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Film Movements in Hollywood: A Political Perspective

Updated on September 12, 2018
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Paul Joseph is a popular freelance journalist and column writer. He is famous on the internet for his matchless poetical language and style


New Hollywood, New Approach

Films have been the representatives of mass culture for quite a long time. It has evolved into an art form through a process that shows man’s development in the field of art and culture. There is always the complaint that fiction is larger than life. However, films only reflect society the way it is. It is true that reality is more bitter than fiction. Films reflect the aspirations and fears of man. Man can identify himself with characters in films.

This small text deals with film movements that have shaped the history of Hollywood in its course. We will analyze the theme of a film and its representation by discussing how the social norms of their period influenced it. This movie comment on the society of the day.

New Hollywood denotes the period between the late 1960s. A new generation of filmmakers came up, which left their mark on almost every aspect of films. The studio system of Hollywood was also greatly influenced. In these films, the director had a pivotal role to play. This generation brought in new topics and styles that distinguished them from the earlier conventions of the studios. This period is similar to the renaissance age in Europe.

These films were known for political subjects that went against the establishment in the then United States

Something Unconventional

Nevertheless, these films were an integral part of the studio system. The changes in the economic sphere especially the recession and movies going bust at the box office were some of the factors that led to the changes in Hollywood. Also, younger generation movie makers got control over the industry to some extents. Hence, the studio control reduced gradually.

Outdoor shoots became possible during this era. Similarly, editing was also a highlight in these movies. These films were known for political subjects that went against the establishment in the then United States. Rock music and erotic freedom were other characteristics of the New Hollywood. The studios perceived these aspects as ‘counter-cultural.’Hannah and Her Sisters is the film we discuss here. V For Vendetta is another revolutionary movie with a strong political theme I liked.

Mia Farrow and Lois Chiles
Mia Farrow and Lois Chiles | Source

Hannah and Her Sisters

The film Hannah and Her Sisters by Woody Allen has women as the protagonists. However, a woman is as an element of pleasure for the male and his gaze in this film. Laura Mulvey confirms in her article that men were actors and women were mere spectacles in this film. Feminists opine that Hollywood portrays men as those looking and women as those being looked. Doane states that women in Hollywood were simultaneously the commodity and its consumer, in that they were encouraged to take this harsh stance against themselves.

The male gaze is simultaneously an object and is also made fun of in the movie. While Elliot appreciates Lee’s beauty in the beginning, later on, his desire for her is depicted mockingly, when he looks at her nude paintings. Even though this is a female-oriented film, it shows the male perspective of a woman and how women are related to them. In most other movies, women are the predominant objects, whereas men are also objects in this case. The difference is that men are the subject and women become the object of the desire here.

Hannah is a paragon of virtue, a woman of perfection. However, this goes against the concept of the ‘New Woman’ who has her failings. Hannah shows her weaker side, and thus she reconciles her marriage to Elliot. This style strengthens Hollywood’s concept of romance, where the man is supposed to dominate the woman.

The movie makers have relegated the negative aspects of the New Woman to the minor characters in the film. However, all female characters reiterate the cultural myth that love is exclusive in the film. It is usual in real life, to be honest by and large, but to suppress uncomfortable truths. This idea is reflected in the film and shows how deep-rooted such a mentality is in the society.

the film endorses patriarchal values against which the feminist movement has been fighting all along

The film stresses a bit too much on motherhood. Three of the second rung characters endorse the importance of being a mother in their lives. However, even the three principal characters do so. Despite being interested in careers, they do prioritize motherhood. In this respect, the film endorses patriarchal values against which the feminist movement has been fighting all along. Hence, these three represent traditional women who yearn for a home and family as their primary goal in life. It happens so even though they are intellectually capable and have an interest in social issues.

Hence, the happy ending signifies that traditional values have been rediscovered. Hannah reconciles herself to her marriage, and Lee has ended her affair with Elliot. However, the issue of the magical pregnancy is unresolved. The viewer may believe in miracles and be content with such an explanation. However, this can also be interpreted as Allen’s critical comment on society in a covert manner. On the other end, the emphasis on traditional values in the film makes the final message a little vaguer.

Final Lines

The discussion above throws light on the significance of cinema in modern day life. Cinema is a means of entertainment an an expression of one’s cultural self. The New Cinema in Hollywood was part of cinema’s evolution. It kept pace with all developments depicted in the movies. Also, it continues to do so. Evaluating them from present day standards would be unfair. However, the social critique that the makers made is relevant to this day. This critique is what leads the newer generation of filmmakers to explore newer themes and undiscovered aspects of previously handled issues.

© 2018 Paul Joseph


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