However, more provocative, and compelling, is their claim that the birth of the road movie in fact coincides with the birth of cinema itself. Mazierska and Rascaroli thus refuse to read the appearance of road movies in contemporary European cinema as an instance of migration of an originally American genre to Europe. Instead, they locate the beginnings of the road movie genre proper in Europe.
Yet theirs is not a parochial, Eurocentric intervention. In the introduction to the collection of essays Popular European Cinema, published in , Richard Dyer and Ginette Vincendeau argued that, in the sphere of high culture, there exists a certain notion of a common European identity 9. What do we mean by the popular if we include in it Europe, the non plus ultra of high white culture?
And what do we mean by Europe, if its identity is not coterminous with that high white tradition?
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Nearly a decade and a half later, Mazierska and Rascaroli respond to this issue in a nuanced and by no means simplistic manner. A single chapter is dedicated to a less revered — and randomly chosen? If used as a textbook, this part of the book will prove rewarding to teachers and students of contemporary road movies and European cinema.
The New European Cinema: Redrawing the Map approaches its essentially identical object of investigation quite differently.
- The New European Cinema: Redrawing the Map.
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Rather than focusing on a particularly symptomatic genre, Galt argues that an exploration of the dialectics of space and memory is of vital importance to an informed analysis of any contemporary European filmic text. Drawing on a range of recent theorisations of space 13 , Galt argues that maps have the ability to delineate, re name and re organise social spaces and their history.
She notes that this capacity of maps probably reached its climax with the age of colonialism and the formation of the nation-state. However, the post-war collapse of colonial empires and the current destabilisation of the nation-state have not diminished the relevance of space to the formation and negotiation of cultural and social identities. Quite the opposite: Galt argues that it is precisely these changes — particularly acute in post-Berlin Wall Europe — that have brought into focus the exigency of spatial representation; that is, the urgency of developing alternative, critical cartographies.
Cinema is a powerful and popular cultural form which does not merely depict physical topography; rather, it allows the audience to reimagine the geopolitical and cultural maps of Europe. Her argument is compelling and supported with a detailed historicisation of the chosen filmic texts and their subject matter. Her recuperation and repoliticisation of nostalgic romantic melodramas Nuovo cinema Paradiso Cinema Paradiso , Giuseppe Tornatore, , Il Postino The Postman , Michael Radford, and Mediterraneo Gabriele Salvatores, is bullet-proof and nothing short of brilliant.
These three films were made in the early nineties, during the most momentous steps in the process of European integration. Yet they do not seem particularly topical. The object of their desire — the object of their nostalgic gaze — is the beautiful landscape of the Mediterranean in the late forties. Galt, however, manages to tease out quite different implications of their spatial and temporal aesthetics through a detailed account of the socio-political context to which the films refer diegetically, coupled with that of the time of their production.
On the one hand, Galt shows that, in Italy in the early nineties, the South became the last remaining object onto which the disillusioned Left could project its nostalgic desire: the impossible desire for , the moment of possibility that failed. As Galt argues, with its reputation seriously tarnished and its economic situation deteriorating thanks to the corruption and other criminal activities revealed by the nationwide police investigation called Mani pulite , Italian cinema in the early nineties had all the reasons to romanticise the South, for this is what Italy imagined itself destined to become within the European Union.
In doing so, her engagement with the issue of popular versus art cinema is more grounded and ultimately more compelling than that of Mazierska and Rascaroli. Crossing New Europe problematises this dichotomy exclusively through textual analysis framed in terms of genre criticism, whereas Galt complicates it further by documenting the production and distribution of the analysed films.
Starkman on Galt, 'The New European Cinema: Redrawing the Map'
This strengthens her refusal, shared with Mazierska and Rascaroli, to uphold the outdated model of discrete national cinemas. Applied to cinematic texts, spatial theories have become an instrument for an intimate cartography of the emotional and political landscape, for mapping the national and for tracing the trajectories of its fluctuating transformation in the context of shifting European borders.
Here the notion of the border visible and invisible, new and old, literal and virtual, etc. Situated almost entirely in the terrain of post-war art cinema, the chapter explores the unpredictable direction in which European art cinema is now moving and this is another chance for Galt to remind us of the urgent necessity of remapping film theory itself. Rather, Galt re-situates these interpretations within the context of spatial theory, the concepts of mourning, melancholia, and nostalgia, and the dual temporality of post-war Europe.
For Galt, as with the most commentators, the cellar is a polysemantic space. This strategy intensifies the historical content, reshapes the entire pictography of the genre of the historical epic and consistently refracts it through the optics of parody. The carnivalesque textuality proliferates in a series of structural dyads throughout the film: high and low, laughter and sorrow, praise and blasphemy, noise and silence, play and life Kristeva. The carnivalesque defines life as both existence being and performance fiction, stage, game. In the carnival space acting is living and living is acting.
In contrast to most post-modern theories, Freidenberg regards the presence of parody as a sign of vitality and vigilant hope rather than a symptom of postmodern decline, aesthetic exhaustion and artistic impotence.
The New European Cinema: Redrawing the Map by Rosalind Galt
What does an Eastern European director have to say about the crisis of the leftist project if his position of enunciation is from the other side of the Wall, where there are also decades of authentic experience of the leftist practice? As heterogeneous and heteromorphic as it is, the film asks for unorthodox and more flexible theoretical approaches, perhaps ones that will combine incompatible refracting optics and will refer to the intellectual and artistic legacies from both East and West Europe.
With the technique of superimposition the problem of geopolitical space becomes a problem of cinematic space. Represented through a disembodied voice, Europe becomes an immaterial, intangible, unreal presence. Being an historical spectacle of absence and void, the film visualizes disappearance in the multiplicity of doubled, projected or superimposed images. The discourse of reunification and the engulfment of GDR into West Germany, inevitably entails an experience of loss and ambivalence for the European Left.
(P/B) THE NEW EUROPEAN CINEMA
What dialectical image demands instead is an operation of figuration, of building a new trope, a new vision of spaces, histories and identities. It is through the claustrophobic textual strategy of projections, reiterations and the circle of historical analogies that the film articulates its hope for a radical change in the post-Wall West. In redrawing the map of European cinema, Galt does not just revise the common practices of close analysis of a film text.
What makes the book such useful and illuminating reading is its inventive approach to history, spectacle and the generic conventions beyond the framework of the concept of national cinema. Recently finished manuscripts include The mongrels and the borderers: time, narrative and identity in the Balkan discourse and The war of images: media representation of the Kosovo crisis. Current research project focuses on syncretism in film, and cultural heterogeneity in film texts.