MODERNISM IN FILMS OF 1960S.
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Examines modernist philosophy & devices & their application in [Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?], [Dr. Strangelove] & [Midnight Cowboy].... More...
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Examines modernist philosophy & devices & their application in [Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?], [Dr. Strangelove] & [Midnight Cowboy].
Modernism is a term applied retroactively to certain literary and artistic trends at the beginning of the twentieth century. Certain modernist characteristics can be discerned in post-1960 culture. Contemporary culture seems less to have gone on to new concerns and issues than it seems to have institutionalized certain modernist characteristics as if they had meaning in their own right. In a sense, though, they are used to avoid meaning altogether or to give the illusion of meaning where there is none. The disjointed time sense, the flight from the conventions of realism, and the adoption of complex new forms and styles in the modernist period were undertaken to provide new meaning, to illuminate the world in a different way, and to show different relationships within the observed world. Aspects of the trend can be discerned in three
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Instead, much of whatpasses for profundity is merely a reference to something. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms. The act ofwriting was an important human action for her, and she explored the meaningof this communicative process especially in terms of gender, in terms ofthe expression of women writers and the problems they encountered infinding their fictional voice. Dr. Strangelove himself is a caricature of Nazi characters in WorldWar II films, characters who usually had some minor physical affliction torepresent externally the warped nature of their souls. The ambiguities and uncertainties that this new knowledge created wasexpressed in different ways by artists in different fields. In music, Schoenberg experimented with a 12-tone scale that wasdifferent from the traditional octaval structure, and Stravinsky and othersmade an abstract art even more abstract by challenging accepted notions ofharmony, counterpoint, and tonality. More was demanded of the reader of literature or theviewer of art. VirginiaWoolf is noted for her novels, which featured a new type of literary stylebased on psychology and deemed "stream-of-consciousness," but she is alsoknown for her criticism and essays on literary subjects. as well--these are characters who livein a world largely of their own making. In Dr. Strangelove, time is made more flexible by thecross-cutting between stories or aspects of the story taking placesimultaneously--General Ripper and Mandrake, the meeting in the War Room,the bomber on its way to Russia. He cannot even control hisarm, any more than society can control the weapons of destruction men likeStrangelove have created, supposedly as a deterrent, now shown to be theend of society itself. Contemporary culture has made the experimental into something of aninstitution in itself and often pursues it for its own sake. The imagery often gives the illusion ofprofundity when in fact it is merely arbitrary. The characters themselves are uncertainabout the reason for their fighting, and the two couples interact in a wayevocative of psychodrama. The tone is absurdistthroughout, but Kubrick knows that the scenario is not as far-fetched as itmight seem. John Schlesinger's film Midnight Cowboy is modernist in a differentsense. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? In the theater, playwrights such asPirandello and Brecht delved into abstract structures and borrowed from theabstractions of other cultures--notably Oriental forms such as the JapaneseNoh drama--to escape from the realism of the theater of the nineteenthcentury. Works CitedBaldick, Chris. New York: Oxford UP, 199 .Kubrick, Stanley. The disjointed time sense, the flight from the conventionsof realism, and the adoption of complex new forms and styles in themodernist period were undertaken to provide new meaning, to illuminate theworld in a different way, and to show different relationships within theobserved world. In a sense, though, they areused to avoid meaning altogether or to give the illusion of meaning wherethere is none. However, the senseof time is different in that this one night seems to stand for many suchnights when the two main characters tormented each other and replayed theirfantasy life. Psychology was showing thatbehavior was more complex than previously imagined and that an entire worldof relationships and forces was hidden. The viewer is expectedto participate in the unfolding of the drama in a modernist way--answersare not made clear, and the ultimate meaning of the entire night's exerciseis left to the individual viewer. Modernism is a term applied retroactively to certain literary andartistic trends at the beginning of the twentieth century. Warner Bros., 1966.Schlesinger, John. Indeed, the film is based on a serious novel called Red Alert,and Kubrick has made only a few changes to turn one vision of a potentialfuture into a slightly absurdist view of that same future. One modernist tendencyis the disjointed psychological makeup of characters like these and thosein Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? has the aura of an inside jokein its very title, and it carries through this sense of playfulness in avery harsh and tense manner as its protagonists