By J. P. Telotte
Technology fiction movies rejoice and critique the impression of a burgeoning expertise at the world's cultural, political, and social milieu.
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Extra info for A Distant Technology: Science Fiction Film and the Machine Age
From its earlier status as a curiosity or simple entertainment for the lower classes, from a "cinema of attractions," it became a worldwide medium of general communication and artistic expression. In this period too technology abruptly changed film's form, as the various apparatuses for sound recording, synchronization, and amplification converged, forcing a medium that had developed a highly conventional and effective practice of silent communication to shift gears, to acquire a voice, and in the process to explore new approaches to narration.
And when offered the solution of being fed by a product of the period's much-trumpeted efficiency movement, an automatic feeding machine, the tramp fares no better. Battered and beaten by the machine as it runs amuck, the tramp at one point even has bolts pushed into his mouth perhaps the most appropriate food for someone who has become little more than an extension of the machine. By the end of the day, as the line has gotten faster and faster, it also produces a psychological fallout, as the tramp, just like the feeding machine, goes haywire, tightening everything on which his wrenches can be fitted: the noses of his coworkers, the bolts on a fire hydrant, the buttons on prominant parts of a woman's dress.
In that bellwether of an emerging Russian cinema, Battleship Potemkin (1925), the modern steel warship is a site of oppression and dehumanization in the hands of the Czar's officers, as well as a sign of the people's power and revolutionary spirit once it is commandeered by mutinying sailors. René Clair's social commentary A Nous la liberté (1930) on the one hand presents the modern manufacturing system, complete with its Fordian assembly line, as the surest sign of its escaped-convict protagonist's successful movement into the modern world and attainment of wealth and social standing.
A Distant Technology: Science Fiction Film and the Machine Age by J. P. Telotte