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17th March 2004Film and History
By Sheldon Hall
Anyone interested in the topic of cinematic dramatisations of history might be interested in buying or browsing the new issue of the American film magazine CINEASTE, vol. XXIX, no. 2, which features a substantial (42 pages) section on Film and History.

Contributions include Robert A. Rosenstone's 'Inventing Historical Truth on the Silver Screen'; Robert Brent Toplin's 'Cinematic History: An Anatomy of the Genre'; Mark C. Carnes' 'Shooting (Down) the Past: Historians vs. Hollywood'; articles on set and costume design, and a collection of answers to questions posed to documentary and narrative filmmakers and historians. Sample response from filmmaker/film historian Kevin Brownlow: "I will say the unsayable. There has never been an entirely accurate historical film. I should know; I've tried to make one. You cannot squeeze into two hours - or even five and a half - the complexities that occur in real life. Hundreds of minor ripples have to be transformed into one or two big waves." (p. 61)

There are also lists compiled by the editors of their ten favourite historical films (including LAWRENCE OF ARABIA), ten worst (including John Wayne's THE ALAMO - boo!) and ten funniest (including DR STRANGELOVE, though how that counts as historical I don't know), plus a lengthy list of further reading.

I've not had time yet to read it all, having only bought the mag today (it retails in the US for $6, and I got it in Sheffield for about 3.50), but there does not seem to be a mention in the supplement of ZULU (damn!). However, the same issue contains an interview with Michael Caine, in which he briefly discusses the British critical response to his accent as Bromhead and to his work generally. Sample: "When I went out to do interviews, immediately every critic said, 'I knew he was a Cockney anyway.' No one did, of course; I had been doing that accent for years in rep. In rep, you were always playing Lord Ponce or some bloody part like that." (p. 6)

As I was not a contributor to the issue, I hope this posting won't be regarded by Alan and Peter as a commercial 'plug'! The articles in the magazine should provide an excellent basis for further discussion of some of the topics recently raised by other messages in the forum.

Sheldon Hall
19th March 2004Leigh Tarrant
Thanks Sheldon - Will track it down here in London. Did you ever read the amazing article a few years back in 'Movie Collecto'r magazine about the making of Zulu?? It had some nice behind the scenes pics in...
19th March 2004Diana Blackwell
I'm very interested in the magazine you mention. Do you happen to know the issue number of publication date?
20th March 2004Diana Blackwell
That should be "OR publication date".