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This book discusses the complex relation between modernity and cinema drawing particularly upon the European and American cinema during the second half of the twentieth century. In this period, the author argues, the terms 'modernist' and 'post-modern' are both inappropriate to the cinema's critical vision of modernity. Instead there emerges a neo-modern movement which subverts American melodrama and supplants Italian neo-realism, yet also echoes the earlier modernisms of Dreyer, Eisenstein, Bunuel and Fritz Lang. In the American cinema attention is paid to the work of Welles, Hitchcock and the changing patterns of film noir. In the European cinema, the author re-assesses the French New Wave, the Italian cinema after neo-realism and the complex retro-vision by European film-makers of the politics of fascism. The work of Bergman, Antonioni, Godard, Bertolucci, Rohmer and Wenders is discussed in relation to the changing role of cinematic space and modern vision of the automobile and the city, together with the new forms of tragicomedy and apocalypse in the cinema of the nuclear age.
The book regards critique as the dominant mode of film study, thus breaking down the artificial boundaries which currently exist between theory, history and textual reading. Its intellectual heritage lies firmly in the writings of Nietzsche, Freud and Sartre, and opposes the current dependence upon semiology and post-structuralism. It is thus an attempt to rethink the relation of film-making to the contemporary world. The book challenges many of the critical complacencies of post-modernism and offers a fresh perspective upon the development of the modern cinema.
John Orr is the author of several previous books including,
The Making of the Twentieth Century Novel (1987) and
Cinema and Fiction (co-author, 1992).