Marxism



THE 1960s AND AFTER

During the Vietnam War, which by the late 1960s brought a major wave of dissent in the United States, the Hollywood cinema tended to portray a society on the verge of disintegration: Arthur Penn's The Chase (1965) and Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Dennis Hopper's Easy Rider (1969), and Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch (1969). Penn's Alice's Restaurant (1969) showed sympathy for the youth counterculture of the 1960s. During the 1970s audiences that had witnessed the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal were drawn to disaster films such as Earthquake and The Towering Inferno (1974), whose pleasures resided in watching the destruction of symbols of mainstream society. In the horror genre, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and Dawn of the Dead (1978) portrayed the monstrousness of post-Vietnam America. Several films examined the war and its consequences, the most famous of which are The Deer Hunter (1978) and Apocalypse Now (1979). In the late 1980s, Oliver Stone (b. 1946) made two films about the war, Platoon (1986) and Born on the Fourth of July (1989), showing the coming-apart of American myth and the social confidence that permitted the war to occur. A common critical view of Marxist film scholars is that few if any Vietnam films examine the role of imperialism and colonialism in shaping war policy.

The Hollywood cinema from the 1960s until the presidency of Ronald Reagan (1981–1989) tended to offer challenges to the American ideological system that sometimes had obvious Marxist aspects. This was due in part to the collapse of the studio system, the rise of independent cinema, and the American crisis in ideological confidence. The tendencies of this new cinema may be best represented in Heaven's Gate (Michael Cimino, 1980), an epic rethinking of the Western that saw the winning of the West as class struggle. A new, corporatized studio system developed in the 1980s and 1990s, and adversarial cinema saw a gradual demise simultaneous with the public embrace of the status quo following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Still, challenges to the political-economic-social order, sometimes of a limited or compromised nature, occasionally appear in the commercial cinema of the new century, including, among others, the films of Todd Haynes, David O. Russell's Three Kings (1997), and David Fincher's Fight Club (1999).

SEE ALSO Class ; Ideology ; Russia and Soviet Union

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Christopher Sharrett



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