Imagining America: reflections on politics and time in three forms of popular film
Film and Philosophy, 1, (1)
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David Owen's essay, 'Imagining America: Reflections on Politics and Time in Three Forms of Popular Film', provides a brief treatment of 'epical modernism' (Oliver Stone's _Born on the Fourth of July_ and _JFK_), 'originary anti-modernism' (_Field of Dreams_ and _Dances With Wolves_), and 'ironic post-modernism' (_Back to the Future 3_ and _Thelma and Louise_). The generally modernist tenor of all three groups is marked by this facet of post-Kantian philosophy: 'contemporary thought locates itself through it's thinking of both the becoming of it's present and it's present's becoming'. The two Stone films concern 'the authentic identity of America'. Since this appears as idealist essentialism in the first film, which is then 'negated by the corruption of the entrenched interests of the political and economic establishment' in _JFK_, Owen offers this paraphrase of Marx's famous eleventh thesis on Feuerbach: 'Where _Born on the Fourth of July_ simply interprets America, _JFK_ seeks to change it'. It is a 'new sincerity' that 'discloses an originary anti-modernism in which an implicit or explicit conception of the present as lack is juxtaposed to the plenitude of a mythical past, an originary America'. _Field of Dreams_ 'repeats the politics of recuperation which characterizes _Dances with Wolves_ and similarly defines its originary America by reference to the primacy of the affectual over the rational, that is, by reference to an ethic of care'. The central feature of ironic postmodernism, by contrast, 'is its self-referentiality, that is, its thinking of the present of the film thorough its relation to the history of cinema', i.e., 'a hyperconscious eclecticism'. Finally, 'modernist and anti-modernist positions elaborate a focus on imagining an authentic America through a politics of legislation in which submission to the authority of the film as reason (modernism) or affect (anti-modernism) is the condition of recognizing the authentic identity of America'. Postmodern film 'reveals itself as a site in which an agonistic politics of irony discloses the imagination of difference in the difference of imagination'.
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