British Film Cultural Study-Swinging Britain 1963-1973

AS FILM STUDIES: FM2 – Swinging Sixties 1963-1973 (Key Films are Blow Up! Michelangelo Antonioni (1966), Performance Donald Cammel and Nicholas Roeg (1968), If (Lindsey Anderson 1968) and A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971). Each question carries 40 marks and should be essay length.

What for you are the most striking images of this period in the films you have studied?

How far are the characters in the films you have studied represented as searching for greater freedom?

How important is location in representing the lives of key characters in the films you have studied?

How do the filmmakers represent different social groups in the films you have studied?

How far are there particular themes that link the films you have studies for this topic?

How far do the films you have studied for this topic reflect the time in which they were made?

How far do the filmmakers represent a conflict between tradition and change?

How are the lives of women shown through either performance or mise en scene in the films you have studied.

What are some of the ways in which narrative is used to explore the theme of change in the films you have studied for this topic?

What has knowledge of your chosen period contributed to your understanding of the films you have studied for this topic?

In what ways do the narratives of the films you have studied for this topic explore social and cultural issues of the period?

How far do key characters in the films you have studied for this topic represent changing attitudes and values?

In what ways does the dramatic power of the films you have studied for  this topic depend on the clash between conflicting values?

How far do the narratives of the films you have studied for this topic challenge typical representations of gender?

How far do the narratives of the chosen films deal with issues of conflict?

What are some of the ways in which your chosen films offer insights into the culture of the period you have studied?

How progressive was Britain in the 1960s and 1970s? How far did the social and cultural revolution permeate and change established notions of British culture? How much of the idea of Swinging Sixties is cultural myth?

The time frame of this option begins after the ‘kitchen sink’ new wave of the late 50s and early 60s. The films for this option are nearly all characterised by some radical or transgressive or fantasy element or mark a shift in social and moral attitudes. The following is a selection:

Billy Liar

A Hard Day’s Night

Darling

Alfie

The Knack

Blow Up

Wonderwall

If (Full Film)

Girl on a Motorcycle

Performance

Performance: Influence and Controversy – Documentary.

A Clockwork Orange

Revision Notes

Blow Up (d. Michelangelo Antonioni, 1966)

1.              Cast & Crew (Director, Screenplay, Cinematographer, Sound Editor, Film editor & Actors and the roles they play)

Michelangelo Antonioni –Director

Carlo Ponti – Producer

Music – Herbie Hancock/Yardbirds

‘Thomas’ – David Hemmings

Mystery Woman – Vanessa Redgrave

Ron – Peter Bowles

Verushka – the model who plays herself

2.              The Genre – which Genre or sub genre does the film fall within? What features (codes and conventions) are evident that allows for audience or spectator definition or hypotheses with the genre?

DRAMA, MYSTERY & THRILLER. The puzzle, the growing focus on his own obsession with what he has (or hasn’t) photographed. The need for verification despite seeing (or not seeing) the body in the park. We see him see the actual corpse and then because he doubts it we doubt this ‘truth.’

3. The Narrative and the themes – how is it mediated? Is it linear or non-linear? Is there a central ‘voice’- that of the narrator? What effect does this have on reception and the way the spectator interprets the film.

Blow up is largely mediated through two perspectives, that is to say the camera lens of the central character (David Hemmings) and that of the Director, Antonioni. It is a non-linear narrative and whilst there is no central voice of narration there is a central perspective. IT EMPLOYS AN ENIGMA NARRATIVE:

‘And the enigma of what you see, what you don’t see and what the camera sees, is yours to solve’

The main themes explored are as follows.

drugs,

casual sex,

mysogyny

alienation,

paranoia,

murder?

obsession

reality suspension,

doubt,

existential crisis and the tenuous nature of reality and verification.

3.              The cultural context and setting. Where is it set? When is it set? How do we know?

“I’ve gone off London this week…it doesn’t do anything for me…” Swinging London, 1960s, the glamorous hedonistic lifestyle of a sought after fashion photographer. Wealthy, good looking, in control and very much embroiled in the swinging 1960s culture, at least until paranoia and doubt take over. Note that he is not interested in the casual sex and marijuana on offer at the Party in Chelsea towards the denoument but we know he has been interested in these.

The Yardbirds gives us a clue as to swinging London as do the fashions, the glamour and other motifs of the period.

