Review by Choice Review
Appearing after a spate of historical and theoretical studies about historical and biographical films, this introduction to the Hollywood historical film is particularly welcome and useful. Specialists and generalists alike will find much to applaud. Drawing on his Film Nation: Hollywood Looks at U.S. History (CH, Apr'98, 35-4397) and the spadework of Robert Rosenstone (published in, for example, Visions of the Past, CH, Jan'96, 33-2651), Burgoyne (Wayne State Univ.) adopts a semantic approach in arguing for the dramatic historical film as a "broadly identified" genre. He breaks the genre into subcategories, devoting a chapter to each: "The War Film" (focusing on Saving Private Ryan), "The Epic Film" (Spartacus), "The Biographical Film" (Schindler's List), "The Metahistorical Film" (JFK), and "The Topical Film" (United 93 and World Trade Center). "What roots [these films] in the larger category of the historical film," writes Bourgoyne, "is their basis in the documentable past, and their shared project of making the world of the past knowable and visible." Taken together, they provide "a working model of how history is represented in the American cinema." The chapter on the metahistorical film, with its examination of the postmodern blurring of the lines between "consensual reality" and "speculative history," is especially valuable. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty. J. C. Tibbetts University of Kansas
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