Jonathan Kirshner on Hollywood

by Henry Farrell on May 3, 2013 · 3 comments

in Blogs

A bit of a departure from our usual fare – Cornell IPE scholar Jonathan Kirshner has a new book out on Hollywood movies of the 1970s, Hollywood’s Last Golden Age: Politics, Society, and the Seventies Film in America. His main interest is in exploring the relationship between movies such as Point Blank and Chinatown and social and political change at a moment when Hollywood movies were more prepared to explore complex issues than they are today. Unsurprisingly perhaps, the best parts of the book are those that look at the intersection between movies and politics – it is particularly good on the ways in which movies intersected with Nixon’s final years -in Kirshner’s words, “Richard Nixon haunts the seventies film.” Nixon’s decision to invade Cambodia was reportedly fortified by several viewings of the movie Patton, but more important, and explored in different ways in multiple chapters, is the contribution he made to a general feeling of paranoia in Hollywood movies. Kirshner argues that Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part II can be seen as aversion of Nixon – “ruthless, tactically brilliant, but increasingly isolated within an ever smaller circle of intimate advisers.” Obviously, All the President’s Men is Nixonian, but so too The Conversation, which Kirshner sees as in a certain sense “not about Nixon at all, but what the age of Nixon had taken away.” The other themes of the book – sexual politics, changing personal relations and so on are well handled, but it’s the specific political linkages which make the book stand out, integrating detailed discussion of political change with the ways in which these changes were reflected and refracted in the movies. The book is a good companion to e.g. Rick Perlstein’s Nixonland. Recommended.

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