Seminar : The film musical and its spectacular models: Between "retro" and avant-garde
Some Thursdays at 5pm
University Paris-Diderot (Map)
Salle Pierre Albouy (Bat. des grands moulins, 6th floor)
This seminar will consider the film musical as a potential source of tension and negociation between retro and avant-garde spectacular forms, models and traditions. Film musicals inherited this artistic and cultural opposition from their Broadway sources, but re-inscribed it in the history of film technologies.
The film musical has very often been at the forefront of technological innovation and modernity. However, choreographic and spectacular forms showcased in classical Hollywood musicals show the influence of almost contradictory cultural models: choreographic avant-garde and Broadway modernity (Bob Fosse, Jerome Robbins...) may coexist with older or vernacular traditions (jazz dance, tap or ballroom dancing, lingering vaudeville elements...). The music of Broadway shows may refer to classical or older styles or may focus on modern innovations (with Bernstein, for instance). In the 1930s, some of Busby Berkeley’s most famous numbers rely on special effects and techniques that had been used before in Broadway popular revues.
The seminar sessions will thus study the cultural conflict between “retro” and avant-garde as a trope of the Broadway musical, and investigate how film musicals remodeled it as a theme (backstage stories), an artistic ambition (the legacy of theatrical esthetics) or a technological issue.