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Memory and popular film

Memory and popular film

edited by Paul Grainge
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Memory and popular film
    Book Description:

    One of the first books to put memory at the centre of analysis when exploring the relationship between film culture and the past. Provides a sustained, interdisciplinary perspective on memory and film from early cinema to the present, drawing from film studies, American studies and cultural studies. Adopts a resolutely cultural perspective and unlike psychoanalytic or formalist approaches to memory, explores questions of culture, power and identity. Contributes to the growing debate about the status and function of the past in cultural life and discourse, discussing issues of memory in film, and of film as memory. Considers such well known films as Forrest Gump, Pleasantville, and Jackie Brown.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-040-8
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Notes on contributors
    (pp. vii-ix)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. x-x)
  5. Introduction: memory and popular film
    (pp. 1-20)
    Paul Grainge

    As a technology able to picture and embody the temporality of the past, cinema has become central to the mediation of memory in modern cultural life. While, in representational terms, the past has been figured in variations of the history film, the costume drama and the heritage picture from early cinema to the present, rituals of remembrance have come to surround the culture of film. Whether in the form of commercial reruns, generic recycling, critical retrospectives or popular reminiscence, the memory of film scenes and movies screens, cinema and cinema-going, has become integral to the placement and location of film...

  6. Part I Public history, popular memory

    • 1 A white manʹs country: Yaleʹs Chronicles of America
      (pp. 23-41)
      Roberta E. Pearson

      Writing in 1991, Michael Kammen stated, ‘For more than a decade now, the connection between collective memory and national identity has been a matter of intense and widespread interest’.¹ Kammen’s examples, ranging from Brazil to several Eastern and Western European countries, make it clear that he sees this interest as a global phenomenon, but the connection between collective memory and national identity has perhaps been most intensely debated in the historian’s own country, the US. In the last two decades of the twentieth century, as identity politics gained increasing validity, ‘minorities’ such as African-Americans and Asian-Americans pressed claims to an...

    • 2 Civic pageantry and public memory in the silent era commemorative film: The Pony Express at the Diamond Jubilee
      (pp. 42-64)
      Heidi Kenaga

      Paramount’s historical Western,The Pony Express(1925), was one of a cycle of popular frontier epics released in the late silent era.² Capitalising on the tremendous success of Paramount’sThe Covered Wagon(1923), several American producers released similar prestige features, including among others Fox’sThe Iron Horse(1924), Paramount’sThe Vanishing American(1925) and a Goldwyn production distributed by United Artists,The Winning of Barbara Worth(1926). Despite their popularity and central position in the studios’ production strategies during the mid-1920s, these movies remain underexamined in film studies literature.³ George Fenin and William Everson, for example, argue thatThe Pony...

    • 3 ʹLook behind you!ʹ: memories of cinema-going in the ʹGolden Ageʹ of Hollywood
      (pp. 65-80)
      Sarah Stubbings

      Roger Bromley, in his study of British memory in the inter-war period, has written that: ‘Memory is not simply the property of individuals, nor just a matter of psychological processes, but a complex cultural and historical phenomenon constantly subject to revision, amplification and “forgetting”.’¹ This perspective reverberates through the conceptual underpinnings of this book. While personality and personal history affect the content, intensity and emotional tone of a memory, the social and cultural context of memory also exerts a substantial influence on its form and experience. This chapter explores formations of memory in a contemporary British context, specifically as it...

    • 4 Raiding the archive: film festivals and the revival of Classic Hollywood
      (pp. 81-96)
      Julian Stringer

      Film Studies has to date paid too little attention to the role cultural institutions play in the transformation of cinema history into heritage. At the dawn of cinema’s second century, a range of organisational bodies – including museums and art galleries, the publicity and promotion industries, film journalism and publishing, as well as the academy – work to activate and commodify memory narratives concerning the movies’ own glorious and fondly recalled past. Such bodies serve different kinds of agendas, broadly identifiable as the commercial, the cultural and the educational (or a combination thereof). However, all help determine the specific shape...

  7. Part II The politics of memory

    • 5 The articulation of memory and desire: from Vietnam to the war in the Persian Gulf
      (pp. 99-119)
      John Storey

      In this chapter I want to explore, within a context of culture and power, the complex relations between memory and desire.¹ More specifically, I want to connect 1980s Hollywood representations of America’s war in Vietnam (what I will call ‘Hollywood’s Vietnam’) with George Bush’s campaign, in late 1990 and early 1991, to win support for US involvement in what became the Gulf War. My argument is that Hollywood produced a particular ‘regime of truth’² about America’s war in Vietnam and that this body of ‘knowledge’ was ‘articulated’³ by George Bush as an enabling ‘memory’ in the build up to the...

