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Publishers Weekly, 2001-08-06 This impressionistic, illuminating and sometimes infuriating analysis of '50s films is an exquisite oddity: an investigation of popular culture that is as personal in its vision as it is scholarly in its range, as compulsively readable as it is detailed and exhaustive. Harvey's wide-ranging knowledge of films of the era dovetails beautifully with his ability to pinpoint "epiphanies" the recurring "fleeting scene of detail that carries such a sudden pressure of meaning and beauty... it could implode the movie screen." Rather then simply cataloguing films by themes or genre, Harvey (Romantic Comedy) takes on the far more difficult task of examining them through a prism of conflated, often conflicted views to attempt to understand their myriad sources and meanings. This ambitious project is at times enormously successful, as when he moves seamlessly through a discussion of the role of "the blonde" in '50s films, noting not only performances by Doris Day, Marilyn Monroe, Judy Holliday, Grace Kelly, Gloria Graham and Kim Novak, but also the contexts in which their films were made, their personal lives and their public images. Other times as when he provocatively suggests that Marlon Brando, James Dean and Montgomery Clift projected a "homoerotic charge" he seems overwhelmed by the complexity and implications of his arguments, leaving the reader feeling shortchanged. Though ostensibly about "love," much of the book is actually about "gender"; Harvey draws on (but rarely mentions) a history and tradition of feminist film criticism. Yet when he spends a sustained amount of time on a film usually cult favorites like Nicholas Ray's Johnny Guitar or Robert Siodmack's Phantom Lady his analytic method produces extraordinary results. (Oct.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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