spar over a child whoproves in the end to have been a shared illusion. Joe Buck and Ratso Rizzo come from different worlds,and Buck in particular plays out his fantasy life in the real world in away that shows he never really understands the difference between what hebelieves the world should be like and what it is like. In the play and the film, theevocation of Woolf's name is ironic in that Martha is the non-writingacademic wife while George is the husband who keeps her in check and who isanything but a proponent of the rights of women, intent as he is onasserting his own rights at the expense of everyone. Science was discovering the uncertainties ofexistence. The older couple is in control of aspects ofthis psychodrama, though they do not shape their own responses as well asthey do those of the younger couple they are using as pawns in the battletaking place between the two of them, between George and Martha. Modernist tendencies are evident in the three films under discussion,in the ways each challenges assumed ideas of storytelling, character, andlocation. Midnight Cowboy. The use of Virginia Woolf as part of a rewritten children's rhymerelates to the fact that the husband is a professor of literature, but thetype of work for which Virginia Woolf was known also has meaning. Warhol borrowedfrom popular culture for a reason, while popular culture cannibalizesitself in order to have anything to say at all. Answers were not presented directly to issues raised, butinstead the artist demanded the participation of the audience more directlyin elucidating meaning and in seeing the relationship between technique andmeaning (Baldick 14 ). Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Dr. Strangelove. They do indeed so interact, but the seeds of theirown failure exist deep within them from the start. Indeed, all three films seemto stand outside of real-world time in some sense, with Woolf repeatingevents, Strangelove existing in an absurdist universe, and Midnight Cowboyshowing another repetitive environment isolated from the more realisticworld outside. United Artists, 1964.Nichols, Mike. This is basedmore on a desire to be different and at times to appear to have depth thanit is on a desire to illuminate some issue in a different way. Aspects of the trend can be discerned in three films fromthe 196 s: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? One element ofthe absurdist view is that meaning has been removed from its earlierattachment to realism and heightened by the satiric situations, the over-drawn characters, and the inexorable thrust of a plot that takes away alloptions one by one until complete disaster is both inevitable and accepted. The atomic world showed that the reality people perceivethrough the sense is not the only reality. The disjointed time sense thatmarks much modernist literature is not evident in any of the three filmsdiscussed, however. Rizzo representsthe more realistic tradition that has little chance of success against thestubborn optimism of his friend. Modernism rejected traditions that existed in the nineteenth centuryand sought to stretch the boundaries, striking out in new directions andwith new techniques. Woolf commented on the oppression andrepression of women writers in her time and in so doing says much about therelations between men and women in society and specifically about the needfor women to achieve freedom so they believe they can express themselvesthrough writing in the same way men do. The passage of time in Midnight Cowboyalso has a realistic depiction, though in some ways the characters and theNew York they inhabit stand outside of time. The film has a heightened sense of realism that in some waysconnects it to an earlier tradition, but the way this reality is treated isselective and driven by character rather than presenting characters whorespond to reality. The disintegration of the lives of these two characters seems almostto come from within rather than to be brought about by their interactionwith external forces. It is often not relateddirectly to the music being played, yet the fact that it is juxtaposed withthe music should mean that at least some connection. Columbia Pictures, 1969.----------------------- 1 Strangelove'safflictions make him a hybrid of man and machine, and he is the scientistwho cannot control the machine he has created. In part, this was a response to the discovery anddissemination of ideas from psychology showing the complexities of humanexperience in a new light. Woolf takes place in what seems like real time,depicting one night in the lives of these characters. In Dr. Strangelove, Stanley Kubrick uses irony in a different way tohighlight the absurd nature of the situation, in which a crazed generalstarts World War III because he believes the Russians have made himimpotent through the fluoridation of water. In painting,it was seen in the abstractions of artists as widely varied as Duchamps,Picasso, Klee, and many others. In thepopular area, this occurs in the constant barrage of images from MTV andother rock video outlets. In literature, writers developed newstructures as a way of casting a new light on such accepted elements ascharacter, setting, and plot. Certainmodernist characteristics can be discerned in post-196 culture.Contemporary culture seems less to have gone on to new concerns and issuesthan it seems to have institutionalized certain modernist characteristicsas if they had meaning in their own right. (1966), Dr. Strangelove (1964),and Midnight Cowboy (1969).
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