In this imaginative new work, Adam Lowenstein explores the ways in which a group of groundbreaking horror films engaged the haunting social conflicts left in the wake of World War II, Hiroshima, and the Vietnam War. Lowenstein centers Shocking Representation around readings of films by Georges Franju, Michael Powell, Shindo Kaneto, Wes Craven, and David Cronenberg. He shows that through allegorical representations these directors' films confronted and challenged comforting historical narratives and notions of national identity intended to soothe public anxieties in the aftermath of national traumas.
Borrowing elements from art cinema and the horror genre, these directors disrupted the boundaries between high and low cinema. Lowenstein contrasts their works, often dismissed by contemporary critics, with the films of acclaimed "New Wave" directors in France, England, Japan, and the United States. He argues that these "New Wave" films, which were embraced as both art and national cinema, often upheld conventional ideas of nation, history, gender, and class questioned by the horror films. By fusing film studies with the emerging field of trauma studies, and drawing on the work of Walter Benjamin, Adam Lowenstein offers a bold reassessment of the modern horror film and the idea of national cinema.
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Adam Lowenstein's Shocking Representation transforms our sense of the horror film by knocking down traditional distinctions. The terrain of his analysis is international and he treats art films alongside low-budget exploitation films. Ultimately Lowenstein traces the horror in these films back to that nightmare from which we are all struggling to awakenthe history of the twentieth century.
Adam Lowenstein's meditations on the relation between historical trauma and the spectatorial trauma of horror films allow us to see these films, this history, and indeed ourselves in a new light. Shocking Representation should be urgent reading for all those curious about the fundamental questions of psyche, history, and cinema. It is filled with insights which will be of value not only to scholars but to intellectually adventurous film viewers and makers.
Shocking Representation is an original and convincing study of how history shapes the modes of cinematic horror and fantasy. Through sensitive critical analysis, Lowenstein shows how specific historical traumas are expressed both consciously and unconsciously in a variety of films; in the process he enables us to see these films in a new way, and he repeatedly deepens our appreciation of their artistry.