Summer 2018 – Pop music and film

Edited by Orsolya Milián

Cory Messenger: Act Naturally: Elvis Presley, the Beatles and “rocksploitation”

The study compares the ways in which Elvis Presley and the Beatles cooperated with the music and film industry, also comparing their cinematic careers in the “rocksploitation” genre. Through the nuanced comparative analysis of Loving You and A Hard Day’s Night the argument highlights the differences of the two performers and their recordings, especially through their rock and roll movies. It also describes the cultural and industrial systems that produced these differences and profited from them. The article suggests two models, the Elvis model and the Beatles model, to describe the different synergies between film industry and pop music industry, by focusing on various aspects of exchange between these two key industries.

Csaba Berényi: Everything you see is misunderstanding: Self-reflection, authenticity and virtual presence in the Beatles’ films and video clips

It has become commonplace knowledge today that the roots of video clips aesthetics go back to the films of the Beatles. I scrutinize the audiovisual self-representation and the sociocultural persona of the group as related to the intellectual historical context of the sixties. Apart from making movies, they invested into refining formal aspects and self-reflexive practices of promotional clips. By analyzing these examples, the argument highlights representational strategies that shaped, in an aesthetic and perceptual sense, the relationship of the audience and the performer in the context of a newly created definition of authenticity, described through the language of film. The author argues for a newly established medial experience of the musical event, as well as a connection between the fiction of the video clips and the virtual persona of the group, and problematizes the presence of the social, political and sociocultural dilemmas of the sixties in the Beatles’ films and video clips. A tension is revealed between the inner phantasies of the counterculture and its non ideological deconstruction on the one hand, and the contemporaneous political reality and activity on the other.

Attila Benke: A star is born in the era of narcissism. The role of pop music in music-dance and sports films of the Reagan era

Whether made by film music composers or famous singers and bands of the charts, the pop and rock music of the 1980s had great influence on the decade’s Hollywood and other mainstream movies. Although it was a sophisticated marketing strategy in many cases, the two of the most influential genre cycles had films in which heroic musical scores were usually inserted at the corresponding parts of the plot. The successors of the classical musical, the music-dance films (Fame [1980], Flashdance [1983], Dirty Dancing [1987]) had nearly full-length music scores in the grand finals on the stage, and the martial arts films and boxing films (Rocky III [1982], Karate Kid [1984], Kickboxer [1989]) had the so called ‘motivational sports montage’ during the training sequences which were more important than the showdown itself in this genre.

In my paper I am looking for the answers for two main questions. Firstly, why did the music-dance films and sports films of the Reagan era (1981-1989) use the popular music of the 1980s this way? Secondly, to what end were the pop and rock songs of the decade integrated in these movies? I will argue that Ronald Reagan’s new right ideology with the purpose of reviving the traditional values of America was adapted and affirmed in the music-dance and sports films, so in the great performances and training sequences the popular music had the function of creating and stabilizing the identity of heroes. In short, the most important part of these so-called ‘conformist films’ was the symbolic rehabilitation of traditional gender roles. The main areas tackled by my analysis are gender studies (especially the question of masculinity) and the new right ideology, and I analyze the two genre cycles, partly the Rocky movies and John Travolta’s Tony Manero-films (Saturday Night Fever [1977], Staying Alive [1983]).

Zsolt Beke: Medusa’s Gaze. Bond theme songs of the Brosnan era

The Bond theme songs are just as crucial elements of the franchise as the cars, the villains or the girls. Therefore, it should be interesting to examine the relationship not just between the theme songs and the respective movies but their interconnectedness as well. When Pierce Brosnan first appeared as Bond after a six-year hiatus, however, he had to find a place for Bond in a world that had been completely turned upside down. With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the main dynamism of the franchise was lost, while at the same time pop culture started to heavily embrace feminism and the representation of female sexuality. The aim of this article is to show how the four theme songs of the Brosnan era reflect these changes and how they can create a unified narrative arc without being removed from their cultural environment.

Zsolt Győri: „Our brain – wrong number”: New wave meets new sensibility

This article discusses the Hungarian cinema of a new sensibility, comprising of films with loose narratives and featuring seminal performers and bands of the Budapest underground music scene from the 1980s. It explores the poetics and politics of these films adopting Jacques Rancière’s notion of the ‘distribution of the sensible’, claiming that the music-cinema synergy brought into view neo-avant-garde tendencies in culture and an alternative public sphere. Focusing on a number of the films from the 1980s, by directors such as Gábor Bódy, András Szirtes, János Xantus and Béla Tarr, the article describes the novelty and meanings of the sensibility understood as an agency to express but also resist the moral nihilism of the 1980s. The agency brought into being through this avant-garde musical cinema and with the aim to destabilize established distributions of the sensible is analysed in scenes featuring live and recorded music.

