21 May 2012

National Cinema in a Transnational Mediascape

One of the fascinations of the Century of Cinema series produced by the British Film Institute is its global ambition to represent the diversity of cinema. As a result it's easy enough to gripe about all of the omissions and exclusions and 'problematic' representations in the series. As series producer Colin McCabe, faced with the massive task he had set for himself, put it: 'The solution came with the decision to abandon the quest for a total history, to opt instead for individual essays... and trust that from an incredible variety of approaches something of the complexity of the century of cinema would emerge.' An interesting wager - but what strikes me about many of the resulting sixteen films of the Century of Cinema series is how often they present simplistic reactions to, rather than complex responses to, globalization. What I think we can see in the Century of Cinema are some clear examples of how economic and political pressures on media production support certain ways of negotiating a marketable identity but compromise critical reflection on the meaning of the nation and the role of media in our lives.

08 May 2012

Kurosawa's Economic Growth Ethical Deathtrap

Akira Kurosawa's reputation as a world-class director is based first of all on his samurai films in general and two films in particular that many rate in the top echelon of film classics: 'Rashomon' (1950) and 'The Seven Samurai' (1954), both historical dramas of medieval Japan and fascinating studies of human behavior using the conventions (and pretensions) of the warrior genre. Perhaps less well-known are his social realist films, including 'High and Low' (AKA 'Tengoku to jigoku,' or 'Heaven and Hell'), which provides a commentary on the history of globalization and reflects changes in the workplace. On the surface 'High and Low' is a kidnapping film, but transcends its police procedural genre because of its economic and cultural weight.