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The New German Cinema: Music, History, and the Matter of Style

eBooks - Movie
September 13 2008

The New German Cinema: Music, History, and the Matter of StyleWhen New German cinema directors like R. W. Fassbinder, Ulrike Ottinger, and Werner Schroeter explored issues of identity--national, political, personal, and sexual--music and film style played crucial roles. Most studies of the celebrated film movement, however, have sidestepped the role of music, a curious oversight given its importance to German culture and nation formation. Caryl Flinn's study reverses this trend, identifying styles of historical remembrance in which music participates. Flinn concentrates on those styles that urge listeners to interact with difference--including that embodied in Germany's difficult history--rather than to "master" or "get past" it.

Flinn breaks new ground by considering contemporary reception frameworks of the New German Cinema, a generation after its end. She discusses transnational, cultural, and historical contexts as well as the sexual, ethnic, national, and historical diversity of audiences. Through detailed case studies, she shows how music helps filmgoers engage with a range of historical subjects and experiences.

Each chapter of The New German Cinema examines a particular stylistic strategy, assessing music's role in each. The study also examines queer strategies like kitsch and camp and explores the movement's charged construction of human bodies on which issues of ruination, survival, memory, and pleasure are played out.

From the Inside Flap
"An original, intelligent, and insightful book. Over the past twenty years, the New German Cinema has been the topic of some of our most sophisticated studies of memory, history, and political identity. Flinn extends, deepens, and expands on this work to offer necessary insights about music, cinema, and national identity in postwar Germany.

With wit, rigor, and an engaging prose style, Flinn exposes the New German Cinema in its ability to dramatize a commitment to historical memory that is not sentimental, romanticized, or fueled by nationalist fervor. This is a remarkably innovative, transformative, and important work."--Patrice Petro, author of Aftershocks of the New: Feminism & Film History

"Using the musical soundtrack as her 'Auftakt,' Caryl Flinn revisits melodrama and melancholia, camp and kitsch, and memory and shock in the works of such filmmakers as Fassbinder, Kluge, Ottinger, Treut, and Schroeter. The resulting intellectual counterpoint is dazzling. In the wake of this articulate analysis, the New German Cinema will never be the same again. In these 'leaden times' of ours, Flinn reminds us of the hope that an alternative aesthetics has to offer."--Alice Kuzniar, Professor of German and Comparative Literature, author of The Queer German Cinema

Read The New German Cinema: Music, History, and the Matter of Style Online

Paperback: 352 pages
Author: Caryl Flinn
Publisher: University of California Press; 1 edition (February 9, 2004)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0520238230
ISBN-13: 978-0520238237

1. Historical Predecessors
  1. Mourning, Melancholia, and "New German Melodrama"
  2. Modernism's Aftershocks
2. Music and the Materials of History
  3. Kluge's Assault on History
  4. Undoing Act 5
3. Queering History Through  Camp and Kitsch
  5. Restaging History with Fantasy
  6. Introjecting Kitsch

About the Author:
Caryl Flinn is Associate Professor of Women's Studies at the University of Arizona. She is the author of Strains of Utopia: Nostalgia, Gender, and Hollywood Film Music (1992) and coeditor of Music and Cinema (2001).


The relationship between history and film style and music is a long and uneven one. It tends to heat up when exaggerated, nonverisimilitudinous forms are used with "serious" or sensitive subject matter. Critics found One Day in September (McDonald, 1999), the recent documentary on the Black September terrorists who disrupted the 1972 Munich Olympics, too "MTV-like" in its sensationalized display of the victims, its flashy editing, and hard rock score. Putting aside its judgment of the film, this critique presumes that an "appropriate" form of music and style existed for the film, but was not selected.

It also implies that music and style do something to history, and that whatever that is, it is bad. The present study, by contrast, maintains that memory and history do not exist without style, which I see as a constitutive feature of all forms of representation. But what are the links between them? How does one form of remembrance become more readily stylized than another? How do music and style connect—or disconnect—past and present? How do they prompt filmgoers to engage with the past, and with the experiences of others?

In recent decades, filmmakers, scholars, and filmgoers have all become increasingly aware of the importance of style—and music, thanks in part to music television channels like MTV—in the cinema, and in visual culture more generally. Today, countries around the world produce films that are awash in self-conscious style, dominated by special effects and computer-generated imagery. We have ironic eye-winking references to other films; action and artifice go hand in hand; camp has gone mainstream. Cinema's very definitional boundaries are blurring as film intersects with digital culture, which in turn has provided new distribution and exhibition venues, as well as new forms and patterns of consumption.

This kind of formal self-awareness, moreover, occurs at a time scholars characterize as the "end of history," one conceptualized as just so many competing surfaces or one replaced altogether by desultory, nostalgic yearning. Given that context, the relationship among history, memory, and style remains as critical—and as vexed—as ever. ...

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