70s5. Class, Masculinity and the Musical Saturday Night Fever


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70s5. Class, Masculinity and the Musical Saturday Night Fever

  1. 1. US Cinema of the 1970s: Class, Masculinity, and the Musical Saturday Night Fever Prof. Julia Leyda September 10, 2013
  2. 2. quiz Describe the dance contest scene in Saturday Night Fever in as much detail as you can: costumes, lighting, performances, music, and of course, plot.
  3. 3. the Hollywood musical  technology: first musical = first sound film The Jazz Singer (1927)  two varieties of storyline:  backstage musical: characters are ambitious singers and/or dancers who perform in the story world, 42nd Street (1933)  straight musical: characters sing and dance in their everyday lives, Singin’ in the Rain (1952)  usually a romance plot and/or a children’s story; sometimes also a biopic of a performer  frequent use of long shots and long takes to portray the skill of the performers
  4. 4. disco in American culture  “discotheque” dance club that played only recorded music (discs, records)  started among Latino, black, and gay subcultures  associated with flashy, expensive fashions  influenced by soul, funk, and Latin musical styles  love / hate relationship with disco: punk backlash  rejected by homophobic rock fans as “sissy”  Saturday Night Fever the biggest disco movie
  5. 5. disco in Saturday Night Fever  best-selling soundtrack album, the Bee Gees  seen as the biggest disco movie  gay origins of disco contrast with macho, Catholic, Italian-American working-class characters  disco dancing in tradition of Hollywood showbiz movies as a vehicle for upward mobility  disco as escapist fantasy world for youth
  6. 6. working-class representations  father unemployed, mother and grandmother at home  Italian-American culture: proud, loud, violent  recession economy: always talking about jobs and money  Tony’s ambivalence about upward mobility: Manhattan? or “fuck the future?”  Stephanie’s striving to move up
  7. 7. Italian American ethnicity  1876-1924: 4.5 million immigrants to US  traditional Italian cultural values  food and drink  family (patriarchy)  Catholic church  the arts  common stereotypes in American film and media  friendly small business owner (restaurant, street vendor)  anarchist (Sacco and Vanzetti 1927)  “Latin Lover” (Rudolph Valentino)  Mafia gangster
  8. 8. clip analysis  Tony argues with boss, primps in the mirror  Describe the atmosphere at Tony’s job and home.  What signs of class, sexuality, and ethnicity are visible in these scenes?  How is music used in this clip?
  9. 9. visual style  editing: cross-cutting between Tony styling his hair and dancing in the disco  cinematography: unusual camera angles, close framing in family scenes, wide angles in dance scenes  mise-en-scene: gritty realistic street look in Brooklyn contrasts with fantasy sci-fi world of disco (2001 Odyssey)  costuming: emphasis on fashion and appearance
  10. 10. clip analysis  Tony arrives at the disco, dances with Annette  Describe the atmosphere of the disco compared to other places in the movie.  Describe Tony’s relationships with the other characters.  How is music used in this scene?
  11. 11. sexuality  unusual male vanity: mirror, muscles, hair, clothes  position of spectator watching Tony  displays of male body: dancing, object of desire and female aggression  male friendships and bonding = homosocial, rejection of homosexuality  aggressive heterosexuality and machismo  group rape scene
  12. 12. discussion question  What did you think of the rape scene? Why is it in the movie?
  13. 13. reception  middle-class reviewers saw Tony as animalistic and primitive, but attractive  Tony’s physical narcissism marks him as sexual, in heterosexual context  disco’s roots in gay culture need to be disavowed by homophobic Tony and friends
  14. 14. class and sexuality  Derek Nystrom: “the spectacularization of the male body … was more than just a mainstreaming of homoerotic forms from an emergent gay culture…. It was also a symptom of middle-class desire for working-class embodiment, which takes an unusual degree of visual pleasure in the allegedly unself-conscious physicality of these bodies.”
  15. 15. discussion questions  Italian American culture was very visible in 70s movies: The Godfather series and Rocky, stars such as Al Pacino, John Travolta, and Robert De Niro. Why do you think this white ethnic group was suddenly in the spotlight at this time?  Describe Tony’s and Stephanie’s attitudes toward upward class mobility, and relate them to the ending of the movie.  Compare representations of working-class characters in Dog Day Afternoon to Saturday Night Fever. How are they similar? How are they different?