HOME IN HOLLYWOOD: The Imaginary Geography of Cinema

Elisabeth Bronfen, Author . Columbia Univ. $64.50 (310p) ISBN 978-0-231-12176-7 ISBN 978-0-231-12177-4

Movies, Bronfen suggests, are enactments of the Freudian family romance, especially "nostalgia for an untainted sense of belonging," and this, she says, is most apparent in films that deal explicitly with concepts of home. She takes eight films, heavy on thrillers but also encompassing fantasy, melodrama and westerns, and gives each an extremely close reading with a psychoanalytic spin. The tornado in The Wizard of Oz , for example, represents "a hallucinatory materialization of [Dorothy's] desire for a violent separation from the home." The analysis also makes extensive use of Freud's concept of the Mischling , or "mixed-race" individual. Bronfen (The Knotted Subject ) applies this trope literally to a light-skinned African-American who passes for white in Douglas Sirk's Imitation of Life , but then expands it to include the white girl raised by Indians in John Ford's The Searchers and even Bruce Wayne and his costumed Batman alter ego. Bronfen's interpretations of the films can be convincing, but occasional attempts to apply her theories behind the camera are less persuasive. This isn't for the casual fan; Bronfen's language is highly academic, making a background in psychoanalytic theory extremely helpful if not essential. Readers willing to give their brains a workout, though, will find this stimulating reading. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 09/06/2004
Release date: 10/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-231-12177-4
Ebook - 352 pages - 978-0-231-52942-6
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