’s life is scant and relies on Buñuel’s own self-interested accounts of that complex period. Román Gubern and Paul Hammond have undertaken extensive archival research in Europe and the United States and evaluated Buñuel’s accounts and those of historians and film writers to achieve a portrait of Buñuel’s “Red Years” that abounds in new information.

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The Many Lives of Cy Endfield

Film Noir, the Blacklist, and Zulu

Brian Neve

Cy Endfield (1914–1995) was a filmmaker who was also fascinated by the worlds of close-up magic, science, and invention. After directing several distinctive low-budget films in Hollywood, he was blacklisted in 1951 and fled to Britain rather than “name names” before HUAC, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Un-American Activities Committee. The Pennsylvania-born Endfield made films that exhibit an outsider’s eye for his adopted country, including the working-class “trucking” drama Hell Drivers and the cult film Zulu—a war epic as politically nuanced as it is spectacular. Along the way he encountered Orson Welles, collaborated with pioneering animator Ray Harryhausen, published a book of his card magic, and co-invented an early word processor that anticipated today’s technology.
            The Many Lives of Cy Endfield is the first book on this fascinating figure. The fruit of years of archival research and personal interviews by Brian Neve, it documents Endfield’s many identities: among them second-generation immigrant, Jew, Communist, and exile. Neve paints detailed scenes not only of the political and personal dramas of the blacklist era, but also of the attempts by Hollywood directors in the postwar 1940s and early 1950s to address social and political controversies of the day. Out of these efforts came two crime melodramas (what would become known as film noir) on inequalities of class and race: The Underworld Story and The Sound of Fury (also known as Try and Get Me!). Neve reveals the complex production and reception histories of Endfield’s films, which the critic Jonathan Rosenbaum saw as reflective of “an uncommon intelligence so radically critical of the world we live in that it’s dangerous.”
            The Many Lives of Cy Endfield is at once a revealing biography of an independent, protean figure, an insight into film industry struggles, and a sensitive and informed study of an underappreciated body of work.

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Marked Women

Prostitutes and Prostitution in the Cinema

Russell Campbell

    Julia Roberts played a prostitute, famously, in Pretty Woman. So did Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver, Jane Fonda in Klute, Anna Karina in Vivre sa vie, Greta Garbo in Anna Christie, and Charlize Theron, who won an Academy Award for Monster. This engaging and generously illustrated study explores the depiction of female prostitute characters and prostitution in world cinema, from the silent era to the present-day industry. From the woman with control over her own destiny to the woman who cannot get away from her pimp, Russell Campbell shows the diverse representations of prostitutes in film.

            Marked Women classifies fifteen recurrent character types and three common narratives, many of them with their roots in male fantasy. The “Happy Hooker,” for example, is the liberated woman whose only goal is to give as much pleasure as she receives, while the “Avenger,” a nightmare of the male imagination, represents the threat of women taking retribution for all the oppression they have suffered at the hands of men. The “Love Story,” a common narrative, represents the prostitute as both heroine and anti-heroine, while “Condemned to Death” allows men to manifest, in imagination only, their hostility toward women by killing off the troubled prostitute in an act of cathartic violence.

            The figure of the woman whose body is available at a price has fascinated and intrigued filmmakers and filmgoers since the very beginning of cinema, but the manner of representation has also been highly conflicted and fiercely contested. Campbell explores the cinematic prostitute as a figure shaped by both reactionary thought and feminist challenges to the norm, demonstrating how the film industry itself is split by fascinating contradictions.

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Screen Nazis

Cinema, History, and Democracy

Sabine Hake

From the late 1930s to the early twenty-first century, European and American filmmakers have displayed an enduring fascination with Nazi leaders, rituals, and symbols, making scores of films from Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939) and Watch on the Rhine (1943) through Des Teufels General (The Devil’s General, 1955) and Pasqualino settebellezze (Seven Beauties, 1975), up to Der Untergang (Downfall, 2004), Inglourious Basterds (2009), and beyond.
    Probing the emotional sources and effects of this fascination, Sabine Hake looks at the historical relationship between film and fascism and its far-reaching implications for mass culture, media society, and political life. In confronting the specter and spectacle of fascist power, these films not only depict historical figures and events but also demand emotional responses from their audiences, infusing the abstract ideals of democracy, liberalism, and pluralism with new meaning and relevance.
    Hake underscores her argument with a comprehensive discussion of films, including perspectives on production history, film authorship, reception history, and questions of performance, spectatorship, and intertextuality. Chapters focus on the Hollywood anti-Nazi films of the 1940s, the West German anti-Nazi films of the 1950s, the East German anti-fascist films of the 1960s, the Italian “Naziploitation” films of the 1970s, and issues related to fascist aesthetics, the ethics of resistance, and questions of historicization in films of the 1980s–2000s from the United States and numerous European countries.

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