Recent research on British cinema

This week some articles on British cinema that have appeared over the past 18 months, with a particular nod to Scottish cinema.

Brown S 2011 ‘Anywhere but Scotland?:’ transnationalism and new Scottish cinema, International Journal of Scottish Theatre and Screen 4 (1):

Fifteen years on from the moment that Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting (1996) fulfilled the promise of his earlier Shallow Grave (1994) and helped to launch what has become known as New Scottish Cinema, the critical debates which have accompanied its development find themselves at a crossroads. Prompted in part by the New Scottish Cinema symposium, which took place in Ireland in 2005 and looked back over 20 years of Scottish film, key writers have begun to critically assess the arguments which have circulated and to refashion the debate for the future. Initial models focussing upon the influences of first American and then European cinema have proved themselves to be inflexible in locating New Scottish Cinema within a global cinema marketplace, and furthermore have privileged a certain type of film, influenced by European art cinema traditions, as being representative of Scottish cinema to the exclusion of other more commercial projects. Not only is this ironic considering the inherently commercial nature of both Trainspotting and Shallow Grave, but also it had led to a vision of Scottish film which is more European than Scottish; more international than national.

Claydon EA 2011 National identity, the GPO Film Unit and their music, in S Anthony and J Mansell (eds) The Projection of Britain: A History of the GPO Film Unit. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan: NB: This is an abstract of the full chapter.

The GPO films, seminal as they were in helping to construct the British social realist movement, are as much remembered for their sound worlds as their visual properties. Whether it is the crackling audio of the ensembles who played, or the (to our ears) richly evocative accents of the narrators, or the adventurous musical soundtracks, the sound worlds of the Empire Marketing Board, GPO and Crown Film Units are utterly textural and utterly of their time and place. This timbre is largely the effect of Alberto Calvancanti‟s aesthetic, but it is also a reflection of the range of composers and filmmakers employed by the Unit. In this chapter, I shall focus upon the way in which Benjamin Britten and W. H. Auden‟s sonic collage in Night Mail created and reinforced concepts of national identity and place and how the use of sound in Humphrey Jennings‟ Spare Time established a semiotic musical sense of British identity by engaging with popular forms, a mode which he would later develop in Listen to Britain. These are films which are much discussed and much loved, but for that same reason, it is worthwhile to step back, to distance ourselves somewhat and to re-examine the elements we can take for granted: what we hear that we know too well. Consequently, this chapter situates the development of a documentary „national soundtrack‟ within it specific cultural and artistic contexts.

Fukaya K (2012) Quota quickies – British B movie’s narrative style and the problem of nationality in the 1930s, GEIBUN: Bulletin of the Faculty of Art and Design, University of Toyama 6: 124-131.

This paper will explore the meaning and function of a narrative style in the 1930s British film culture constructing national consciousness. Around 1930, the British government and film industry tried to protect themselves from the excessive amount of Hollywood films imported from the United States, and to reconstruct the national film culture. The paper will reconsider the idea of national cinema, especially from cultural perspective, and examine the roles of narrative in the creation of nationally conscious films.

Goode I (2011) Cinema in the country: the rural cinema scheme – Orkney (1946-67), Post Script: Essays in Film and the Humanities 30 (2): 17-31.

The act of transporting cinema to and exhibiting films for the rural communities of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland has attracted a fair amount of press attention at home and abroad recently (“Box Office”). This is partly due to the events pioneered by the British actress Tilda Swinton and the writer and critic Mark Cousins. This began with the film festival The Ballerina Ballroom Cinema of Dreams held in Nairn on the north east coast of Scotland in 2008, followed a year later by A Pilgrimage which involved tugging a mobile cinema along an exhibition route from Fort Augustus to Nairn incorporating Loch Ness. These initiatives and less publicized others, such as The Small Islands Film Festival (2007-2009), are born of a passionate desire to not only take a preferred vision of cinema to selected areas of rural Scotland, but also, to offer potential audiences a different cinema-going experience by challenging what might be considered the norms of film exhibition.

