19-20 DT2206: Paranoia Film in the long 1970s

John Frankenheimer's 'nerve-beating masterpiece' The Manchurian Candidate (1962), which had as its themes brainwashing, political power, the use of mind-altering drugs on soldiers, and assassination, was among the first of a cycle of American films made in the 1960s, 70s and early 80s which can be termed paranoia films. Influenced by imported Expressionist aesthetics, and post-war US noir, reaction to American involvement in Vietnam, the Kennedy assassination, Watergate, nuclear paranoia and conspiracy theories all found their echoes in a series of films which took as their themes suspicion of the state and its agents, anxiety about rights of citizens in relation to the power of the state, and issues of identity and surveillance. The 1975 Sight and Sound review of The Parallax View (1974) criticised the film for being less a film about paranoia, and more of a paranoid film. This course will take this as a point of departure, arguing that this cycle of films can be analysed in terms of their structural as well as their thematic paranoia. Themes of the course may include: the fantasy of presidential assassination; the secret state; the treatment of the intelligence services; the rise of the 'corporation'; representations of surveillance; the production of paranoid space; the aesthetics of conspiracy; gender and paranoia; paranoia and genre; paranoid realism. Film texts may include: The Anderson Tapes (1971); The Conversation (1974); Three Days of the Condor (1975); The China Syndrome (1975); Blow Out (1981); Soylent Green (1973); The Parallax View (1974); The Eyes of Laura Mars (1978); Silkwood (1984). Of particular interest is the role of the gaze as an instrument of power, and the course will interrogate questions of visual power in both the form and content of these text.