Sunday, July 31, 2011

J. Hoberman: An Army of Phantoms (a book)

J. Hoberman: An Army of Phantoms. American Movies and the Making of the Cold War. New York, London: The New Press, 2011. Summer reading at Punkaharju, July 2011.

An Army of Phantoms is J. Hoberman's new entry to a projected trilogy of books on American movies in the light of American politics during the Cold War. The first book published, The Dream Life, was dedicated to the Sixties. A final planned volume will take us to the fall of the Wall.

In An Army of Phantoms, the theme is the beginning of the Cold War, and the era discussed is 1946-1956. The Iron Curtain, the nuclear race, the Korean war, the black list, and the Eisenhower years are among the topics. They are reflected in science fiction (aliens from outer space), juvenile delinquency films, Westerns, Biblical epics, and films noirs (Pickup on South Street, Kiss Me Deadly).

In his sober prose J. Hoberman has the talent of finding the absurdity in real life. What actually happened in world politics and Hollywood was often as surreal as the most bizarre inventions of Hollywood fiction. Yet the film discussed in the introduction is The Next Voice You Hear (1950), where God instructs America via radio. The prologue is dedicated to one of the strangest films ever made in Hollywood, Mission to Moscow (1942).

There is new insight into well-known films such as High Noon, Quo Vadis, Rebel without a Cause, and The Searchers. Inspiring reading for anyone interested in popular culture.

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