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film, geography of

  Film has been used by geographers as apparently accurate evidence of the appearance of people and places ever since its invention, and in the 1950s the Geographical Magazine ran a series of essays on various \'national\' cinemas which suggested that a nation\'s character was reflected in its films. However, the interest in film that developed among some geographers from the mid-1980s has refused to accept the claim that film reflects a reality in any simple way. Indeed, the distinction between the \'real\' world and the filmed world has been put into doubt by many geographers\' emphasis on \'the importance of cinematic representation to understanding our place in the world\' (Aitken and Zonn, 1994, p. 5). These geographers argue that movies provide maps of meaning with which the contemporary world can be navigated, and cinema is thus argued to be one of the most important institutions in constructing an increasingly visualized and spec-tacularized world (see also spectacle, geography of and vision and visuality). Nevertheless, these more recent geographies of film have varied greatly in their analytical, methodological and empirical approaches.

Some attention has been paid to the production of films. The film industry based in Los Angeles has been analysed as a highly localized flexible production system, for example, which contributes to a very specific place image: Hollywood (Scott, 1996). It has also been argued that the organization of production processes more generally profoundly shape the places and spaces represented in a film. Harvey (1989, p. 323), for example, claims that the time-space compression created by contemporary economic processes is reflected \'as in a mirror\' in what he sees as the chaotic, depthless and superficial spaces of certain movies made in Hollywood in the 1980s (see also postmodernity). Morley and Robins (1995), in contrast, although equally concerned with the production of film and other televisual media, pay more attention to the cultural politics shaping that production. In their case study, they argue that in the West these media work to sustain certain dominant visions of western cultural Identity through practices that are simultaneously economic and cultural; both the institutions of film production and the films themselves are the producers of cultural others.

The most frequent approach taken by geographers to date, however, is through case studies that focus on the geographies shown in particular films. Here, attention has been paid to constructions of space, place, nature, landscape, the nation-state and the urban, and the ways in which specific visions of these serve to sustain or contest particular notions of social difference, especially of class, race, gender and sexuality (Aitken and Zonn, 1993; Natter and Jones III, 1993; Hopkins, 1994; Natter, 1994; Rose, 1994; Gandy, 1996; Clarke, 1997). The methodologies informing these readings are diverse and often implicit. Emphasis is often placed on the film\'s narrative — how its story develops and displays relations between characters, environments and events — and some authors (Aitken and Zonn, 1993, 1994) advocate transaction theory as a method for focusing on scenes (\'image-events\') that disrupt and transform relations between the characters in the film and the environments they inhabit. The use of semiotics has also been advocated (Hopkins, 1994), which entails a careful analysis of the structure of filmic signs and their symbolization of cultural meaning. Another methodological emphasis pays most attention to the formal visual and spatial characteristics of the film in question. This approach considers such filmic geographies to be especially important because it is through them that every film invites the production of only certain kinds of audience. A number of film critics have critically explored this intersection between the spaces of particular movies with the spaces of subject formation (see for example Clover, 1992; de Lauretis, 1994; Kaplan, 1997). Thus far, however, little attention has been paid to the ways in which specific audiences negotiate or refuse the positions offered to them by particular films. Watching a film is a complex experience in which the space in which the film is being seen — the cinema, for example — intersects with both the geographies represented in the film and the senses of space, place, nature and so on that the audience already has. As well as this uninterest in audiences, it is evident too that, so far, geographers have paid most attention to narrative films and to films made in the West. Thus as Aitken and Zonn (1994) remark, many geographies of film remain only partially explored (cf. media, geography of). (GR)

References Aitken, S.C. and Zonn, L.E. 1993: Weir(d) sex: the representation of gender-environment relations in Peter Weir\'s Picnic at Hanging Rock and Gallipoli. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 11: 191-212. Aitken, S.C. and Zonn, L.E. 1994: Re-presenting the place pastiche. In S.C. Aitken and L.E. Zonn, eds, Place, power, situation and spectacle: a geography of film. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 3-26. Clarke, D.B., ed., 1997: The cinematic city. London: Routledge; Clover, C.J. 1992: Men, women and chainsaws: gender in the modern horror film. London: British Film Institute. De Lauretis, T. 1994: The practice of love: lesbian desire and perverse sexuality. Bloomington: Indian University Press. Gandy, M. 1996: Visions of darkness: the representation of nature in the films of Werner Herzog. Ecumene 3: 1-21. Harvey, D. 1989: The condition of postmodernity: an enquiry into the origins of cultural change. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Hopkins, J. 1994: Mapping of cinematic spaces: icons, ideology, and the power of (mis)representation. In S.C. Aitken and L.E. Zonn, eds, Place, power, situation and spectacle: a geography of film. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 47-65. Kaplan, E.A. 1997: Looking for the other: nation, woman and desire in film. London: Routledge. Morley, D. and Robins, K. 1995: Spaces of identity: global media, electronic landscapes and cultural boundaries. London: Routledge. Natter, W. 1994: The city as cinematic space: modernism and place in Berlin, Symphony of a City. In S.C. Aitken and L.E. Zonn, eds, Place, power, situation and spectacle: a geography of film. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 203-28. Natter, W. and Jones III, J.P. 1993: Pets or meat: class, ideology and space in Roger and Me. Antipode 25: 140-58. Rose, G. 1994: The cultural politics of place: local representation and oppositional discourse in two films. Transactions, Institute of British Geographers NS 19: 46-60. Scott, A.J. 1996: The craft, fashion and cultural products industries of Los Angeles: competitive dynamics and policy dilemmas in a multisectoral image-producing complex. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 86: 306-23.



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