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Visions of Paradise

Visions of Paradise: Images of Eden in the Cinema

Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Visions of Paradise
    Book Description:

    Depictions of sex, violence, and crime abound in many of today's movies, sometimes making it seem that the idyllic life has vanished-even from our imaginations. But as shown in this unique book, paradise has not always been lost. For many years, depictions of heaven, earthly paradises, and utopias were common in popular films. Illustrated throughout with intriguing, rare stills and organized to provide historical context, Visions of Paradise surveys a huge array of films that have offered us glimpses of life free from strife, devoid of pain and privation, and full of harmony. In films such as Moana, White Shadows in the South Seas, The Green Pastures, Heaven Can Wait, The Enchanted Forest, The Bishop's Wife, Carousel, Bikini Beach, and Elvira Madigan, characters and the audience partake in a vision of personal freedom and safety-a zone of privilege and protection that transcends the demands of daily existence. Many of the films discussed are from the 1960s-perhaps the most edenic decade in contemporary cinema, when everything seemed possible and radical change was taken for granted. As Dixon makes clear, however, these films have not disappeared with the dreams of a generation; they continue to resonate today, offering a tonic to the darker visions that have replaced them.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-5241-5
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. CHAPTER ONE The Great Escape
    (pp. 3-42)

    Our world is dominated by images of escape. The pace of modern life is well-nigh insupportable, as we are assaulted from all sides by cell phone calls, telephone solicitations, and advertisements everywhere: television commercials (twenty minutes out of every prime-time hour is now the norm), pop-up ads on the Web, ads in taxis, on buses, on the sides of buildings, in newspapers, magazines, junk mail, and of course, the ubiquitous e-mail spam. We dream of ways of avoiding all this, of leaving the daily onslaught behind, of finding respite in a simulacrum of paradise. Travel magazines promise us carefree escapes...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Eternal Summer
    (pp. 43-85)

    It was American International Pictures who first isolated the teenage viewer from the rest of the members of the typical American house-hold and (astonishingly) targeted the summer as a prime season for filmgoing, while the majors in the early-to-mid-1950s still viewed the June through August date span as “dead time.” Everyone was on vacation; surely no one would want to go to the movies. Founded by James H. Nicholson and Samuel Z. Arkoff in 1954 as American Releasing Corporation, AIP changed all that, beginning in 1954 with John Ireland’sThe Fast and the Furious(since remade three times), followed by...

  6. CHAPTER THREE Paradise Now
    (pp. 86-127)

    In the 1960s, when America temporarily returned to its social senses and began to push back the repressive work of the Eisenhower/McCarthy era, there was a veritable outpouring of individual creative activity in all areas—film, dance, sculpture, performance, painting, and literature. We have not seen a decade as fecund as the 1960s in the creation of an entirely new Edenic mode of living since; “codeheads” would argue that the digital revolution has brought about a fundamental shift in human relations akin to that of the 1960s, and in some respects, they are correct. But text messaging, e-mail, videophone calling,...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR The Uses of Heaven
    (pp. 128-157)

    Since the cinema is inherently a zone of fantasy, a place where the self can be projected at will in whatever guise one wishes, it is an ideal location for visions of the next world, whether paradisiacal or not. Cinema aspires to complete the work of imagined constructs of Heaven by giving imagistic solidity to that which must be taken on faith; we will never know whether or not Heaven exists until we die, and then we will be beyond the reach of those who would wish to communicate with us. The cinema itself represents a kind of quotidian Heaven,...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE The Promise of the Future
    (pp. 158-194)

    All science fiction, by definition, takes place in the future. If the technology is not available now, then it has to be invented; this is something that will happen in another time, another era, but not now. The promise of the future is that new technologies will continue to be developed as the old ones fall away; fossil fuel technology will give way to a world powered by solar cells, clean nuclear energy, cold fusion, and the like. When one looks back on the 1950s “populuxe” films of what the future would hold for the average family, one sees flying...

    (pp. 195-200)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 201-220)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 221-221)