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Reinventing Hollywood

How 1940s Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling

David Bordwell

Reinventing Hollywood

David Bordwell

592 pages | 157 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2017
Cloth $40.00 ISBN: 9780226487755 Published October 2017
E-book $24.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226487892 Published October 2017
In the 1940s, American movies changed. Flashbacks began to be used in outrageous, unpredictable ways. Soundtracks flaunted voice-over commentary, and characters might pivot from a scene to address the viewer. Incidents were replayed from different characters’ viewpoints, and sometimes those versions proved to be false. Films now plunged viewers into characters’ memories, dreams, and hallucinations. Some films didn’t have protagonists, while others centered on anti-heroes or psychopaths. Women might be on the verge of madness, and neurotic heroes lurched into violent confrontations. Combining many of these ingredients, a new genre emerged—the psychological thriller, populated by women in peril and innocent bystanders targeted for death.
           
If this sounds like today’s cinema, that’s because it is. In Reinventing Hollywood, David Bordwell examines for the first time the full range and depth of trends that crystallized into traditions. He shows how the Christopher Nolans and Quentin Tarantinos of today owe an immense debt to the dynamic, occasionally delirious narrative experiments of the Forties. With verve and wit, Bordwell examines how a booming movie market during World War II allowed ambitious writers and directors to push narrative boundaries. Although those experiments are usually credited to the influence of Citizen Kane, Bordwell shows that similar impulses had begun in the late 1930s in radio, fiction, and theatre before migrating to film. And despite the postwar recession in the industry, the momentum for innovation continued. Some of the boldest films of the era came in the late forties and early fifties, as filmmakers sought to outdo their peers.
           
Through in-depth analyses of films both famous and virtually unknown, from Our Town and All About Eve to Swell Guy and The Guilt of Janet Ames, Bordwell assesses the era’s unique achievements and its legacy for future filmmakers. The result is a groundbreaking study of how Hollywood storytelling became a more complex art. Reinventing Hollywood is essential reading for all lovers of popular cinema.
 
Contents
Introduction    The Way Hollywood Told It 
Chapter 1        The Frenzy of Five Fat Years
Interlude: Spring 1940: Lessons from Our Town      
Chapter 2        Time and Time Again
Interlude: Kitty and Lydia, Julia and Nancy 
Chapter 3        Plots: The Menu         
Interlude: Schema and Revision, between Rounds   
Chapter 4        Slices, Strands, and Chunks  
Interlude: Mankiewicz: Modularity and Polyphony  
Chapter 5        What They Didn’t Know Was           
Interlude: Identity Thieves and Tangled Networks  
Chapter 6        Voices out of the Dark          
Interlude: Remaking Middlebrow Modernism          
Chapter 7        Into the Depths          
Chapter 8        Call It Psychology     
Interlude: Innovation by Misadventure         
Chapter 9        From the Naked City to Bedford Falls         
Chapter 10      I Love a Mystery       
Interlude: Sturges, or Showing the Puppet Strings   
Chapter 11      Artifice in Excelsis     
Interlude: Hitchcock and Welles: The Lessons of the Masters         
Conclusion      The Way Hollywood Keeps Telling It           
Acknowledgments     
Notes  
Index
Review Quotes
Times Higher Education
"A new book from David Bordwell is always a welcome event in the field of film studies, particularly for the cinephilic academic who appreciates his wide-ranging corpus and the close attention with which he analyses individual moments. . . . It is a hugely engaging account of the fertility of this period and a convincing collection of invigorating storytelling innovations. . . . A fresh contribution to scholarship on Hollywood cinema and an aficionado;s joy."
David Koepp, screenwriter, Jurassic Park and War of the Worlds; director, Ghost Town and Premium Rush
“Bordwell is our soldier of the cinema, the guy up on the wall telling us what’s out there and, in this case, how and why it got there. Reinventing Hollywood is a deep and wide look into a period of creative fervor and storytelling innovation in the movies that hasn’t been matched by any other art form since. This book is bracing and encyclopedic and has real heft, but it’s still a breezy read. It’s not just that you can read it, you can see it. And if modern filmmakers can’t find any inspiring ideas in here, they’re just not trying.”
Malcolm Turvey, Tufts University
“In addition to the almost unparalleled breadth and depth of his research, Bordwell’s love of and admiration for the period’s experimentation and risk-taking comes through on every page. His exuberance is infectious, and again and again I found myself writing down titles of films—many of which I had not heard of before—I now want to see due to his impassioned account of their innovations. This is a singularly important book that powerfully brings to life a rich period of experimentation in Hollywood’s history.”
Mark Johnson, producer, Rain Man, Galaxy Quest, and Breaking Bad
“With Reinventing Hollywood, Bordwell pulls off the near impossible. His book, which is meticulously researched, somehow has the ability to inform, to contextualize, and to entertain in equal measures. He is able to demystify arguably the most mature decade of American films in a way that explains patterns and influences but also recognizes those unique, inexplicable masterpieces that somehow came from out of nowhere.”
Dana Polan, New York University
“Situating Hollywood film among other popular arts of the times, such as theater or the novel or radio drama, Bordwell convincingly shows how movies were key cases of what he terms ‘moderate modernism’ and explored and expanded storytelling possibilities. Having seen everything, read everything, and thought brilliantly about everything, Bordwell delivers the definitive poetics of American cinema as narrative act and narrative art.”
Janet Staiger, University of Texas at Austin
“As our premier analyst of cinematic storytelling, Bordwell plunges us into Hollywood movies in the 1940s, brilliantly opening up the era’s productive innovations in narrative and narration. Along the way, he explains experiments with devices such as amnesia, cine-portraiture, converging-fates and episode plots, focused space, ghost-movie rules, hooks, impression management, interruptive flashbacks, the omnibus format, polyphonic voice-overs, rhythms of replacement, the switcheroo, and the traveling object. What a treasure for lovers of cinema.”
James Naremore, Indiana University Bloomington
“No other critic or historian comes close to the sort of comprehensive discussion of the period that Bordwell gives in Reinventing Hollywood. With an encyclopedic knowledge of movie history, he seems to have seen everything. His research is prodigious, filled with fascinating details about how specific scripts were written and revised. Despite this, there isn’t a whiff of pretention in his writing, which is not only lucid but also witty and engaging.”
PopMatters
"Bordwell effectively argues that the change in the era of bold, different, sometimes difficult films from the '40s made a permanent mark of cinematic storytelling that resonates to this day."
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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