BFI Pasolini Study Day – Talks Online!


Free Sample Chapters from 50+ New Palgrave Macmillan/BFI Film and TV Books

Professor Jon Lewis of Oregon State University on his BFI Film Classics book on The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972). See the 41 page sample from this book linked to below.

Once again, Film Studies For Free celebrates the fabulous, free, Film and Television Studies book samples available for perusal and download at the Palgrave Macmillan website. 
These are not properly Open Access works, but this blog chooses not to be purist when there are some amazingly generous PDF excerpts — from soon-to-be as well as recently published works — available online by scholars of the renown of those listed below. Thanks to the British Film Institute and Palgrave Macmillan! For an earlier list of great, free Palgrave Macmillan/BFI excerpts linked to at FSFF, click here.
      BFI Film Classics: 

      Laughing at Austerity Britain? Ealing Comedy Studies

      The year 1949 was a pretty miserable time in Britain. Postwar austerity was at its height. Many city centres were still largely bomb sites. The cold war was getting chillier. The British film industry was in crisis after the Labour government had imposed a punitive tax on American films, which led to Hollywood studios withholding their product. Then suddenly, in the early summer, three pictures opened on consecutive weeks that together defined what we now know as “the Ealing comedy“. The films got darker and Ealing Studios‘ reputation greater as the month wore on. [Philip French, ‘Whisky Galore – Review’, The Observer, July 31, 2011]

      [Michael] Powell after A Matter of Life and Death gives us three intriguing variations on the trauma picture, in which, intertwined are the central landmarks of British life after 1945: the end of war, the end of empire and the birth of a new consumer age.
             Before that, however, we should note that Ealing comedy of the period inverts the trauma film completely.
             If Ealing Studios produced the keynote Dead of Night, it also produced a triple antithesis in the post-war years: anti-trauma comedy in the form of [Robert] Hamer’s Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) and Alexander Mackendrick’s scintillating double act, Whisky Galore (1949) and The Ladykillers (1955). Indeed, the best of Ealing comedy is premised very precisely on this inversion, where what might well be traumatic turns out to be the exact opposite.
             Hamer’s Kind Hearts and Coronets is biting social satire, in which the serial killer, Louis (Dennis Price), as outcast of the family and excluded by the vacuous rich, is more sympathetic than any of his eccentric aristo victims (all played by Alec Guinness). As they fall like ninepins one after the other, we can all have a good laugh and applaud Louis’ elegant cunning. A perfect picture, you could argue, for a new social democracy.
             The wartime Whisky Galore, set on the remote island of Todday (toddy?), also plays on inversion: this time on the fear of occupation – an anti-The Next of Kin (Thorold Dickinson, 1942) or Went the Day Well? In Mackendrick’s film, the fear of invasion is now past but the Scottish island is ‘occupied’ by an English Home Army captain, Waggert (Basil Radford), who has marshalled customs officials to try and prevent the looting of a wrecked cargo ship carrying whisky. It is a comic version of Anglo-Scots antagonism, with its famous montage sequence of the looted alcohol being hidden by the islanders in rain-butts, water tanks, hot-water bottles and under a baby’s cot before bemused officials arrive to discover absolutely nothing. The gradual social exclusion of Waggert from the island has an edge and a cruel streak that prevents any lapse into sentimentality.
             Sentimentality is equally absent from The Ladykillers, where Mackendrick completely inverts the trauma-effects of Gothic expressionism. A motley gang of train robbers posing as a musical ensemble takes lodgings near Kings Cross station to prepare the next heist. At the landlady’s door, the figure of Professor Marcus (Alec Guinness) casts a dark shadow – shades of the opening to The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (Alfred Hitchcock, 1927) – but thereafter the threat becomes internal as the eccentric old landlady ([Katie Johnson]), in her parody of a haunted house, has the gang tearing their hair out in annoyance and frustration at her blithe eccentricities. In Gothic melodrama, we expect villains to terrify, but here they are traumatised to the extent that, when found out, they are prepared to kill off each other rather than kill the ‘harmless’ old landlady. She who should be terrified is oblivious to the threat; those who should terrify show a collective failure of nerve and eliminate each other instead. Gothic melodrama morphs into dark comedy. And Ealing comedy runs happily on in a parallel world to David Lean and Michael Powell. [John Orr, ‘The Trauma Film and British Romantic Cinema 1940-1960’, Senses of Cinema, Issue 51, 2009 ]

