Film Nation: Hollywood Looks at U.S. History

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9780816620715: Film Nation: Hollywood Looks at U.S. History

In movies like "JFK" and "Forrest Gump", Robert Burgoyne sees a filmic extension of the debates that exercise America as a nation - debates about race and culture and national identity, about the nature and make-up of American history. In analyses of five films that challenge the traditional myths of the nation-state - "Glory", "Thunderheart", "JFK", "Born on the Fourth of July", and "Forrest Gump" - Burgoyne explores the reshaping of the American collective imaginary in relation to history. These movies, exploring the meaning of "nation" from below, highlight issues of power that underly the narrative construction of nationhood. This work exposes the faultlines between national myths and the historical experience of people typically excluded from those myths. Throughout, Burgoyne demonstrates that these films, in their formal design, also preserve relics of the imaginary past they contest. Here we see how the "genre memory" of the western, the war film, and the melodrama shapes these films, creating a complex exchange between old concepts of history and the alternative narratives of historical experience that contemporary texts propose. The book applies theories of nationalism and national identity to contemporary American films, revealing the cinematic rewriting of history now taking place as an attempt to rearticulate the cultural narratives that define America as a nation.

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About the Author:

Robert Burgoyne is professor and chair of film studies, University of St. Andrews.

From Library Journal:

Can movies reflect history and still entertain? Do movies sometimes make history? How do we understand that after D.W. Griffith's groundbreaking but racist 1915 epic The Birth of a Nation opened, interest and membership in the KKK increased? These books grapple with such questions, albeit in an uninspired way. Cameron (Africa on Film, Continuum, 1996) takes a broad view, critiquing films by decade and classifying them by genres. Gaps are bound to occur in such a survey, but this book has too many curious inclusions and significant omissions. The format doesn't allow for decades like the Sixties, during the course of which the social and political tone of films changed greatly. Cameron has little new or interesting to say about the films he reviews. Burgoyne (film studies, Wayne State Univ.) chooses a narrower focus, covering five recent films (e.g., Glory and Forrest Gump) and examining how they treat issues of race, culture, national identity, and the American experience. The book errs in selecting two films by Oliver Stone (JFK and Born on the Fourth of July), and one feels the recent Last of the Mohicans could have yielded a more lively discussion. The language here is pretentious and exhausting, while the insights are modest. These two books are not necessary additions to film collections; libraries should consider Past Imperfect: History According to the Movies (LJ 8/95) as an alternative purchase.?Stephen Rees, Levittown Regional Lib., Pa.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Robert Burgoyne
Published by Univ Of Minnesota Press (1997)
ISBN 10: 0816620717 ISBN 13: 9780816620715
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Book Description Univ Of Minnesota Press, 1997. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0816620717

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