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Home in Hollywood

Home in Hollywood: The Imaginary Geography of Cinema

Elisabeth Bronfen
John Belton General Editor
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Home in Hollywood
    Book Description:

    Who can forget Dorothy's quest for the great and powerful Oz as she tried to return to her beloved Kansas? She thought she needed a wizard's magic, only to discover that home -- and the power to get there -- had been with her all along. This engaging and provocative book proposes that Hollywood has created an imaginary cinematic geography filled with people and places we recognize and to which we are irresistibly drawn. Each viewing of a film stirs, in a very real and charismatic way, feelings of home, and the comfort of returning to films like familiar haunts is at the core of our nostalgic desire. Leading us on a journey through American film, Elisabeth Bronfen examines the different ways home is constructed in the development of cinematic narrative. Each chapter includes a close reading of such classic films as Fleming's The Wizard of Oz, Sirk's Imitation of Life, Burton's Batman Returns, Hitchcock's Rebecca, Ford's The Searchers, and Sayles's Lone Star.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52942-6
    Subjects: Film Studies, Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-ix)
  4. Prologue—Out of the Library: Seven
    (pp. 1-18)

    On a bleak, rainy evening homicide detective William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) suddenly decides to leave the shelter of his living room. Although he will retire from the police force within a week, he is haunted by his final case, one that he had hoped would allow for a clean break from his past and, concomitant with this, for a new future far removed from the crime-ridden city in which he now resides. On the previous day (Monday) he had been called to a crime scene where an obese man, dressed only in his underwear, was found murdered—sitting at his...

  5. Introduction: Not Master in His Own House
    (pp. 19-29)

    Given that what follows after the disquieting title sequence in Seven (1995) is the unfolding of a fantasy scenario involving a serial killer’s appropriation of cultural texts that both he and his witnesses (Somerset—and of course the film’s viewers) are at home in, it is productive to read David Fincher’s movie as a self-conscious comment on the workings of cinematic narration in general. The film obliquely invokes the long-held position of Hollywood as the place where stories were created and brought into circulation to deal with our personal anxieties and desires as well as those of our culture. Analogous...

  6. Chapter 1 Uncanny Appropriations: Rebecca
    (pp. 31-63)

    In response to François Truffaut’s suggestion that it was only after Alfred Hitchcock’s arrival in the United States that he reached his creative peak as the master of the horror thriller, Hitchcock insists that it was his work for the British film industry that helped him develop his natural instincts, his directorial techniques, and his camera precepts, even though he did develop new and offbeat ideas once he left for Hollywood. In contrast to his mature American phase, which he considers “the period when the ideas were fertilized,” Hitchcock calls his early British phase “the period of the sensation of...

  7. Chapter 2 Home—There’s No Place Like It: The Wizard of Oz
    (pp. 65-93)

    Ted Sennett explains the lasting influence of Victor Fleming’s legendary musical The Wizard of Oz by noting that “the movie appeals to a common need: the need to belong, to have a home that offers warmth and shelter after the world’s witches have been conquered.”¹ Fleming’s heroine, the orphaned everygirl Dorothy (Judy Garland), is dissatisfied with her life on her Uncle Henry (Charley Grapewin) and Aunt Em’s (Clara Blandick) farm in Kansas. She dreams of a place somewhere over the rainbow, which would be more exciting than home, where there would be no worries, no calamity, and no strife. Plagued...

  8. Chapter 3 Seduction of Departing: The Searchers
    (pp. 95-125)

    In their homage to the director who has become coterminous with the western genre, Joseph McBride and Michael Wilmington suggest that there always existed two John Fords, for on closer perusal the man who was initially named Sean Aloysius O’Feeney emerges as a hybrid of iconographer and iconoclast.¹ His cinematic refiguration of the founding legend of America articulates a desire to prove his love for the culture his parents had chosen as their new home, while, at the same time, the cinematic American legends he became famous for also give voice to the disappointment he felt at discovering flaws in...

  9. Chapter 4 Hybrid Home: Lone Star
    (pp. 127-155)

    In Lone Star, John Sayles makes explicit reference to John Ford’s refiguration of the western tradition, with his narrative oscillating between two time frames, 1957 and the present. In an interview with Gavin Smith, he explained that he chose Texas as the stage for his history lesson because it “has a compressed history that is like a metaphor for the history of the United States” and also because it offers a geographical analogy to the psychic development of his hero. Sheriff Sam Deeds (Chris Cooper) is very much the classic loner, “trying to bring justice to the situation, as far...

  10. Chapter 5 The Enigma of Homecoming: Secret Beyond the Door
    (pp. 157-195)

    As Vivian Sobchack astutely notes, “It is now a commonplace to regard film noir during the peak years of its production as a pessimistic cinematic response to volatile social and economic conditions of the decade immediately following World War II.” While the plot of the classic war film generally concludes with the allegedly happy return of the war hero to the home for which he fought abroad, film noir highlights how precarious the veteran’s homecoming can be. Sobchack argues that film noir can be seen as “playing out negative dramas of post-war masculine trauma and gender anxiety brought on by...

  11. Chapter 6 Sustaining Dislocation: Imitation of Life
    (pp. 197-229)

    Douglas Sirk, in his interview with Jon Halliday, insists that in all his melodramas he was concerned with irony as a form of social criticism. He repeatedly foregrounded moments when dreams of success and happiness no longer hold because his protagonists realize that they can never escape the constraints of the cultural laws imposed on their desire for selffulfillment. Consistently at stake in his appropriation of this cinematic genre, therefore, was an exploration of the fissures within the Hollywood convention of the happy ending, as well as a focus on the irradicable traces of the impossible dream of untainted happiness...

  12. Chapter 7 The Homeless Strike Back: Batman Returns
    (pp. 231-272)

    Tim Burton announces his own return to the comic figure Batman, whom Bob Kane invented in 1939, with a forceful fanfare.¹ At first his camera, which in the course of the film will repeatedly imitate the unimpeded movement of flight that its protagonist is famous for, captures the heavy neo-Gothic iron gate at whose apex is welded the name “C. Cobblepot.” Then, without interrupting its trajectory, the camera flies over the blocked entry, climbing up along the facade of this stately old mansion, only to stop at an enormous top-floor window, behind which we discern the silhouette of a man...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 273-296)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 297-304)
  15. Index
    (pp. 305-310)