4.              The micro features (Sound, Lighting, Editing, Performance, Cinematography, Mise en scene). These are of less importance in Swinging Sixties questions but this does not mean that they are of no importance. Some attention to them in the way they drive the narrative or the themes should be paid.

The slow long takes reflect the uncertainty of observation and verification. The jump cuts during the photography sequences reflect the process of photography rather than cinematography. In ‘Blow Up’ Antonioni cleverly uses the film camera to signal his own presence as a third eye on what Hemming’s character witnesses and photographs. He uses long takes of the same field of vision through slightly different angles to give us contrasting versions of the same reality.

The film soon takes a leap forward into symbolic representations of the state of David’s mind. While he is looking over the photographs he has taken and blowing them up there is absolutely no music or sound, everything is silent.

6. Memorable lines and scenes.

He wants the fabulous propellor “because it’s useless.”

“I’m fed up with these bloody bitches.”

“I’ve gone off London this week…It doesn’t do anything for me”

“Tell him it’ll go like a bomb. Already the area is full of queers with poodles.”

Thomas: “I thought you were in Paris?”

Verushka “ I am in Paris.”

The sequence with the mimes/anarchists at the end. We can’t see the tennis ball, but we can hear it.

“What’s your name? Oh never mind. What do they call you in bed?”

Performance (Donald Cammell and Nicholas Roeg 1968/1970)

“The only performance that truly makes it the one that achieves madness. Am I Right?”

 Turner

 “An intricately detailed kaleidoscopic signpost to the 1960s burnout” – FILM4.

1. Cast & Crew (Director, Screenplay, Cinematographer, Sound Editor, Film editor & Actors and the roles they play)

Donald Cammell and Nicholas Roeg 1968/1970 –CoDirectors

Music – Jack Nietzche

Chas Devlin– James Fox

Turner– Mick Jagger

Harry Flowers – Johnny Shannon

Pherber – Anita Pallenberg

Lucy  – Michelle Breton

2. The Genre – which Genre or sub genre does the film fall within? What features (codes and conventions) are evident that allows for audience or spectator definition or hypotheses with the genre?

CRIME DRAMA, MYSTERY ENIGMA NARRATIVE IN TWO PARTS

Conventional crime gangster feature in the first half, psychedelic descent into madness and confusion in the second. Defies typical genre categories and boundaries.

3. The Narrative and the themes – how is it mediated? Is it linear or non-linear? Is there a central ‘voice’- that of the narrator? What effect does this have on reception and the way the spectator interprets the film.

Largely seen through the perspective of Chas Devlin in both halves. Linear narrative. No central narrator is present.

Chas: I know who I am Harry

Harry Flowers – Course you do son, you’re the Lone Ranger

The main themes explored are as follows.

Crime, gangsterism

Revenge

drugs,

casual sex,

alienation,

paranoia,

murder?

obsession

reality suspension, and Literary references such as Artaud’s theories of madness, Borges, Huxley, the doors of perception. The bullet goes straight through Borges’ head.

doubt,

existential crisis and the tenuous nature of reality and verification.

5.              The cultural context and setting. Where is it set? When is it set? How do we know?

Set in South London and Notting Hill. Clear indexes of this. Joey’s betting shop and Powys Square are both identified

6.              The micro features (Sound, Lighting, Editing, Performance, Cinematography, Mise en scene). These are of less importance in Swinging Sixties questions but this does not mean that they are of no importance. Some attention to them in the way they drive the narrative or the themes should be paid.

The co-direction is very evident. The themes of hedonism and free love, drugs and existential philosophy are Cammell’s ideas whereas the look and the cinematography are attributable to Roeg’s eye. There is soft focus, low level lighting, vivid colour palletes reflecting the psychedelic, kaleidoscopic themes, slow motion, refraction and reflection mediating the themes of identity confusion and change.

6. Memorable lines and scenes.

 “I know who I am, Harry…”

“How much did you give him?”

‘2/3rds of the big one”

“Oh man, That’s insane”

“Your perverted. I’m normal”

“I don’t send ‘em solicitor’s letters. I apply a bit of pressure”

‘The only performance that truly makes it is the one that achieves madness”

“Time for a change…It’s time for a change”

The “killing” of Turner

Memo from T – Turner joins the gangsters, Chas Joins the Bohemian squat lifestyle.

Swinging Sixties Study Resource

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