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October 2004, Week 2


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Leo Enticknap <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Sat, 9 Oct 2004 22:37:19 +0100
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Robert Goff writes:

>I also can't quite believe that Dr. E actually called me "a Ken Loach,
>loony leftie, stuck in the '70s myth" !!!

You don't have to, because I didn't.  I used that phrase to refer to the
political viewpoints expressed in 'The Navigators'.

>I tried to point out something about the content of this director's film,
>The Navigators as I'm not sure Dr. E has even seen it.  He seems to think
>it is some kind of eulogy to "a golden age of rail travel" instead of a
>realistic portrayal of the lives of rail workers.

I have seen it, and think that the film advocates an entirely state-run
rail network (i.e. what it implicitly constructs as having been the 'golden
age' of 1948-1996) by emphasising what you term a 'realistic portayal' of
the lives of rail workers, and what I suspect (though, never having worked
in that industry myself, it is just a suspicion) is a seriously distorted one.

Granted, Ken Loach is an extremely skillful film-maker.  If he wasn't, or
if his output wasn't seen by a significant audience, then I wouldn't bother
opposing the views of those who describe his work as 'worthy' and
'admirable'.  It's not - a lot of his films are very skillful and very
poisonous, just as many of the films of Veit Harlan or Henri-Georges
Clouzot are, for example.  Anyone emerging from a screening of 'Hidden
Agenda' would be forgiven for thinking that the IRA are all heros who never
harmed any innocent third parties (though granted, several Hollywood
studios have also fallen for that myth).  'My Name is Joe' similarly
advances the view that society should tolerate organised crime because its
perpetrators come from a socially disadvantaged background.  'Land and
Freedom' advocates classic 1970s closed shop industrial relations, of the
sort that inevitably lead to very good pay and working conditions for a
small minority and job losses for everyone else.  And so on and so forth.

I do sometimes wish that a centre-right political film auteur would emerge,
to give us a counterbalance to left-wing celebrity directors such as Loach
and Moore.  How about a feature documentary on how President Bush stopping
the IRA's fundraising in the US has been a key factor in the absence of any
explosions on the British mainland for seven years?  Or a feature film
based on the impact of suicide bombers on innocent Israelis?  Or a drama
exploring how Blair's tax rises are condemning a generation of
middle-income young professionals to poverty, by preventing them from being
able to buy a house or save for their retirement?  What about a documentary
which advocates capital punishment by showing the psychological relief felt
by many murder victims' families upon receiving the ultimate assurance that
the perpetrator can never pose any threat to them again?  Perhaps an 'It
Happened Here' type film which explores the possible consequences if Sharia
law is imposed in Britain (which prominent Muslim leaders have repeatedly
called for)?  But no, the only independent political film-makers in
existence seem to be those who are on the extreme left.  Maybe that's part
of the reason why mainstream Hollywood continues to be so popular.

Nick Dale writes:

>I live and work in London and am a user of public transport.  Hopefully
>this means that you might recognise my viewpoint.

As a provincial Yorkshire dweller whose taxes subside the comparatively
excellent commuter public transport infrastructure serving the London
suburbs, maybe.

>Also- I hope you appreciate the irony in labeling Loach's work
>'propaganda', having noted the film 'I Married a Communist' in your
>initial selection of union-featuring films.

I never denied that 'I Married a Communist' was propaganda.  It fulfills
the criterion of being a feature film depicting trade union activity.  I
suspect you were alluding to the fact that it does so fictionally and with
a heavy political bias - but the original enquirer did not restrict his
query to news footage, hence its inclusion.  In fact and if memory serves
me correctly, the original query specifically excluded
non-fiction.  Anyhow, it's pretty crude stuff compared to most of Loach's

>I am unsure if your 'pure and simple' approach is one that will set the
>academic world on fire.

You're almost certainly right.  The worlds of far too many of the academics
I've dealt with tends to be ignited by following the latest trend, often
more in the belief that making the right noises will enhance their
political and cultural standing rather than out of any real conviction in
what they're doing.  If I'd wanted to 'set the academic world on fire' in
the way I think you mean, I'd become a feminist, discover some obscure
ethnic ancestry and play it for all it's worth, fervently advocate whatever
political cause is featured on the front page of today's 'Guardian' and
write volumes and volumes of impenetrable claptrap, interspersed liberally
with the syllables 'post' and 'ism'.

In my main research area at the moment - the economic history of media
technologies - this has resulted in two generations of humanities scholars
publishing a body of work which is littered with factual errors and
conceptual misunderstandings.  Furthermore, they have even attacked the
minority of writers whose work offers solid research leading to meaningful
conclusions (e.g. the attacks on Barry Salt's 'Film Style and
Technology').  If the 'pure and simple' approach even offers the hope of
starting to repair some of the damage that these celebrity setters of the
world on fire have caused, then it'll do me.


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