    • 6 The movie-made Movement: civil rites of passage
      (pp. 120-143)
      Sharon Monteith

      Film history cannibalises images, expropriates themes and techniques, and decants them into the contents of our collective memory. Movie memories are influenced by the (inter)textuality of media styles – Fredric Jameson has gone so far as to argue that such styles displace ‘real’ history. The Civil Rights Movement made real history but the Movement struggle was also a media event, played out as a teledrama in homes across the world in the 1950s and 1960s, and it is being replayed as a cinematic event. The interrelationship of popular memory and cinematic representations finds a telling case study in the civil...

    • 7 Prosthetic memory: the ethics and politics of memory in an age of mass culture
      (pp. 144-161)
      Alison Landsberg

      Memory is not commonly imagined as a site of possibility for progressive politics. More often, memory, particularly in the form of nostalgia, is condemned for its solipsistic nature, for its tendency to draw people into the past instead of the present. This is the case, for example, in Kathryn Bigelow’s 1995 filmStrange Days, in which the use of memory – usually another person’s memory – is figured as a form of addiction. The film is set in Los Angeles, on New Year’s Eve 1999. The Los Angeles of the film is a chaotic, multicultural world of violence, epitomised by...

    • 8 ʹForget the Alamoʹ: history, legend and memory in John Saylesʹ Lone Star
      (pp. 162-180)
      Neil Campbell

      John Sayles’Lone Starexamines ‘life beneath the ashes or behind the mirrors’ by excavating the ‘geological layers’ of what is remembered, who remembers and how these memories are constructed and recycled to form a particular history within the border community of Frontera (‘frontier’), Texas, ‘a pretty lively mix’ of ethnic histories.² The US/Mexico borderlands are a ‘kind of dysfunctional family… [with] all these secrets that go way, way back’ and yet, as in the US itself, a dominant history has emerged by ‘generalized assent… to regulate the present… [until] for better or for worse, history increasingly became the discipline...

  8. Part III Mediating memory

    • 9 ʹMortgaged to musicʹ: new retro movies in 1990s Hollywood cinema
      (pp. 183-201)
      Philip Drake

      As every decade passes, so claims about how it will be recalled and re-remembered emerge. Looking back to the past solidifies years into publicly memorialised decades, reconstructing the past as an episodic narrative. This narrative dramatises the relationship between past and present, constructing a memory of the past through the recycling of particular iconography that metonymically comes to represent it. Particular fashions, music and visual images are memorialised, and become subject to reinterpretation in the present. Memories of the 1970s in the 1980s, for example, are quite different from those of the 1990s, as James Monaco’s remark above illustrates. Thus,...

    • 10 Colouring the past: Pleasantville and the textuality of media memory
      (pp. 202-219)
      Paul Grainge

      When Ted Turner purchased MGM Entertainment in 1986, and then financed a plan to digitally colourise a series of black and white movies from the studio’s back catalogue, a beachhead of Hollywood directors, actors, film critics and cinematic guilds vociferously attacked the idea in practice and principle. The crux of complaint focused on the fact that, as a technical process, colourisation did not simply enhance the visual quality and resolution of old monochrome movies, but artfully doctored their entire chromatic character. Believing that colourised films would eventually replace the memory of their black and white progenitors, digital alteration was denounced...

    • 11 Memory, history and digital imagery in contemporary film
      (pp. 220-236)
      Robert Burgoyne

      Bernardo Bertolucci once said in an interview that the cinema ‘is the language through which reality expresses itself… to create the language of the cinema, more than with any other form of expression, you have first to put your camera in front of reality, because cinema is made of reality’.¹ He also said that every film is a documentary, including fiction films, for every film carries within it an archival record of the period in which it was made, expressed in terms of lighting style, set design, camera work, make up, and even the behavioural gestures and acting techniques of...

    • 12 Postcinema/Postmemory
      (pp. 237-256)
      Jeffrey Pence

      As technologies of mass entertainment undergo accelerated development, their affiliated institutional complexes likewise inhabit a state of apparently endless transformation. By institutional complex I mean the commercial and social contexts of production and consumption, as well as the forms of textuality and aesthetic experience associated with particular technologies – easy contrasts being between narrative cinema and the fragmentary action and spectacular intensity of music videos or the idiosyncratic variability of interactive web experiences. In technological, textual and structural terms, these different media compete for preeminence, for literal and symbolic capital, in an increasingly global context. This chapter focuses on the...

  9. Index
    (pp. 257-261)