Alternative Empires: European Modernist Cinemas and the Cultures of Imperialism

Alternative Empires: European Modernist Cinemas and the Cultures of Imperialism

Alternative Empires: European Modernist Cinemas and the Cultures of Imperialism

Alternative Empires: European Modernist Cinemas and the Cultures of Imperialism

Synopsis

This is the first book to study representations of the non-Western world in European modernist cinema. In offering new perspectives on the history of Soviet montage cinema and on the British documentary movement, it connects with the growing body of work analysing manifestations of orientalism, Eurocentrism and colonial discourse in the cinema. The book integrates theoretical discussion and textual analysis with primary source historical research, particularly into film reception. The case studies question received understandings of European film history, and offer new insights into canonical films already familiar to many readers. It is the first book length study of the subject and includes new insights into Fritz Lang's Metropolis, Eisenstein's October and the Griersonian Documentary as well as 'forgotten' films of the period. It is a useful teaching aid, with detailed analyses of films taught on most film studies courses

Excerpt

This book results from a convergence of several concerns within contemporary film and cultural studies. During the 1980s and 1990s film historians began rethinking many previously established approaches to European film history. This book extends that broad project. It analyses 1920s and 1930s European modernist cinemas in relation to aspects of the cultures of imperialism they emerged from and circulated within. It connects with the growing body of recent work which has analysed manifestations of orientalism, Eurocentrism and colonial discourse in cinema. This body of work has until recently tended to restrict itself to theoretically informed analyses of film texts. This book integrates theoretical discussion and textual analysis with historical research, particularly into film reception. One of its aims is to demonstrate that new approaches to European film history and theoretical work on orientalism, Eurocentrism and colonial discourse in the cinema can be productively synthesized. To this end, the interrelated case studies explored here question received understandings of European film history in several ways. They offer new insights into canonical films already familiar to many readers. These include Metropolis (Fritz Lang, Germany, 1926), October (Sergei Eisenstein, USSR, 1928) and Song of Ceylon (Basil Wright, UK, 1934). The new insights offered here are grounded in historically based discussions of film texts and their cultural contexts. The case studies also bring to light partly or wholly ‘forgotten’ films which were central to European modernist film cultures in the 1920s and 1930s yet have been ‘written out’ of history by subsequent accounts. Analysing European modernist cinemas in relation to cultures of imperialism revises existing maps of the film history of this period, altering perceptions of what we already know and bringing new areas and new issues into view.

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