Academic journal article American Studies

Otherness in Hollywood Cinema

Academic journal article American Studies

Otherness in Hollywood Cinema

Article excerpt

OTHERNESS IN HOLLYWOOD CINEMA. By Michael Richardson. New York and London: Continuum. 2010.

Richardson, who has published quite widely on the writings of Georges Bataille and surrealism, presents an overview and analysis of the "other" as depicted in American cinema from Griffith's Birth of a Nation (1915) to the present. As such, the book is ambitious in scope, both in addressing a wide time span and in the varied typologies of "others" examined. For example, Richardson takes on "nature as other," Native Americans, Asians (Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese), ethnographic spectacles, zombies, and the femme fatale in noir-as well as numerous additional examples of "others" which have merited monographs of their own.

The book opens with a meditation on the status of the Hollywood system, founded with a sense of exile by its largely Jewish founders. The author also addresses the problem of defining the abstraction of the "other" against the self. Although there might be said to be a rough overarching chronological timeline, with emphasis on films from the 1920's and 1930's in the first part of the book, the 1940's and 1950's in the middle, and in the last, contemporary cinema, most chapters are also organized thematically. However, there are anomalies to this system of organization; Apocalypse Now is given its own chapter, while Steven Spielberg and Jim Jarmusch have auteur-based chapters (although their films are also incorporated elsewhere). The final chapter is devoted to King Kong, as Richardson considers it a summation of the nature/culture and primitive/modern themes in American film, at least in the 1933 version, if not in the poor 1976 or 2005 remakes. …

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