This issue of Projections focuses on movie violence, a topic of continuing controversy. Concerns about screen violence are not new. Because of their visceral power, popular appeal, and the seeming ease with which they bypassed established channels and norms of socialization, movies swiftly drew the attention and scorn of social critics and reformers. The city of Chicago passed the nation’s first movie censorship ordinance in 1907. Numerous state and municipal censor boards were established in its wake, and movie violence drove the first court-adjudicated censorship case in American film history. The James Boys in Missouri (1908) and Night Riders (1908) were Westerns that Chicago authorities deemed to be immoral because they concentrated on showing the exploits of violent outlaws. The Chicago reformers felt that the films lacked an appropriate moral balance in failing to devote sufficient attention to law-abiding characters.
Torture porn's crowning achievements, as identified by Gregory A. Burris (2010), are the Saw and Hostel series. He argues that the Saw series represents a puritanical mind-set running amok, while the Hostel movies reflect a culture struggling to come to terms with the horrors of Abu Ghraib. This article challenges this position. It identifies thematic patterns within the Saw and Hostel films to demonstrate how the images of violence on display throughout both series tend to reinforce, rather than subvert, the popularly held belief that the Abu Ghraib scandal represented mere abuse, as opposed to torture. The article shows how these films trivialize and rationalize torture and the roles that sex and gender play in this process.
Justin O. Frosini
Reading the title of this chapter is rather like turning on the television
and watching endless repeats of trashy Italian movies. Indeed, “Italy
has been debating reforms to the justice system for a long time.”
Many consider the system to be overloaded, underfunded, and beset
by a bureaucratic culture, making it difficult for citizens to get speedy
justice. Listening to the stories told by articled clerks on a typical
day in court helps one to become aware of the deficiencies of Italy’s
judiciary system. In many civil courts around the country, it is commonplace
to see young trainees crowding around a judge, trying to
catch the words that he or she is uttering and then scribbling down
the decision as best they can. Just a few months ago, La Stampa published
an article entitled “Chaos in Court: Mice in the Offices and Staff
Reduced to the Bone” that described the almost impossible working
conditions of a court in Ivrea.
A Phenomenological Investigation of War
Joseph A. Tighe
All Quiet on the Western Front, the famed war novel by German author Erich Maria Remarque, has sold more than fifty million copies, been translated into thirty languages and has been made into two English-speaking movies, one of which won an Academy Award for best picture. It has been hailed as ‘the greatest war novel of all time.’ It was banned and burned in Nazi Germany for promoting anti-war sentiment. Publishers in the United States were forced to censor certain sections of the novel deemed too emotionally charged for American audiences, and these sections remained censored until 1975. Remarque himself was considered for the Nobel Prize, but, due to protests over his candidacy, was not awarded the honor. However, regarding literary criticism of the novel, it is safe to say that ‘[d]espite the great and lasting impact of All Quiet, comparatively little has been written about it.’ What little criticism that does exist on All Quiet has been limited to mainly two models: empirical, which seek to explain the novel in terms of its structure and form; and intellectualist, which seek in the novel a universal definition of War. All Quiet on the Western Front has been somewhat of a critical anomaly: almost no critic would disagree that All Quiet is a meaningful work, but, thus far, almost no critic can give a satisfactory answer as to why.
Norman N. Holland
Metafictions tell stories in which the physical medium of the story becomes part of the story as, classically, in Tristram Shandy or Don Quixote. In our times, both metafiction and metafilm have proliferated. Examples of metafilm include Buster Keaton's Sherlock Jr., Woody Allen's Purple Rose of Cairo, Alejandro Amenábar's Abre los Ojos, Ingmar Bergman's Persona, the Marx Brothers' Horse Feathers and, in particular, Spike Jonze's Adaptation. In my experience and that of others, metafilmic movies have a peculiarly disconcerting effect, sometimes arousing fear, sometimes seeming comic. Why? Metafilms play tricks on the levels and kinds of our belief (or our suspension of disbelief). To explain the effect, we need to understand how our brains are functioning when we are, as we say, "absorbed" in a film. The answer lies in the fact that reality testing depends on activity in the motor regions of the frontal cortex. But in experiencing the arts, we are not moving or even planning to move. As a result, as Richard Gerrig's experiments show, we momentarily believe (or suspend disbelief in) the film we are perceiving. Metafilm, however, introduces another, more real reality, the physical medium of the film. Metafilm thus sends conflicting messages to the brain about moving. The result is what Freud called "a signal of anxiety." If the metafilmic effect is brief, we laugh. If it persists over time, it can arouse anxiety.
