The Cinema of Michael Winterbottom

The Cinema of Michael Winterbottom: Borders, Intimacy, Terror

Bruce Bennett
Series: Directors' Cuts
Copyright Date: 2014
DOI: 10.7312/benn16736
Pages: 224
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/benn16736
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  • Book Info
    The Cinema of Michael Winterbottom
    Book Description:

    This comprehensive study of prolific British filmmaker Michael Winterbottom explores the thematic, stylistic, and intellectual consistencies running through his eclectic and controversial body of work. Within an overview of his career, this volume undertakes a close analysis of fifteen of Winterbottom's films ranging from TV dramas to transnational coproductions featuring Hollywood stars, and from documentaries to costume films. This analysis is grounded in a consideration of Winterbottom's collaborative working practices, the political and cultural contexts of the work, and its critical reception. Arguing that Winterbottom's work comprises a 'cinema of borders', it examines its treatment of sexuality, class, ethnicity, national and international politics. The book argues that what is evident in Winterbottom's oeuvre is the search for an adequate means of narrating inequality, injustice, and violence. Drawing out the tensions, contradictions, and border-crossing strategies of these films, The Cinema of Michael Winterbottom highlights the complex political aesthetic that structures the work of this singular director.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-85053-7
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-24)

    Whether it is understood primarily as art or commodity, or a complex double articulation of both, cinema is a medium infused with the potential to challenge and reconfigure prevailing ‘ways of seeing’; it makes particular (real and imaginary) faces, bodies, communities, spaces and landscapes visible, while leaving others out of focus, obscured or beyond the frame. A film’s soundtrack gives voice to certain real or fictional figures while leaving others indiscernible, distorted or mute. Film narratives put linear temporalities into play, through repetitions, elisions, flashbacks, anachronisms and non-chronological plot structures, slowing, accelerating or stopping time. Film narratives can stretch, compress...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Welcome to Sarajevo: television, ‘documentary fiction’ and border-crossing
    (pp. 25-46)

    An analysis ofWelcome to Sarajevoillustrates the value of an approach that employs the author as an interpretive filter in order to generate certain readings. One of Winterbottom’s best known works, and the third of his films made for theatrical release, it serves as a useful introduction to the director’s body of work since it foregrounds several narrative themes and motifs that are explored repeatedly in other films and TV dramas, displays stylistic and structural patterns that are visible across a number of other films, and employs strategies of storytelling, spectatorial address and empathic engagement that are employed elsewhere....

  6. CHAPTER TWO Intimacy
    (pp. 47-104)

    The promise of intimacy has always been a powerful attraction of cinema from the 1890s onwards. Intimacy has, as it were, an intimate relation to the history, technology and aesthetics of cinema. Cinema promises to bring us thrillingly close to other bodies and spaces and, in so doing, to expose before us the personal, secret, erotic and emotional configurations of individual lives. The public space of the film theatre offers a paradoxical experience of intimacy as we sit more or less immobile in the dark in close proximity to other sensitive bodies that are responding affectively to the sounds and...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Nation and Genre
    (pp. 105-151)

    This chapter will explore Winterbottom’s work through a focus on the inter-relation of genre and nation. It will discuss the value of framing his work in terms of national culture and also the problems with situating his work in relation to the context of British cinema. It will then go on to argue that his work can productively be understood to be engaged in a critical dialogue with key genres, tropes and traditions from British cinema. I will argue that it is engaged with a reimagining or ‘reterritorialisation’ of British cinema as a shifting field of contradictions and incompatibilities, rather...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Borders and Terror
    (pp. 152-201)

    The global ‘War on Terror’¹ is a densely mediated, expanding and, literally, endless conflict that has generated a vast deluge of coverage – what Jean Baudrillard aptly terms ‘the improbable orgy of material’ – circulating through major commercial media channels such as newspapers and magazines, TV and radio networks, as well as through minor, alternative or personal media such as activist videos, independent news networks, internet discussion fora, blogs, file-sharing websites, amateur photographs and academic scholarship (Baudrillard 1995: 58). The complex transnational configuration of battles, atrocities, protests, locations, debates, discourses and individuals that constitutes the War on Terror has been characterised by...

  9. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 202-210)

    An initial impression of Michael Winterbottom’s work might suggest that he is an opportunistic filmmaker whose enthusiasms lead him capriciously from one idiosyncratic project to the next, giving the appearance, as one journalist proposed sardonically in a review of9 Songs, that ‘Michael Winterbottom picks his films with the consistency of a blind man at a car-boot sale’ (Brown 2004: 6). However, what I have sought to demonstrate in this volume is precisely the stylistic, thematic and intellectual consistency that runs through this body of work from the early television dramas (that he now disowns as jobs that were taken...

  10. FILMOGRAPHY
    (pp. 211-219)
  11. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 220-227)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 228-232)