In his explosive and thought-provoking new volume Film After Film: Or, What became of 21st Century Cinema? James Hoberman argues that the world of making movies has undergone a ground-breaking transformation.
His vast and versatile collection of reviews and essays, written mainly for New York’s The Village Voice, affirm Hoberman’s reputation as one of the most shrewd and politically sharp commentators on film.
Throughout the book, Hoberman identifies films that distinctively capture the immense and fast-growing technologies and poignant cultural anxieties of today, illuminating them with thoughtful and witty writing.
And there are some choice quotes which illustrate his style: On The Social Network, a film about the birth of Facebook, he writes how the social media platform gives “anyone the opportunity to be a star of their own online situation documentary…”; V for Vendetta, the film equivelent of Hardt and Negri’s book Multitude, is “the antithesis of a Leninist Revolutionary elite”; Batman: The Dark Knight “was less movie than worldview…illuminated by two choices: chaos or fascism”, and the vulgar violence of Mel Gibson’s Mayan epic Apocalypto as “pure, amoral sensationalism”.
According to Hoberman, 21st century cinema has been greatly influenced by two critical events. One is the advent of computer-generated imagery (CGI) and its use in film making.
He illustrates how digital technology in its displacement of photographic cinema threatens the art of film as a whole, the consequences being a loss of truthfulness and authenticity, for the digital allows for the removal of the reality on which the camera itself once depended.
The second event transforming much modern film-making identified by Hoberman is the trauma of the 9/11 attacks.
He masterfully scrutinizes how Hollywood during George W Bush’s reign reflected an atmosphere of rising tension, paranoia, tireless apprehension…and that every action film has to have something crashing into a building – with the neo-con conclusions that we are suppose to draw from it.
This insightful selection of Hoberman’s writings eloquently voices his assessment of cinema’s past, present and future political, historical and aesthetic elements.
He expresses with ease the illusory utopia of the digital era – set in motion by The Matrix – and the aesthetic revolutions that have drastically changed the course of 21st century cinema.
Film After Film provides a vision and embodiment of the medium as something that seems inherently conservative, yet blindingly alive at the same time.
A new book by Paul O’Brien
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