From the Vatican to Vegas: The History of Special Effects

Overview

A guided tour through the magical world of illusions, The Vatican to Vegas takes the reader from lavish Baroque fantasies of the seventeenth century to the Electronic Baroque of today. The "scripted spaces" described by Norman Klein are punctuated with devices widely used in special effects: shocks, surprise twists, grand fakes, and copies. These elaborate deceptions allow the viewer to assume the role of a central character. But, as Klein points out, real power in this world of fakery rests with whoever controls...
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New York, New York, U.S.A. 2004 H Hard Cover New in J New jacket 1st ed/1st pr. Book is square, solid, and plausibly unread, with a sharp and lustrous DJ in a protective mylar ... Brodart cover--you'll feel able to catch bullets in your teeth and leap tall buildings in a single bound when you receive this book! NOTE: light mark to the back of the DJ< and a remainder mark to the page bottoms. Read more Show Less

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Overview

A guided tour through the magical world of illusions, The Vatican to Vegas takes the reader from lavish Baroque fantasies of the seventeenth century to the Electronic Baroque of today. The "scripted spaces" described by Norman Klein are punctuated with devices widely used in special effects: shocks, surprise twists, grand fakes, and copies. These elaborate deceptions allow the viewer to assume the role of a central character. But, as Klein points out, real power in this world of fakery rests with whoever controls the illusion -- be it the pope, the president, the imagineer, the designer, or the studio executive. In these pages, we journey from architectural illusion in 1580 to the trompe l'oeil of today's Las Vegas casinos. Along the way, we encounter systems of Renaissance software, anachronistic skyscrapers from the early nineteenth century, toys that inspired steam-driven cars, and fireworks that illuminated the skies of Rome in the 1740s. Klein's research takes us from Piranesi's labyrinths to the mazes of new computer software, from scrolling panoramas that staged the horror at Gettysburg to the endless special effects on cinema screens today, where the world is regularly blown to atoms. Here is an alternative history of power and optical, architectural, and cinematic codes, cleverly manipulated by the author in a way that allows us to experience, as well as understand, the seductive play of special effects upon the psyche. Throughout, Klein demonstrates how special effects are not only a barometer for politics, myths of identity, and economic relations, but also an instructive parallel for understanding where our civilization may be headed next.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This vast and lavish study by Klein, a professor at the California Institute of the Arts, more than fulfills the promise of its title, but it is less a straightforwardly technical "history of special effects" Hollywood style than an account of history as special effect, as mediated spectacle and controlled illusion. There is almost no end to the ingenuity, Klein argues, with which the powerful have used every technical and aesthetic means at their disposal to stage-manage reality, from the court masques of Jacobean England to the Magic Kingdoms of Orange County. Klein (The History of Forgetting; Bleeding Through) offers the reader a panorama of deception and sleight-of-hand as richly detailed as one of the rococo wonderments he describes. In detailing the complex history of what he describes as "one's fondest desires and worst nightmares joined at the same instant," Klein eruditely decodes, with fluency and ease, everything from the hierarchies of mannerist architecture to the "entertainment baroque" of Las Vegas. The book's four sections (including 50 b&w and 20 color illustrations) weave such disparate matter as Poe's fictions, Piranesi's labyrinths, the geography of Oz and the absurd logic of "cartoon physics" into a narrative that, if not seamless, reveals our culture's "engines of erasure" in daring and frequently surprising ways. Much of the book's energy is frankly polemical: the presidential election of 2000 acts as the summation of Klein's story, the place where the manipulation of "false memories" reaches an apex of cynicism and effectiveness. Whether or not one agrees with this thesis, it gives the book an undeniable urgency. And it makes the occasionally rushed and overtelegraphed prose feel more like passionate intensity than carelessness. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781565848030
  • Publisher: New Press, The
  • Publication date: 3/25/2004
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.16 (w) x 8.36 (h) x 1.42 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Vatican to Vegas 1
Pt. I Scripted Spaces and the Illusion of Power, 1550-1780 19
1 Baroque Immersion, Baroque Artifice 27
2 Perspective Awry 51
3 Masques 67
4 Happy Imprisonment: Labyrinths 97
5 Burning Down Vesuvius: Late Baroque Gizmos and Fiery Illusions, 1750-1780 116
Pt. II Building the Unexpected: Industrial Fables as Special Effects, 1780-1964 133
6 After 1780: The Baroque Imaginary into Science Fiction 141
7 Aloft: Jules Verne; Felix Nadar; Edgar Allan Poe 161
8 Oz 173
9 Panoramas: A Crow's Nest Over London; Walking Through Gettysburg 180
10 The Virgin and the Dynamo: World's Fairs, 1851-1964 191
Pt. III Alien Thrills: Epic shocks on Screen, 1895 to the Present 205
11 Movie F/X: Making Heads Roll 213
12 2001 to 2001: Immersion into Deep Space; Baroque Reincarnation 229
13 Animation as Baroque: Fleischer Morphs Harlem; Tangos to Crocodiles 247
14 Panoramic Chases into Nowhere: From Tex Avery to Independence Day 269
15 The Sim Future of the Cinematic City 283
Pt. IV The Electronic Baroque: 1955-2050 299
16 Noir Disney 307
17 Scripted Spaces: Navigating the Consumer-Built City 321
18 Outside the Labyrinth: Architainment in Las Vegas 330
19 The Disappearing Nineties: Jerde Cities 352
Conclusion: Easy Credit: Driving Two Hundred Years a Day in Los Angeles 363
Afterword: Bush a Baroque Special Effects (December 23, 2000) 379
App Search Engine for the History of Special Effects 395
Notes 407
Index 481
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