Six years ago, I became editor of Projections, succeeding Ira Konigsberg, who had conceived of this journal and launched it with Berghahn as publisher. Projections was then and remains now a unique journal, conjoining work on cinema from a diverse range of disciplines addressing the cognitive and emotional areas where movies meet viewers. These six years have gone by very fast, and the current issue will be my last one as editor. I have greatly enjoyed serving the journal and helping to shepherd new works into print. Now, though, it is time to ride on. Berghahn is a wonderful publisher with whom to work, and my coeditors—Todd Berliner, Ted Nannicelli, and Carl Plantinga— helped to make producing the journal a very rewarding experience. Ted will be assuming the post of editor with the next issue, and I know that he will do a fi ne job. I am grateful to all with whom I have worked and to whom I extend a hearty “thank you.”
Mark McKinney and Hervé (Baru) Barulea
Hervé Barulea (b. 1947), known as Baru, is a French cartoonist of Italian and Breton heritage, who has spent much of his life in the metalworking region around Nancy, in northeastern France, his birthplace. He outlines his approach to comics, beginning with his vision of comics as essentially being images that speak to primal human urges. He finds this kind of imagery today mainly in American movies and novels, but not so much in American comics. He describes his tenure as president of the Festival International de la Bande Dessinée ['International Festival of Comics'] in Angoulême in January 2011, after having won the grand prize for his career's work in comics at the same festival in 2010. Baru then speaks of his approach to history and current events in his comics. He outlines how he has depicted immigrants of European and African heritage in his comics, and then explains why he has often returned to the Algerian War. Baru ends this first half of the interview by describing his views of the French Communist Party, and explaining his critical depiction of it in Les années Spoutnik ['The Spoutnik Years'].
Cinemas of Boyhood, Part I
These are ripe times to study boyhood in cinema. Even though male characters have undoubtedly dominated cinema roles from the start, boys’ stories have not been consistently produced or appreciated. Since the publication of Where the Boys Are: Cinemas of Masculinity and Youth, a collection edited by Murray Pomerance and Frances Gateward in 2005, there has been increasing academic interest in boyhood representation through movies, as demonstrated by the articles collected here. This interest follows the expansive concerns of pop psychology texts at the turn of the century that took up the political and emotional consequences of boys’ behavior, such as Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood by William Pollack (1999), Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys by Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson (2000), and The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism is Harming Our Young Men by Christina Hoff Sommers (2001).As is evident in their titles, this research joined the chorus of a prevailing masculinity in crisis theme that has permeated gender studies in recent years: boys have been troubled by the pressures of patriarchy, the demands of feminism, and the culture of capitalism, and thus are in need of rescue and protection from these influences.
The topic of violence in moving image media has retained its salience and controversies over several decades, and Stuart Bender returns our interest to the subject in his analysis of depictions of war violence in movies and video games. Bender is a working filmmaker as well as a scholar and university educator. This combination of skill sets enables him to blend a filmmaker’s attention to the craft of creating moving images with a scholar’s attention to the historical, theoretical, and cultural contexts in which moving images circulate and are produced. He is interested in why viewers describe certain depictions as being realistic even under circumstances in which various elements of cinematic style take those depictions away from the known contexts where battlefield violence occurs. He compares Hollywood films from the classical and modern eras with video games in order to advance a conception of realism based on viewers’ perceptions of the accretion of detail within the surface design of shots and scenes. He situates what he terms “reported realism” with reference to existing traditions of realist theory in cinema.