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British National Cinema: London-nation-empire

Key information

  • Module code:

    5AAQS275

  • Level:

    5

  • Semester:

      Autumn

  • Credit value:

    15

Module description

This module offers an introduction to British cinema history, focussing on some of the key issues and debates which have concerned British film-makers and critics in the period from the late 1920s to the present day. In particular, we will consider British cinema as an industry serving an Empire, and focus on the way it represents colonised places and peoples during and immediately after the Imperial period. The focus will be both on how the Empire is represented to audiences in Britain itself, and how Imperial representations were distributed to, and received by, audiences living under colonial rule.
The module will analyse some of the pressures that British film-makers have traditionally worked under, and consider some of the key genres, styles and cycles that have emerged as a result.

The module will respond to three interlocking themes:

Cinema and State
The relationship between the industry and State legislation designed to protect and encourage it, as well as the more general concerns over the contribution of the cinematic experience to the enrichment of ‘national life’ as expressed through a range of state interventions into British film-making. The relationship between the British Government and Colonial offices in different parts of Empire and some of the disputes in particular locales regarding the definition and distribution of British films will also be explored.

Representational Strategies
An exploration of the notion of a specifically ‘British’ cinematic style, expressed through generic cycles and their relationship to wider concerns over the representation of the national both at home and overseas. Race, Empire and the various representational strategies associated with Imperialism will also be explored, as well as the resistance to such strategies.

Industrial imperatives
Attention to the range of texts not simply as aesthetic objects but also as responses to the variety of economic, political and social pressures exerted on the industry throughout the 20th Century


Assessment details

  • Verbal report responding to set task (FORMATIVE)
  • 24 Test up to 1000 words (40%)
  • Essay 2000 words (60%)

Educational aims & objectives

Operating 'under the shadow of Hollywood', British cinema is often understood to be caught between that specta cularly successful commercial model, and the more artistically and aesthetically complex national cinemas of Europe. The course will analyse some of the pressures that British film - makers have traditionally worked under, and consider some of the key genres, styles and cycles that have emerged as a result. The module will respond to three interlocking themes: Cinema and State The relationship between the industry and State legislation designed to protect and encourage it, as well as the more general concerns over the contribution of the cinematic experience to the enrichment of 'national life' as expressed through a range of state interventions into British filmmaking. Representational Strategies An exploration of the notion of a specifically 'British' cinematic style, expressed through generic cycles and their relationship to wider concerns over the representation of the national both at home and overseas. London and the various meanings associated with it will form a key strand. Industrial imperatives Attention to the range of texts not simply as aesthetic objects but also as responses to the variety of economic, political and social pressures exerted on the industry throughout the C20th. Indicative titles: Possible titles studied may include Piccadilly (1929), Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1936), It's Love Again (1936), StMartin's Lane (1938), Great Expectations (1945), Waterloo Road (1946), Passport to Pimlico (1949), Night and the City (1950), Genevieve (1953), John and Julie (1955), A Kid for Two Farthings (1955), Victim (1961), Blow Up (1966), Georgy Girl (1966), Frenzy (1972), My Beautiful Laundrette (1985), High Hopes (1988), Notting Hill (1999), Wonderland (2003), Mrs Henderson Presents (2005), The Queen (2006), Run Fatboy Run (2007), Happy - Go - Lucky (2008).

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module the students will be able to demonstrate intellectual, transferable and praticable skills appropriate to a Level 5 module and in particular will be able to demonstrate: - A clear knowledge and understanding of the history of British film policy. - An ability to discuss the range of aesthetic and representational strategies adopted by British film - makers. - An understanding of the main critical and theoretical debates around British cinema and its relationship both to 'National Life' and the international film industry.