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Comedy and Cultural Critique in American Film

Comedy and Cultural Critique in American Film

Ryan Bishop
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Comedy and Cultural Critique in American Film
    Book Description:

    This book uses large scale social and cultural trends and major world events to analyse the American comedy film. This is a historical and conceptual study discussing the comedy narrative, comic traditions, and role of visual culture.Grounded in the theoretical writing of Jean Baudrillard, Paul Virilio, Friedrich Kittler and Jacques Derrida, Bishop brings a new perspective to comedy in film suggesting that it is central to staging cultural criticism. He discusses themes such as repetition, automation, material systems of information media, the level of address in a communicative act, and the shifting role of the image. Key features Close analysis of two films to illustrate key points in each chapterRelevant both to film and cultural studies

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-7780-1
    Subjects: Film Studies, Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. CHAPTER 1 American Film Comedy and Cultural Critique: Glitches in the Smooth Running of the Social Machine
    (pp. 1-21)

    If tragedy is about the fact that people are mortal, then comedy is about the fools we make of ourselves on the way to the grave. The traditional distinction between Tragedy and Comedy, however, has always been difficult, at best, to maintain, especially when any moment or statement, depending on context, has the potential to be funny. In fact, comedy has been able to perform a great deal of analytic work that typically was the domain of tragedy or drama, especially since the end of the First World War. The emergence in the twentieth century of a host of literary...

  5. CHAPTER 2 The Feeding Machine and Feeding the Machine: Silence, Sound and the Technologies of Cinema
    (pp. 22-57)

    Charlie Chaplin as the Tramp stands at the assembly line where he mechanistically turns two screws every few seconds for hours on end. He falls behind, rushes to catch up and loses his sanity in the process; he snaps right there on the line, eventually following the screws into the workings of the machinery of the automated assembly-line belt. As his body threads over the gears of interlocking parts, it looks like nothing other than celluloid film being threaded into a projector. His body become film, Chaplin’s movie on mechanical assembly-line production proves an allegory for the film industry, his...

  6. CHAPTER 3 The Constitution of the Real: Documentary, Mockumentary and the Status of the Image
    (pp. 58-92)

    The Pan-American Exposition in 1901 intended to promote commerce between the Americas in a more profound manner than the nineteenth century had accorded and with an agenda suggesting that the US clearly would lead the technological way to a better and brighter future. Thus the exposition provided an extended advertisement for one of the US’s leading technological lights, literally. The many inventions by the Wizard of Menlo Park, including Edison’s kinetoscope camera and electric light bulb, contributed to the self-representation and presentation of the event as it became a site of motion pictures, phonograph recordings and electrical illumination. Vice-President Teddy...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Parody: Targeting Cinema’s Narrative Technics
    (pp. 93-124)

    Aristotle’s thoughts on comedy are limited to a pile of fragments, now duly and very usefully gathered and annotated (see Richard Janko’s excellent work on this). As fragments go, these are very fragmented indeed, and we glean not a great deal more than what is on offer inThe Poetics, in which Aristotle’s general disregard for the form is apparent. In this work, though, he does mention Hegemon of Thasos as the founder of parody, a mode of address, Aristotle claims – as with comedy generally – that makes men out to be worse than they are. Tragedy, on the...

  8. CHAPTER 5 The Unspeakable and Political Satire: Performance, Perception and Technology
    (pp. 125-160)

    In the early part of the 1910s in the US, a small but influential movement to eliminate Darwinism and evolution from public education started to gain some legislative momentum, eventually resulting in laws forbidding such instruction and ending in one of the great trials of the century: the Scopes Trial of 1925. The trial became a radio and media spectacle featuring two of the best-known orators of the age: populist and perennial presidential nominee William Jennings Bryan and legal star for civil and constitutional rights Clarence Darrow. The two adversaries had once been friends and colleagues but fell out primarily...

  9. CHAPTER 6 Conclusion: Between the Machine and the Event: Film Comedy
    (pp. 161-168)

    William Joyce and Brian Oldenberg’s short animation film,The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore(2011), provides a twenty-first-century mash-up ethos of aesthetic modes and media while also offering a whimsical, sentimental allegory of reading and a life of the imagination. A commentary on the power of narrative to aid one during the disasters of life, with oblique references to Hurricane Katrina serving as a metonym for our collective confrontation with individual mortality, the film proves useful for us, less with regard to the technics of narrative and more with regard to its profligate and skilled mobilising of an...

  10. Index
    (pp. 169-178)