THE REAL EIGHTIES: AMERICAN CINEMA, 1980-89
Austrian Film Museum / 8 May to 23 June 2013
|Someone to Watch Over Me (Ridley Scott, 1987)|
The Real Eighties forges routes through the cinematic decade, taking no less interest in the small careers of forgotten masters (James B. Harris, Amy Heckerling, Bill Forsyth) than in the seemingly minor works of the much-acclaimed (Someone to Watch Over Me by Ridley Scott, 1987; Thief by Michael Mann, 1981; The King of Comedy by Martin Scorsese, 1983). The programme follows the trails of some defining actors (Mickey Rourke, Debra Winger, Jeff Bridges) but also attempts to restore missed opportunities and lost chances to the canonical course of film history: what would today’s blockbuster look like, for instance, if John Carpenter’s melancholy sci-fi-roadmovie Starman (1984) or Frank LaLoggia’s wondrous kiddie horror film Lady in White (1988) had served as the genre’s blueprint, rather than Star Wars and E.T.?
The first half of the decade saw a crop of films about the white underclass; films not yet caught up in clichés of “white trash”. Neither kitchen-sink dramas nor social problem films, they crafted poetic, intimate views of people left behind. From this group of works The Real Eighties presents Bruce Beresford’s country-melodrama Tender Mercies (1983) and the female-wrestling-epic ...All the Marbles (1981) by Robert Aldrich. A related cycle of films set among carneys and showmen depicts moments of uprooting and existential isolation amidst established genre formulae: Bronco Billy (1980) by Clint Eastwood and Knightriders (1981) by George A. Romero celebrate – possibly for the last time – an America under the open sky.
Hollywood in the eighties is widely thought of as a cinema of complaisant surfaces. The Real Eighties counters this preconception with a series of precipitous Film noirs that, while intimating a fundamental scepticism of the illusory nature of images, occasionally give in to their seductive qualities – among them Brian De Palma’s Blow Out (1981), James Bridges’ forgotten masterpiece Mike’s Murder (1984), and Paul Schrader’s American Gigolo (1980), a thriller-treatise on the commodification of the (male) body.
Genre cinema, more narrowly defined, also underwent a renaissance during the eighties. The Real Eighties strives to salvage, from horror, sci-fi and police films, elements of a resistant materiality within that much-maligned decade. Particular attention will be paid to the evolution of film comedy, from its unruly, anarchic incarnations at the dawn of the eighties (Airplane! by Zucker, Abrahams & Zucker, 1980; Fast Times at Ridgemont High by Amy Heckerling, 1982); to the solitary oeuvre of Albert Brooks, that other great neurotic of American cinema (Modern Romance, 1981); and through to those John Hughes penned comedies of (teenage) manners which came to define the latter half of the decade (Some Kind of Wonderful by Howard Deutch, 1987).
Constellating these films and many more (in its entirety the programme will comprise over 45 titles), The Real Eighties campaigns for a critical redemption of the 1980s’ cinematic output by virtue of its own images, which counter the much-heralded loss of reality with realities of their own.
For a list of films click here.