Hajnal Király: Pop music as the figure of nostalgia and melancholy: Dollybirds and Liza, the Fox Fairy

The article compares two emblematic Hungarian musical films made 17 years apart, Dollybirds (Péter Tímár, 1997) and Liza, the Fox Fairy (Károly Ujj-Mészáros, 2014) in order to detect generational differences in terms of collective sensitivity, belonging and individual coping, greatly figured by the recorded musical score. While Dollybirds is set in a well circumscribed communist past, with retro-style costumes and Hungarian music triggering collective memories, Liza, the Fox Fairy characterizes by a refreshing ʻbubble effectʼ, disconnected from all references to a communist past. I argue that recorded music in Dollybirds both thematizes and triggers a nostalgia affecting three generations of spectators, thus becomes an ingredient of community cohesion. In turn, the protagonists’ paradoxical musical nostalgia in Liza (they are yearning for an elsewhere), is symptomatic of individual isolation, connecting this film to other recent Hungarian films that thematize the melancholic helplessness of a generation stuck between political and economic regimes.

Orsolya Milián: “Here she comes, surreal in her crown”. The siege of Sarajevo and the music video versions of Miss Sarajevo

My essay aims at examining two music video versions produced during the MTV-era that accompany the Passengers’ song entitled Miss Sarajevo (1995) within the contexts of popular music (especially the so-called protest songs) and music videos. Based on popular music studies discourse surrounding protest songs, I attempt to outline and define the type of the protest music video. Following this, I conduct a comparative analysis of the two protest music video versions (directed by Bill Carter and Maurice Linnane) and Bill Carter’s documentary film which serves as the basis of them, concentrating on the question whether the music video remediations of the documentary film carry on the meaning of the Sarajevan beauty contest as a form of female resistance. Finally, I tangentially examine the “fate” and change of function of these music video versions due to their “migration” to digital media.

Student’s Workshop

Eszter Mihálffy: Narrative film from a tracklist

My paper examines the relations between sound and image that play a crucial part in Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver (2017). Firstly, I outline the historical, formal and conceptual changes of music videos. Secondly, I draw conclusions with regard to the narrative of Baby Driver: Two strategies − namely the tracklist-like seriality and the logic of narrative junctions − seem to clash in it. I examine these two strategies by highlighting some of the film’s scenes and analyzing them in detail, pointing out that the film’s narrative strategies are tightly interconnected by the diegetic and non-diegetic use of music. The film’s subject matters are also affected by music. Songs used as background music are merged into the film’s plot, but they are also placed among the themes of the film, since the story documents changes in music listening habits and shows some of the music consumption practices of our contemporary consumer society. The latter can be examined from two perspectives: On the one hand, we may analyze it within the context of prosumer society and participatory media, on the other hand, we may look into it through a critical filter that comprises Adorno’s, Miklós Erdély’s and Hanns Eisler’s views on consumer society and music listening.



N. Rodowick: Chapters from The Virtual Life of Film (2007)

The translation presents the first part of the final chapter of D. N. Rodowick’s influential book, The Virtual Life of Film (2007), in which the author maps out the way in which the ontology of film changes through the transition from analogue to digital technology. An important context of this problem – as opposed to earlier transitions or changes (sound film, wide screen film etc.) that were used to attract audiences to cinemas with new features of spectatorship – is the fact that the shift to digital projection has happened almost inconspicuously. Almost as if distributors would want to maintain the illusion of the stability and survival of the photography-based film. Rodowick gives an in-depth explanation of this shift through the paradoxes of ‘perceptual realism’: digital recording and synthesis stress the representational aspect of traditional photography, and attempt to surpass its ‘photographic authenticity’, while relying on a fundamentally different logic and a different recording technology. The study discusses the way in which digital recording, processing and projection are different from analogoue technology, and points to the consequences of these changes to the ontology of the moving image.

Anikó Imre: Quality and TV

The article discusses the disruptions that the appearance of “quality TV,” itself inseparable from the expansion of internet-based television and streaming platforms, has caused within film and media studies in Hungary and, more broadly, the post-socialist region. The author tracks the phenomenon of quality television to the American HBO model and its critical, academic and industrial reception, in comparison with the quality model that developed with the Western European public service broadcasting tradition. She compares these to television’s status in the (post)socialist region, where the medium has been regarded primarily as a vehicle of education, persuasion and entertainment, carrying little artistic or cultural value in comparison with the cinema, theater and literature. The appearance of globally and digitally accessible quality TV, which is best exemplified in Europe by HBO Europe’s original drama series, has fundamentally altered television’s identity and value. In the East European region, however, there is a distinct risk that, instead of helping finally to legitimate television’s institutions, products, professionals and viewers, quality TV will dissolve into cinema and thereby help confirm the death of television. This would further entrench the outdated but politically consequential value hierarchy between high and popular media forms and their practitioners, which the interdisciplinary apparatus of television studies had successfully labored to erode elsewhere in the past decades.

