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March 9th, 2009


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12:02 pm - Distant Mirror
In Alan Bennett's play 'A Question of Attribution', the Queen says to Anthony Blunt that the fake old masters of past eras are really easy to spot, while current fakes look realistic to our eyes. Stephen Jay Gould says the same about the Piltdown hoax. The fakes were made for their time, to make sense to people of that time.

It's really obvious when you are watching historical films made in historical periods that the film is 'about' the era that it was made, as much as the era when it is set. It's particularly blatant in such matters as makeup and hair style. The Westerns of the 50s show 1950s people, with horses, the War Films of the sixties (Kelly's Heroes, say, or Where Eagles Dare) are fought by 1960s people.

There are a lot of TV shows set in the 1970s at the moment, and of course Watchmen is set in the 1980s (kind of). It's interesting to me because I was a teenager-to-adult during this period, and my memories of those days are quite different from what you see on telly.

Just as an example - during the 1970s there were flowers everywhere - Traffic islands and parks had floral displays and flowerbeds. Also the shops weren't protected by metal grilles or shutters at night. Also there were far fewer homeless people begging (in Darlington there was one guy, called Andy, who everyone knew). So public spaces were a lot more cheerful and much cleaner than you see in the programmes. A lot of what is shown as typical 'seventies' came later, in 1979 during the public service strikes, and then particularly in the early eighties with mass lay-offs and cuts.

I guarantee when they start having TV shows about the 1990s and 2000s you young 'uns will be posting on your blogs (or whatever they have by then) 'bah - it was nothing like that'.

(14 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:communicator
Date:March 9th, 2009 12:08 pm (UTC)
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I know, it's hilarious. They must be doing it on purpose in that one.
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[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:March 9th, 2009 01:19 pm (UTC)
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I haven't seen that. Of course 1970s America was very different IRL (ETA - I meant very different from England in the same decade). The stereotype would be more uninhibitedly sexy (pre-AIDs) and more dangerous to walk about the streets than it is now.

Edited at 2009-03-09 01:33 pm (UTC)
From:(Anonymous)
Date:March 9th, 2009 01:27 pm (UTC)

Hair

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"The Great Escape" - 1960s hairstyles much in evidence in 1940s POW camp :-)
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:March 9th, 2009 01:32 pm (UTC)

Re: Hair

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yes, David McCallum for instance looking very groovy
[User Picture]
From:sjkasabi
Date:March 9th, 2009 01:46 pm (UTC)
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Watchmen was interesting (and disturbing) to me precisely because it wasn't the eighties we actually lived in, but to quite an impressive extent, it was the eighties that was in the heads of all the teenager-to-adults I knew. That was pretty much the headspace that I used to make sense of, frex, Neuromancer and (New York-wise) The Equalizer. Life on Mars is interesting to me because it is a modern British tv version of the early seventies British tv I saw in the late seventies in Australia, reflecting on its relationship to the contemporary British crime drama I only occasionally watch while keeping my mother company these days.

I think being Australian possibly changes my relationship to both texts. My tv-and-movie viewing has always been mostly of British and American shows, and my project since before I can remember has been to figure out which of the weird bits are because it's tv and which are because it's not Australian. The first time I went to Britain, in 1992, I was quite consciously keen to compare the reality to the "this is probably real" picture I had built up.

Also, at least 1960s people did fight the Nazis. MLM has been quizzing the under twenty fives he knows, and most of them are fairly certain that world war two happened sometime in the thirties, and involved the Germans. As a product of children's literature largely designed to make sure I understood the issues of WWII, through however many filters, I am rather alarmed at the this, mostly because a lot of current affairs also have a rather 30s vibe to them, even before the pundits all miraculously converted to Keynesianism.
[User Picture]
From:sjkasabi
Date:March 9th, 2009 01:49 pm (UTC)
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PS - so is there a legit copy of A Question of Attribution available these days? I still have my dodgy VHS-off-the-telly copy, and I would love to replace it.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:March 9th, 2009 02:17 pm (UTC)
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I don't know, I was just quoting from memory, and knowing my memory I probably shouldn't risk it
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:March 9th, 2009 03:12 pm (UTC)
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In some ways Life on Mars is more sophisticated than Red Riding (although it's not as complex) because it's informed by that distancing; it knows it's about representations of the seventies not about the seventies. And I suppose silly films like Kelly's Heroes are similarly savvy about that distance.
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From:hawkeye7
Date:March 9th, 2009 09:01 pm (UTC)
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Of course the Oddball character is the obvious symbol of the movie's deliberate anachronistic streak. But Kelly's Heroes is also informed by people who lived through the 1940s. The military experience of the filmakers informs its thesis that armies are run by sergeants, not generals. You can see this when the shooting starts. It's one of very few movies that realistically portrays armour in action.
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From:hawkeye7
Date:March 9th, 2009 08:56 pm (UTC)
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Usually, what people later consider to be defining characteristics of a decade only appear in the last years of the decade, and more closely resemble the early years of the next. So 1968 and 1969 contain most of what is associated with the 1960s. (The big exception is the 1940s. The post-war half of the 1940s are largely forgotten.)

I don't know what the fascination is with the 1970s. When I was a kid, all the shows were set in the 1950s. ;)
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:March 10th, 2009 09:48 am (UTC)
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It is interesting to see films made in the early eighties (for instance) and some of them are really seventies films. Ditto films and TV shows from the first half of the nineties, which have people in board rooms making dels with big hair and shoulder pads 'Hey - get back to the eighties you anacronisms'. But they didn't know they were anacronisms. The decades had slipped and they didn't notice.
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From:pennski
Date:March 9th, 2009 09:09 pm (UTC)
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I love watching historical drama films from the 60's and spotting the curtains that got turned into outfits!
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From:communicator
Date:March 10th, 2009 09:52 am (UTC)
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A give-away for me is the big eye makeup combined with pale lips and floppy fringe of hair in the eyes - all women look like that in sixties films, even the Victorians, WAFs, cavemen etc.

Edited at 2009-03-10 09:52 am (UTC)

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