Shadows on the Past: Studies in the Historical Fiction Film (Culture And The Moving Image)
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Studying popular Hollywood films from "Gone With the Wind" to "Reds" and such distinguished European films as "La Marseillaise" and "The Rise to Power of Louis XIV", Leger Grindon examines how historical fiction films interpret the present through a representation of the past. The historical fiction film is characterized by a set of motives and, Grindon argues, deserves to be considered a genre unto itself. Appropriation of historical events can insinuate a film's authority of its subject, veil an intention, provide an escape into nostalgia, or direct a search for knowledge and origins. Utilizing the past as a way of responding to social conflicts in the present, Grindon shows how the genre promotes a political agenda, superseding the influence of scholarship on the public's perception and interpretation of history. Leger Grindon is Assistant Professor of Film and Television Studies at Middlebury College.
Napoleon is misunderstood, another isolated individual, but in this case absolutely superior to the mass of French men and women. For Gance's hero, romance and the common people merely obstruct the progress of genius. Bonaparte encounters Josephine at a decadent ball, and the courtship elicits the film 's single clumsy note from the general. Immediately after the marriage, Napoleon rushes to the front to take command of the army of Italy, as if fleeing marriage itself. Gance's revolutionary crowd
appears to be the objective document described by TrutTaut. As a political artifact, the film continued to spark strong reactions. Five years after the initial release , with France divided and at war, came reports of yet another spirited response. Harold Salemson, an American officer who did propaganda work for the Psychological Warfare Branch under the Allied Command, was stationed in Tunisia in the summer of 1943 , a few Copyrighted Material La Marseillaise I 67 months after the Allied
Eagle-Lion initially marketed the film as a historical spectacle that portrayed "the spirit of the French Revolution" (illustration 7). The studio press book synopsis began: "France Copyrighted Material 76 I Hollywood Hi story and the French Revolution WAl TV! WAH(;[1f PlCT\JRE5.. INC _ .. ROBERT CUMMINGS : IEIGI OF TERIOI ARlfNTIAHL RICHARD BASEHART · RIC HARD HART _ ,,,"" - . ........ ..". ............ ~.~(O-,UOL.AYtLI.~.,.um«)II1'IILUI" ~.,'tIrIlUUI ....., .... . . . . . . , .,PtlI\J1
mapping the arm v mane uvers during th e battl e . 17 Visconti cl aim s th at he wa nted to ca ll the film Custoza , but " th at cause d an outc ry: from Lu x, fro m th e ministry, and from the ce nso r. " 18 Th e clim ate of the indu stry and the re putation of the direc tor ke pt Lu x wo rr ie d ove r th e produ c tion. During the shoo ting the firm ado pte d th e wo rkin g title S ummer S tonn , afraid th at S enso, no t to me nti on Custoza , mi ght exc ite suspicion . 19 In an inte rview
embedded in the foundations of the Italian state. One camp held that the institutions established after the Risorgimento were a sound basis for government; the other argued that their weakness had led to a Fascist takeover. Dominating the debate were Benedetto Croce (1866-1952), "the greatest and most influential Italian philosopher of the twentieth century," 24 and Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937), a founder of the Italian Communist Party. Each combined historical scholarship and political philosophy