Rosalind Galt − Karl Schoonover: Introduction: The impurity of cinema

For over fifty years, art cinema has provided a flexible model for imagining cinema outside Hollywood. An elastically hybrid category, art cinema has nonetheless sustained an astonishing discursive currency in contemporary film culture. The authors use art cinema’s mongrel identity to explore central questions for current film scholarship, while exposing otherwise unseen geopolitical fault lines of world cinema. Focusing on unexpected encounters, the authors delineate the terrain of art cinema as a dynamic and often contested field where film histories intersect with the larger theoretical questions of the image, forging a relationship between the aesthetic and the geopolitical or, in other words, between cinema and world.

Bálint Kovács András: Genres in Hungarian film history

This paper presents a preliminary statistical analysis of the frequency of genres in Hungarian film history. We provide an explanation of the way in which we differentiate genre categories and offer various statistical measures of the occurrence of these genres over 80 years of Hungarian film history. The analysis shows the dominance of comedies, author films and melodramas. We provide a time course analysis of this result and show that melodrama remains an important factor in author films.

Miriam Bratu Hansen: The Mass Production of the Senses: Classical Cinema as Vernacular Modernism

The article proposes a new metahistorical frame in order to reinterpret the relation between modernity and modernism on the one hand and cinema on the other. It broadens the concept of modernism by defining it as a set of cultural responses to the challenges of modernity, encompassing both high modernist artistic movements and mass cultural products and production modes. Hansen carries out a well-founded critique on the concept of “classical Hollywood cinema” arguing that the concept of classicism imported from art history and drawing on the neoclassicist stylistic norms of harmony, balance, and proportion functions as a transhistorical category which is unable to account for the description of cinema as a historical and modern form of experience. In contrast with an ahistorical account of classical Hollywood cinema, the article explains its worldwide hegemony by its power to create a sensorium able to reflect on the contradictions and ambivalences of modernity and to mediate between different experiences related to it.

Izabella Füzi: Historical forms of cinematic spectatorship

The overall aim of the article is to contextualize the different social uses related to mainstream moving images in historical terms. Taking the two genealogies of moving images as a point of departure, according to which, on the one hand, they are images invested with time and on the other, they are actualized through different social uses, three modalities of spectatorship are distinguished. These three modalities “translate” the unfixed temporality of moving images as the here-and-now of the act of viewing in the case of performative spectatorship, the here-and-now of the story in the case of fictional absorption and the here-and-now of the immediate feedback through interaction in the case of simulation.

Bence Kránicz: Problems of researching early Hungarian film criticism

The paper attempts to outline a possible methodology of academic research of film criticism by analysing the film reviews of Színházi Élet magazine written in the 1910s. The research aims to analyse the heterogeneous texts of early Hungarian film criticism by looking for the stylistic expressions of influencing and educating the audience in them, while aiming to discover economical, aesthetical or political motivations behind the critics’ intentions. Following the summary of the definition and interpretation of criticism used during the research, the paper analyses early film reviews of Színházi Élet, including the articles of Alexander Korda, the first notable Hungarian film critic among them, arguing that critics presented cinema as a distinctly middle-class form of entertainment by using specific expressions and journalistic tools.

Student’s Workshop

Patrik Mravik: Productive repression. Censorship as the liberated object of film history

This essay traces current approaches to censorship in film studies and examines the techniques of films that were shaping, inspecting and interpreting censorship in the early Kádár era of the 1960s. The traditional approach to censorship suggests that it is a form of repression: it restricts and prohibits free art and free thinking. This essay broadens the discourse of censorship in film studies by emphasizing the heterogeneity, complexity, and the constitutive viewpoint of censorship in film studies from 1980s.

Book Review

Miklós Sághy: State Socialism in Television, Television in State Socialism
(Anikó Imre: TV Socialism. Duke University Press, Durham and London, 2016.)

The essay analyzes Anikó Imre’s monograph on TV Socialism, published in 2016. The book provides a cultural history of television in Eastern Europe during and after the era of state socialism. The main and novel hypotheses of the book are highlighted, namely, the operation of European televisions as a refutation of the cold war logic (that is the strong divisions between East and West, Socialism and liberal capitalism) as well as the understanding of the culture of television as distinct from the elite discourse on art, films and literature.

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