Hand C and Judge G (2012) Searching for the picture: forecasting UK cinema admissions making use of Google Trends data, Applied Economics Letters 19 (11): 1051-1055.

This paper investigates whether Google Trends search information can improve forecasts of cinema admissions, over and above those based on seasonal patterns in the data. Using monthly data for the UK for the period 2004(1) to 2008(12) we examine various forecasting models that incorporate Google Trends search information. We find clear evidence that Google Trends data on searches relevant to cinema visits do have the potential to increase the accuracy of cinema admissions forecasting models. There is also some evidence to suggest that Google Trends indexes based on combined information from searches using a number of different search terms work better than those based on only a single keyword. The results also appear to confirm earlier findings that the UK cinema admissions series is more suitably modelled by the use of fixed seasonal dummies than through autoregressive formulations.

Wilks L 2012 ‘Boys don’t like girls for funniness:’ raunch culture and the British tween film, Networking Knowledge 5 (1):

This paper discusses representations of teenage girls in three contemporary British film productions or co-productions, aimed at the “tween” market (defined as nine to fourteen year old females). Such texts are examined in the context of a British equivalent of ‘raunch culture’ (Levy, 2006), a strand of postfeminism that I propose characterises the decade in which they were released. The films engage with contemporary debates regarding the media’s alleged sexualising impact on tweens and the body ideals it impresses upon them. Drawing on McRobbie’s notion of ‘double entanglement’ (2009), I consider their negotiations of a conflict between sexuality and a perception of childhood innocence, which produces contradictory interpellations of their teenage female characters. While the films to some extent critique the perception that investment in raunch culture “empowers” teenage girls, elements of the texts also simultaneously celebrate the commodified young woman’s body, inciting cultural anxieties about the ways tweens are represented. All three films depict girls’ attempts at embodying a ‘postfeminist masquerade’ (McRobbie, 2009) of excessive femininity as a means to (faux) empowerment. I argue that this apparent “empowerment” is particularly hollow for tweens, their actions simply reinforcing patriarchal norms that envisage females as nothing but objects.

Williams S 2011 Between a Rock and Hard Place: Space, Gender and Hierarchy in British Gangland Film, University of Hertfordshire, unpublished PhD Thesis.

A principal aim of this research has been to establish the capacity of British Gangland film to articulate its era of production through the cinematic interpretation of contemporary concerns and anxieties in narratives relating to the criminal underworld. In order to do so, the study has concentrated on the analysis of space, gender and hierarchy within representative generic texts produced between 1945 and the present. The thesis is divided into three sections: the first offers a general overview of British Gangland film from the 65 years under discussion with the aim of identifying recurring generic patterns and motifs. The second and third sections are more specifically focused, their chapters examining the narrative significance and development of the male and the female protagonist respectively. Within the films under discussion, the relationship between these protagonists and their environment represents a fundamental generic component, resulting in an emphasis on space and place. Space within these narratives is inherently territorial, and thus irrevocably bound up with hierarchies of power. The predominantly urban locations in which the narratives are set represent a twilight world, a demi-monde, which is rarely neutral but dominated by the patriarchal order structuring the notion of ‘Gangland’. Such spaces are therefore inextricably linked with gender, hierarchy, and dynamic power relations. Whilst it would have been possible to explore each of these areas in isolation through specifically relevant theoretical perspectives, their interdependence is central to this study. Consequently, a holistic theoretical approach has facilitated analysis of the symbiotic relationship between the three key elements of space, gender and hierarchy and the processes involved in the generation of meaning: this has resulted in a reading of British Gangland film as cultural artefact, reflecting its circumstances of production.

About Nick Redfern

I am an independent academic with over 15 years experience teaching film in higher education in the UK. I have taught film analysis, film industries, film theories, film history, science fiction at Manchester Metropolitan University, the University of Central Lancashire, and Leeds Trinity University, where I was programme leader for film from 2016 to 2020. My research interests include computational film analysis, horror cinema, sound design, science fiction, film trailers, British cinema, and regional film cultures.

Posted on June 28, 2012, in British Cinema, Film History, Film Industry, Film Studies, Scottish Cinema and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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