According to Geoff King, author of New Hollywood Cinema, there is no single definition of his subject. This is convenient for King, who goes on to offer several definitions but no real conclusions. New Hollywood cinema is: the art cinema that emerged in the 1960s, innovative and experimental; today's world of the comic-book blockbuster; Travis Bickle, Harry Caul, Luke Skywalker, Indiana Jones AND Buzz Lightyear; independent production AND the conglomerates. You get the idea.
What King does do, and this is less reductive but more comprehensive than any single definition, is place Hollywood in terms of stylistic, industrial and socio-historical contexts, focusing on two periods: the radical film-making that emerged in the mid-to-late 1960s and the type of movies that took over in the 1980s, blockbusters produced by the giant, profit-hungry media empires that now control the studios. Looking first at radical movies such as Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Taxi Driver (1976) and The Graduate (1967) as stylistically innovative, but also as a response to social upheavals in the US, King then progresses to what the franchise driven nature of Toy Story (1995) says about Hollywood and audiences today. Along the way he examines the history of market forces, genre, star power, narrative and ancillary markets.
King is perhaps at his best when deconstructing individual films and film-makers, finding something interesting to say about even Hollywood's most unimaginative product. His analysis of Godzilla (1998), all 23 pages of it, really brings the film alive in way that, some would argue, Hollywood failed to. Wide ranging and up-to-date (there are references to Harry Potter and the events of September 11 2001), New Hollywood Cinema is aimed firmly at media studies students and, while rarely a thrilling read, is as solid and comprehensive as can be expected.
Reviewed by Monika Maurer