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The Cinema and Its Shadow

Race and Technology in Early Cinema

2013
Author:

Alice Maurice

The Cinema and Its Shadow

How race shaped the fundamental formal and technological means of the cinema

The Cinema and Its Shadow argues that race has defined the cinematic apparatus since the earliest motion pictures, especially at times of technological transition. Discussing early “race subjects,” Alice Maurice demonstrates that these films influenced cinematic narrative in lasting ways by helping to determine the relation between stillness and motion, spectacle and narrative drive.

The Cinema and Its Shadow will make it impossible to teach and write about the narrative/technological history of cinema without paying attention to race. This is a wonderful book.

Sabine Haenni, author of The Immigrant Scene: Ethnic Amusements in New York, 1880-1920

The Cinema and Its Shadow argues that race has defined the cinematic apparatus since the earliest motion pictures, especially at times of technological transition. In particular, this work explores how racial difference became central to the resolving of cinematic problems: the stationary camera, narrative form, realism, the synchronization of image and sound, and, perhaps most fundamentally, the immaterial image—the cinema’s “shadow,” which figures both the material reality of the screen image and its racist past.

Discussing early “race subjects,” Alice Maurice demonstrates that these films influenced cinematic narrative in lasting ways by helping to determine the relation between stillness and motion, spectacle and narrative drive. The book examines how motion picture technology related to race, embodiment, and authenticity at specific junctures in cinema’s development, including the advent of narratives, feature films, and sound. In close readings of such films as The Cheat, Shadows, and Hallelujah!, Maurice reveals how the rhetoric of race repeatedly embodies film technology, endowing it with a powerful mix of authenticity and magic. In this way, the racialized subject became the perfect medium for showing off, shoring up, and reintroducing the cinematic apparatus at various points in the history of American film.

Moving beyond analyzing race in purely thematic or ideological terms, Maurice traces how it shaped the formal and technological means of the cinema.

The Cinema and Its Shadow

Alice Maurice is associate professor of English at the University of Toronto. Her articles have appeared in journals including Camera Obscura, Moving Image, and Cinema Journal.

The Cinema and Its Shadow

The Cinema and Its Shadow will make it impossible to teach and write about the narrative/technological history of cinema without paying attention to race. This is a wonderful book.

Sabine Haenni, author of The Immigrant Scene: Ethnic Amusements in New York, 1880-1920

An excellent volume for anyone interested in early cinema, racial representation, and cinematic technology.

CHOICE

Alice Maurice’s scholarship is deftly written and phenomenally useful to those who study American racism.

Journal of American Culture

Presents a challenging and unique approach not only to black film studies and Asian film studies but also to the study of cinema as a whole.

Black Camera

The Cinema and Its Shadow

Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: Embodying Cinema

1. Performing Body, Performing Image: Race and the Boundaries of Early Cinematic Narrative
2. Face, Race, and Screen: Close-ups and the Transition to the Feature Film
3. Recasting Shadows: Race, Image, and Audience
4. “Cinema at Its Source”: Synchronizing Race and Sound in the Early Talkies
Conclusion: RED, White, and Blue: Digital Cinema, Race, and Avatar

Notes
Filmography
Index

The Cinema and Its Shadow

UMP blog - Will 2012 be remembered in cinematic history as the year Peter Jackson's The Hobbit introduced us to new technology?

With the release of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in December, technology took center stage.

And when it comes to the movies, that’s not always a good thing.

In addition to some negative reactions to the news that Tolkien’s single book would be adapted into three parts, many found fault with the film’s look. Jackson shot the film in a digital format (on Red’s “Epic” digital cinema camera), and in 3D, but he also chose to shoot at 48 frames per second—twice the standard rate of 24 fps—and the movie was projected at this frame rate in select theaters. Jackson insisted that this would provide a truer, more immersive 3D experience, but the response was mixed at best. While some praised the clarity and immersive quality, others thought it simply looked like television.

Read the full article.