Feed on

I have been rather absorbed by a variety of election coverage this afternoon, and I spent WAY too much time surfing various blogs that eventually landed me on David Bordwell’s site.  He has an interesting, if somewhat long-winded, post about campaign narratives, where he examines the stories Obama and McCain have constructed in the media, particularly through each of their autobiographies.  I recommend checking it out. (Just what everyone wants—more Bordwell reading!)

Bordwell points out differences in overall narrative structure of each man’s biography, describing McCain’s writing as more “straightforward” and “chronological,” while Obama’s story is “far less linear.”  Bordwell reprints a passage from Obama’s Faith of My Fathers that deals with the complex subjectivity of memory, positioning this sense of contemplative reflection opposite McCain’s blow-by-blow action.  In light of this week’s reading assignment, I immediately thought of John McCain as classical Hollywood cinema and Barak Obama as art cinema.  I thought this was a silly and exaggerated over-simplification of things, falling back on the Obama-as-intellectual/McCain-as-action-hero sensibility that the media has cultivated over the course of the campaign, but a few paragraphs down Bordwell rather explicitly made this connection as well, imagining the kind of movie that each autobiography would be.

Bordwell claims that key moments in McCain’s book seem as though they “might have come out of a John Ford film,” whereas Obama’s opening passage calls to mind a “1970s urban movie.”  It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what a “1970s urban movie” is, but it calls to my mind a period when film as art was flourishing in the United States with the demise of the classical studio system and an industry willing to experiment with importing certain elements of art cinema while still telling clear, engaging stories—the “New Hollywood” period.  I find this idea of imagining what kind of movie a candidate would be amusing, though equating John McCain with classical Hollywood is a bit to flattering—maybe I’ll think of him as a B-feature. 

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