Synopses & Reviews
Noting that motherhood is a common metaphor for film production, Lucy Fischer undertakes the first investigation of how the topic of motherhood presents itself throughout a wide range of film genres. Until now discussions of maternity have focused mainly on melodramas, which, along with musicals and screwball comedies, have traditionally been viewed as "women's" cinema. Fischer defies gender-based classifications to show how motherhood has played a fundamental role in the overall cinematic experience. She argues that motherhood is often treated as a site of crisis--for example, the mother being blamed for the ills afflicting her offspring--then shows the tendency of certain genres to specialize in representing a particular social or psychological dimension in the thematics of maternity.
Drawing on social history and various cultural theories, Fischer first looks at Rosemary's Baby to show the prevalence of childbirth themes in horror films. In crime films (White Heat), she sees the linkage of male deviance and mothering. The Hand That Rocks the Cradle and The Guardian, both occult thrillers, uncover cultural anxieties about working mothers. Her discussion covers burlesques of male mothering, feminist documentaries on the mother-daughter relationship, trick films dealing with procreative metaphors, and postmodern films like High Heels, where fluid sexuality is the theme. These films tend to treat motherhood as a locus of irredeemable conflict, whereas History and Memory and High Tide propose a more sanguine, dynamic, and enabling view.
Originally published in 1996.
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"Erudite and insightful, great portions of the book are excellent."--Choice
is unique in the range of films it investigates and in the critical breadth and cultural resonance of its argument.... It is an impressive treatment of the complicated relation between motherhood, genre, and cinema."--Maria DiBattista
"This engaging book makes for a unique contribution to film and women's studies.... Lucy Fischer puts forward intelligent arguments and writes in a literate, down-to-earth style."--Virginia Wexman
About the Author
Lucy Fischer is Professor of Film and English at the University of Pittsburgh, where she directs the film studies program. Her books include "Shot/Countershot: Film Tradition and Women's Cinema "(Princeton)," Imitation of Life, "and "Jacques Tati". She has worked as a curator at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City and at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh.
Table of Contents
|1||Introduction: Motherhood and Film: A Critical Genealogy||3|
|2||The Trick Film: The Lady Vanishes: Women, Magic, and the Movies||37|
|3||Silent Melodrama: Way Down East: Melodrama, Metaphor, and the Maternal Body||56|
|4||The Horror Film: Birth Traumas: Parturition and Horror in Rosemary's Baby||73|
|5||The Crime Film: Mama's Boy: Filial Hysteria in White Heat||92|
|6||Film Comedy: "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child": Comedy and Matricide||111|
|7||The Thriller: The Hand That Shocks the Cradle: The Maternal Thriller||131|
|8||The Postmodern Film: Postmodernity and Postmaternity: High Heels and Imitation of Life||162|
|9||The Nonfiction Film: "The Reproduction of Mothering": Documenting the Mother-Daughter Bond||179|
|10||Epilogue: Maternity and the Artist: "A Remarkable Zoological Species"||214|