Synopses & Reviews
No society is without crime, prompting Nathaniel Hawthorne’s narrator to make his famous statement in The Scarlet Letter
that, however high its hopes are, no civilization can fail to allot a portion of its soil as the site of a prison. Crime has also been a prevailing, common theme in films that call us to consider its construction: How do we determine what is lawful and what is criminal? And how, in turn, does this often hypocritical distinction determine society?
Film, argues Carl Freedman, is an especially fruitful medium for considering questions like these. With Versions of Hollywood Crime Cinema, he offers a series of critical readings spanning several genres. From among the mob movies, Freedman focuses on Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather trilogy—arguably the foremost work of crime cinema—crafting a convincing argument that the plot’s action is principally driven by the shift from Sicily to America, which marks the shift to a capitalist society. Turning his attention to other genres, Freedman also looks at film noir and Westerns, in addition to films for which crime is significant but not central, from horror movies like Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining to science fiction and social realist films like The Grapes of Wrath. In recent years, television has welcomed innovative works like Boardwalk Empire, The Wire, and The Sopranos, and Freedman discusses how television’s increasingly congenial creative environment has allowed it to turn out productions whose ability to engage with these larger social questions rivals that of films from the height of cinema’s Golden Age.
"Whether discussing the 'post-heterosexuality' of John Wayne or the role of what Marx called 'primitive accumulation' in the Godfather films, Carl Freedman offers thought-provoking new insights on classic Hollywood films."
"Carl Freedman once more proves himself the most sensitive reader of texts and the most lucid explicator of critical theory. It is a commonplace that mob movies expose the logic of capitalism, but his nuanced analysis of the Godfather trilogy in terms of Marx’s concept of primitive accumulation for once actually makes the case—and makes it stick. Freedman’s inclusion of westerns in crime cinema merely appears idiosyncratic—Edwin S. Porter’s The Great Train Robbery
was seen as a violent crime movie long before anyone called it a western—and his consummate discussion of John Wayne’s post-heterosexual masculinity is worth the price of admission alone."
The Incomplete Projects reevaluates the role of Marxist theory in the study of culture and makes a case for Marxist cultural analysis as a relevant political practice. Part I provides the reader with a comprehensive and lively overview of Marxist thought. Part II is a collection of case studies analyzing a wide range of cultural objects, from the novels of Philip K. Dick to the television series M*A*S*H. The objects of study are either American or British in origin, reflecting the dominance of Anglo-American culture in our new global economy; they are also what Freedman describes as 'middle culture, ' falling somewhere between the bifurcated categories of high and low art. Through these case studies, Carl Freedman shows that it is impossible to make sense of capitalism without the Marxist critique and demonstrates that cultural analysis is an especially appropriate form of discourse in which to begin thinking politically. This book is particularly timely and relevant to anyone interested in the study of culture.
A concise, lively account of Marxist thought and American culture.
About the Author
is the James F. Cassidy Professor of English at Louisiana State University. He is the author of many articles and several books, including The Age of Nixon
, Incomplete Projects: Marxism, Modernity, and the Politics of Culture
, and Critical Theory and Science Fiction
Table of Contents
Section 1: Gangsterism and Capitalism: The Mob Movie and After
The supplement of Coppola: Primitive accumulation and the Godfather trilogy
Hobbes after Marx, Scorsese after Coppola: On Goodfellas
Tony Soprano and the end(s) of the mob movie
Section 2: Noir and its Disconnects
Marxism, cinema, and some dialectics of film noir and science fiction
Noir, neo-noir, and the end of work: From Double Indemnity to Body Heat
Section 3: Empire and Gender in the John Wayne Western
Versions of the American imperium in three westerns by John Ford
Post-heterosexuality: John Wayne and the construction of American masculinity