Film Follies

Stuart Klawans, Author
Stuart Klawans, Author Cassell $79.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-304-70053-0
Paperback - 188 pages - 978-0-304-70054-7
Paperback - 188 pages - 978-0-8264-1263-8
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A film critic for the Nation, Klawans is usually concerned with the subtlety and nuance of new movies. Here he looks at extravagant ""follies,"" his term for overweening, ruinously expensive spectacles like Griffith's Intolerance, Lang's Metropolis, Selznick's Duel in the Sun and Coppola's Apocalypse Now. Each of these monuments to directorial hubris, he contends, both reflected significant changes in the film industry and precipitated them. Klawans places each within a larger field of cultural history: thus Metropolis reflects European fears of America's aggressive, post-WWI modernity and the threatening specter of the ""New Woman""; the many problems that plagued the productions of Cleopatra and Duel in the Sun echo a larger struggle between individual expression and an increasingly rigid system of mass-market production. ""Follies"" they may be, but Klawans argues persuasively that such films--too large, too ambitious, too new to achieve coherence in their time--actually broadened the boundaries of filmmaking and changed our understanding of ""the symbolic function of movies."" He also traces the ancestry of such films to the eclecticism and spectacle of world's fairs, Wagnerian music-drama and 18th-century amusement parks. This sweeping, richly detailed history is occasionally mired in the minutiae of budget revisions, cast changes or obscure biographical details. But in its structure and scope, Klawans's tale of film follies is very much like the fairs and festivals that fascinate him--highly ambitious, original, full of disparate ideas, a large cast of characters and a sense of wonder. (Jan.)
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