Alien territory : romantic resistance and national identity in films by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
Michael Powell's and Emeric Pressburger' s films sit untidily within the dominant paradigm of 1940s British Cinema. This thesis examines how far their work partakes in a discourse of nation (and how far it can be referred to as 'British'). It also identifies 'sites of resistance'. In the context of the 1930s and 1940s, Section 1 briefly considers the terms 'nation' and 'national cinema' as hegemonic discursive strategies Section 2 sees Pressburger's immigrant status as introduces the running motif of 'alien territory'. Images of 'Home' are considered in terms of his exile; Powell's aestheticism is discussed, while 'magic spaces' in the films are taken as self-reflexive metaphors for cinema itself. Section 3 focuses on two wartime films, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp and A Canterbury Tale. These 'narratives of aspiration' are considered in the light of Fredric Jameson's notion of ideology as utopia. Blimp charts the rejection of an old order and the emergence of a hegemonic state. Alluding to Korda's Imperial epics, its construction of masculine authority is examined. With A Canterbury Tale, the pastoral imagining of England is examined, referring to Kipling, while links are made to the British Documentary Movement (especially Humphrey Jennings). In Section 4, the focus shifts to foreignness and hybridity. German elements in 1930s British cinema are charted (and their Romantic/Expressionist credentials). A relatively international cinema is seen to be submerged as a realist cinematic aesthetic establishes itself. The Spy ill Black's gothic antecedents are looked at via the spy genre's engagement with the 'Other'; and Anton Walbrook is studied as an embodiment of a Germanic aesthetic in British cinema. In Section 5, the post-war Technicolor melodramas are examined in the light of the cultural retrenchment post-1945. The representation of women, and the role of spectacle is examined.