Middlebrow Cinema  book cover
1st Edition

Middlebrow Cinema

Edited By

Sally Faulkner

ISBN 9781138777132
Published April 12, 2016 by Routledge
238 Pages

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Book Description

Middlebrow Cinema challenges an often uninterrogated hostility to middlebrow culture that frequently dismisses it as conservative, which it often is not, and feminized or middle-class, which it often is. The volume defines the term relationally against shifting concepts of ‘high’ and ‘low’, and considers its deployment in connection with text, audience and institution.

In exploring the concept of the middlebrow, this book recovers films that were widely meaningful to contemporary audiences, yet sometimes overlooked by critics interested in popular and arthouse extremes. It also addresses the question of socially-mobile audiences, who might express their aspirations through film-watching; and traces the cultural consequences of the movement of films across borders and between institutions.

The first study of its kind, the volume comprises 11 original essays that test the purchase of the term ‘middlebrow’ across cultures, including those of Europe, Asia and the Americas, from the 1930s to the present day. Middlebrow Cinema brings into view a popular and aspirational - and thus especially relevant and dynamic - area of film and film culture. Ideal for students and researchers in this area, this book:

  • Remaps ‘Popular’ and ‘arthouse’ approaches
  • Explores British, Chinese, French, Indian, Mexican, Spanish ‘national’ cinemas alongside Continental, Hollywood, Queer, Transnational cinemas
  • Analyses Biopic, Heritage, Historical Film, Melodrama, Musical, Sex Comedy genres.

Table of Contents

Introduction Approaching the Middlebrow: Audience; Text; Institution

Sally Faulkner

Part I Mapping Middlebrow

1. Hollywood Middlebrow: A Dialectical Approach to 1940s Cinema

Chris Cagle

2. Middlebrow Taste: Towards a New Middle Class — A Certain Tendency of 1950s French Cinema

Susan Hayward

3. Mumbai Middlebrow: Ways of Thinking About the Middle Ground in Hindi Cinema

Rachel Dwyer

Part II Case Studies

4. Time and the Middlebrow in 1940s British Cinema

Lawrence Napper

5. Rehearsing for Democracy in Dictatorship Spain: Middlebrow Period Drama 1970-77

Sally Faulkner

6. The Mexican Romantic Sex Comedy: The Emergence of Mexican Middlebrow Filmmaking in the 1990s

Deborah Shaw

7. Wealth and Justice: Contemporary Chinese Middlebrow Cinema

Ting Guo

8. Counter-Heritage, Niddlebrow and the fiction patrimoniale: Reframing ‘Middleness’ in the Contemporary French Historical Film

Will Higbee

9. Radical Politics, Middlebrow Cinema: Salvador (Puig Antich) and the Search for a New Consensus

Belén Vidal

Part III Middlebrow across Borders

10. ‘Kings of the Middle Way’: Continental Cinema on British Screens

Lucy Mazdon

11. Hypotheses on the Queer Middlebrow

Rosalind Galt and Karl Schoonover

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Sally Faulkner is Professor of Hispanic Studies and Film Studies at the University of Exeter, and author of Literary Adaptations in Spanish Cinema (2004), A Cinema of Contradiction: Spanish Film in the 1960s (2006) and A History of Spanish Film: Cinema and Society 1910-2010 (2013).


A volume to be praised for the “scope of its ambition”, arguing for “the need to continue historicising the middlebrow label even as we may find it increasingly useful in both film scholarship and media studies more broadly. The variegated but uniformly high-quality chapters in this collection manage on the whole to navigate this delicate line with admirable balance”

New Cinemas: Journal of Contemporary Film, 17, 1, 2020, 122-25.