Hollywood Incoherent

Hollywood Incoherent

TODD BERLINER
Copyright Date: 2010
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7560/722798
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    Hollywood Incoherent
    Book Description:

    In the 1970s, Hollywood experienced a creative surge, opening a new era in American cinema with films that challenged traditional modes of storytelling. Inspired by European and Asian art cinema as well as Hollywood's own history of narrative ingenuity, directors such as Martin Scorsese, Robert Altman, William Friedkin, Stanley Kubrick, Woody Allen, and Francis Ford Coppola undermined the harmony of traditional Hollywood cinema and created some of the best movies ever to come out of the American film industry. Critics have previously viewed these films as a response to the cultural and political upheavals of the 1970s, but until now no one has explored how the period's inventive narrative design represents one of the great artistic accomplishments of American cinema.

    InHollywood Incoherent, Todd Berliner offers the first thorough analysis of the narrative and stylistic innovations of seventies cinema and its influence on contemporary American filmmaking. He examines not just formally eccentric films-Nashville;Taxi Driver;A Clockwork Orange;The Godfather, Part II; and the films of John Cassavetes-but also mainstream commercial films, includingThe Exorcist,The Godfather,The French Connection,Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,Dog Day Afternoon,Chinatown,The Bad News Bears,Patton,All the President's Men,Annie Hall, and many others. With persuasive revisionist analyses, Berliner demonstrates the centrality of this period to the history of Hollywood's formal development, showing how seventies films represent the key turning point between the storytelling modes of the studio era and those of modern American cinema.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-78471-0
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. PART I An Introduction to Narrative Incongruity

    • CHAPTER 1 Poetics of Seventies Cinema
      (pp. 3-24)

      The filmNashville(1975) opens with a jolt. The Paramount Pictures logo, black-and-white and faded, initiates a quiet display of credits that gives way unexpectedly to a peppy advertisement for the film in the form of a late-night TV commercial for a country music compilation album. The commercial sounds so cacophonous and moves at such a blistering pace that spectators could not possibly make out half of the information it presents. A hawker’s shrill voice-over clashes with brief song clips; album covers quickly scroll behind drawings of the principal actors, as the camera whips from one drawing to another; and...

    • CHAPTER 2 Narrative Incongruity in Seventies Cinema
      (pp. 25-52)

      In this chapter, we examine the qualities that broadly characterize Hollywood narratives of the 1970s and the principles that govern the period’s narrative design. We furthermore examine the aesthetic value that incongruous narrative devices add to an otherwise unified film. Finally, we consider empirical evidence that films from the period 1970–1977 show a distinct tendency toward narrative incongruity and that a majority of the period’s most admired and celebrated films exhibit such a tendency. Later chapters examine the era’s processes of narration, but I intend to demonstrate by this chapter’s general introduction to the period’s characteristic narrative patterning that...

  5. PART II Modes of Narration in Seventies Films

    • CHAPTER 3 Narrative Frustration: From The Godfather to The Godfather, Part II
      (pp. 55-89)

      We begin our analysis of seventies modes of narration withThe Godfather, Part IIbecause critics’ initial complaints about the film’s incoherence, and its subsequent status as arguably the most critically admired Hollywood movie of the decade, help introduce a premise central to this book: that many Hollywood films from the seventies have enjoyed lasting acclaim not despite butbecauseof their disruptions in logic, the disharmony of their narratives, and their propensity to avoid fulfilling narrative promises in satisfying ways. Seventies filmmakers seem intent upon disappointing audiences and frustrating spectator expectations, and this tendency shows itself most baldly in...

    • CHAPTER 4 Genre Deviation and The French Connection
      (pp. 90-117)

      In the 1970 war moviePatton, our hero delivers a line one does not expect to hear from Hollywood war heroes. Surveying the battlefield after a horrific slaughter of troops, General George S. Patton says, “God help me, I do love it so.” The line is not surprising, given what the audience knows about Patton, but it violates conventional expectations of Hollywood war heroes, who traditionally greet the battlefield not with glee but dutifully and reluctantly.

      Pattonis hardly a traditional war picture, but it is characteristic of seventies genre films, which frequently resisted traditional Hollywood scenarios. Many filmmakers in...

    • CHAPTER 5 Conceptual Incongruity and The Exorcist
      (pp. 118-146)

      What follows is a conceptually tidy ending common in action movies of the past two decades or more, an ending so familiar and specific that I am surprised I haven’t seen it parodied:

      The protagonist (let’s say the protagonist is female) and the villain (let’s say the villain is male) have met in their final confrontation, and the villain finds himself at the protagonist’s mercy with a gun pointed at him. The villain then makes a taunting remark, such as, “You don’t have the guts” or “I’m unarmed and the law says you can’t shoot me” or “You won’t do...

  6. PART III Incongruity’s Endpoints

    • CHAPTER 6 Incongruity and Unity in Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver
      (pp. 149-180)

      Martin Scorsese shot the low-budget exploitation filmBoxcar Bertha(1972)—his second feature film and the first for which he was paid as director—for independent producer Roger Corman at American International Pictures (AIP). Scorsese, proud of some of his work on the film, showed it to his friend and mentor, John Cassavetes.¹ According to Scorsese, Cassavetes said to him, “You spent a year of your life making a piece of shit. You’re better than that stuff, you don’t do that again” (Kelly, 68). Scorsese took his friend’s advice and began preproduction onMean Streets(1973), but his experience working...

    • CHAPTER 7 John Cassavetes’s Radical Narration
      (pp. 181-215)

      You’re at a party. A man you don’t recognize walks toward you and addresses you by name. You might say, “I’ve forgotten your name.” You might say, “Have we met?” or “How do you know my name?” But more than likely you would not say, “You have me at a disadvantage.” Few real people would say that. And no man, I presume, has ever said to his wife, “Darling, what’s gotten into you? You’re not yourself.” And if a husband ever did say something so awkward, I doubt his wife would reply, “Yes I am, for the first time in...

  7. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 216-221)

    From the viewpoint of the Hollywood film industry, every artistic decision should serve at least one of two commercial functions: add quality or minimize risk. During the 1970s, these two goals merged to create an atmosphere of experimentation in which narrative perversity could flourish in Hollywood. This atmosphere resulted from an unusual set of historical conditions: audience exhaustion with traditional cinema and the strange popularity of art cinema, the relaxation of Hollywood’s restrictions on lurid material and idiosyncratic expressions of directorial style, a new and excited generation of cine-literate filmmakers and filmgoers, product shortages and tax shelters that encouraged smallscale...

  8. APPENDIX A Best Films of the 1970s: Best Picture Awards, Critics Lists and Other Rankings, and Box Office Grosses
    (pp. 222-228)
  9. APPENDIX B Study of Film Incoherence
    (pp. 229-232)
  10. APPENDIX C Study of the Degree of Resolution of Film Endings
    (pp. 233-233)
  11. APPENDIX D Study of Best Picture Lists and Incoherence
    (pp. 234-236)
  12. NOTES
    (pp. 237-250)
  13. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 251-262)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 263-276)