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by Paul Dave
Review by Thierry ATTARD
Very special thanks
to Veruschka SELBACH
and Jo FREER

SYNOPSIS : Paul Dave, Senior Lecturer in Film at the University of East London, analyses the relationship between what makes the notion of « Englishness » and British contemporary cinema, through the prism of the core of this notion and of British culture in particular : Class.

« To put it bluntly [...] there [is] a certain incompatibility between the terms « cinema » and « Britain »... » (François Truffaut, quoted by Roy Armes in A Critical History of the British Cinema)

« The class war is over and we have won it. » (British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, 1959)


Cinema is both an industry and an art, but it is also the reflection of the societies, of the Histories, and of the cultures movies originate from. And one of the first (and numerous) merit of Paul Dave’s book is to recall us - in spite of François Truffaut provocative’s declaration - that British movie industry is not only a reservoir of technical and artistic talents for delocalized Hollywood blockbusters like Harry Potter and the excellent Basic Instinct 2 (with a fascinating use of its London locations), or « a bunch of people in London who can’t get Green Cards » (Alan Parker, Will Write and Direct for Food, Page 85).

But the most intellectually attracting element of Visions of England is the angular stone of the book : the notion of Class as the essential component of the English culture, mirrored by contemporary British cinema.

« The Enchantment of Englishness is the dissociation of class and class struggle or, what amounts to the same thing, class and capitalism. » (Paul Dave, Visions of England, Preface)

D.R.Following brilliantly the illustrious paths of Eileen Meiksins Wood and Andrew Higson with an original synthesis between sociology and Cinema study, Paul Dave explores a vast period of the History of the British film industry, from the « Heritage » films of the Thatcher-Major Era to more experimental movies (e.g. London Orbital - 2002), not to forget « Fairy-tales » entries such as Notting Hill (1999), or milestones like Trainspotting (1996).

« Film historians agree that between the 1940s and the 1980s there was a progressive dislocation of the unity of the National community as imaged in wartime films. » (Paul Dave, Visions of England, Page 10)