      Ealing Studios, the oldest continuously working film studio in the world, is marking its 80th anniversary, according to a couple of enjoyable videos at the Channel 4 and BBC websites. A remarkable achievement, indeed, thinks Film Studies For Free, one of the finest in the history of British cinema.

      Founded in economically austere and politically troubled times, the studios escaped relatively unscathed from the recent riots in London (Ealing was a particularly tragically affected area). They seem set to continue to produce their distinctly transnational brand of cinematic goods for the UK film industry well into the future. 

      The current anniversary of the establishment of the sound stages at Ealing, and a number of other connected anniversaries coming up (e.g. 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the Scottish-American director Alexander Mackendrick’s birth, one of Britain’s greatest, and most undervalued, filmmakers) have felicitously ‘coincided’ with the latest cinematic and DVD release of three of the greatest products of those studios: the Ealing comedies Kind Hearts and Coronets (Robert Hamer, 1949), The Lavender Hill Mob (Charles Crichton, 1951), and Whisky Galore (Mackendrick, 1949).

      FSFF loves a mildly subversive chuckle from time to time, and is particularly partial, thus, to a good Ealing comedy. So, in fond celebration of that wonderful cycle of movies, below is its little list of links to online studies of those films, as well as to other items of related, scholarly interest.


      >On Film Education and Appreciation


      Updated January 13, 2011
      British Film Institute library in Dean Street in 1950s
      BFI Library today in Stephen Street

      Film Studies For Free loves the British Film Institute. It’s a remarkable cultural institution in many ways – one of the finest in the world. And its online film educational offerings are unrivalled, both at its main website and at Screenonline

      Today, FSFF celebrates some newly published, online, BFI resources on the subject of film appreciation and education in the 1950s. As is its wont, FSFF has supplemented these links with its own curation of online items on international film education and appreciation. All links may be found below.

      But FSFF has been dismayed to hear of proposed changes to the British Film Institute National Library (still going strong after 76 wonderful years) and the Viewing Service at the BFI. The proposals are outlined here. These changes are likely to have serious implications for the field and for research opportunities in film and television in the UK. If any of FSFF‘s readers are concerned about the proposals, you may like to make your views known to the BFI – possibly through the chairman Greg Dyke. If anyone knows of an online petition to register discontent about these changes please let FSFF know and it will happily publish the link. This has now been set up: Please sign!

      Selected resources made available by the BFI in the 1950s to support film appreciation and education:

      • 20 Films to use in Junior Film Societies (PDF, 34.3mb) compiled by A. W. Hodgkinson (British Film Institute and The Society of Film Teachers, 1953) Identifies key feature films suitable for studying with young people. Each record includes a summary of the film, examples of critical opinion and suggested discussion points.
      • School Film Appreciation (PDF, 7.1mb) by A. W. Hodgkinson, John Huntley, E. Francis Mills and Jack Smith (King’s College School and British Film Institute, 1950) Practical notes compiled by educators in the field, detailing appropriate film titles and books for study, with advice for teachers.
      • The Artist the Critic and the Teacher (PDF, 1.9mb) (The Joint Council for Education through Art, 1959) Programme for a forum presented by The Joint Council for Education through Art on the relevance of the arts to education, held at the National Film Theatre. Participants included Lindsay Anderson, John Berger, Karel Reisz and Kenneth Tynan.
      • Film Study Material (PDF, 850kb) (British Film Institute, 1955) Catalogue of films and extracts available from the British Film Institute for use in film study.

      Other Resources on Film Education and Appreciation: