Introduction

  • Susan Aronstein
Part of the Studies in Arthurian and Courtly Cultures book series (SACC)

Abstract

On July 7, 2004 Touchstone Pictures launched Jerry Bruckheimer’s King Arthur, a film that promotional posters promised would reveal “the truth behind the myth.” In this promise, Bruckheimer’s film set itself against a long line of films featuring the once and future king; at the same time it continued a tradition stretching back to the earliest days of filmmaking, when “perhaps the most profound and complex resource of the cinemaits ability to give viewers access to events that happened when they were not there”combined with popular interest in the Arthurian materials to inspire filmmakers to return to the days of Camelot.1 From Edison to Bruckheimer, Hollywood has offered audiences a chance to relive the Arthurian past. Cinema Arthuriana, a term coined by Kevin J. Harty in 1987, includes a diverse cross section of films-American and European, popular and art-and covers the gamut of Arthurian subjects-the rise and fall of the Round Table, the adulterous love-triangles of Lancelot, Arthur, and Guenevere and Tristan, Mark, and Isolde, medieval and modern Grail Quests, the exploits of a Connecticut Yankee.2 This book’s main focus is a subset of these films-mostly mainstream products of industry studios or directors, aimed at a popular audience-that can be classified as Arthurian chronicles, set in the Middle Ages and recounting the rise and fall of the Round Table, or chivalric romances, set in either the past or the present, and using the structures of medieval Arthurian romance to tell the tale of a boy’s coming-of-age as a knight.3

Keywords

Lost Alan Verse Zucker Iraq 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Robert Sklar, Movie-Made America: A Cultural History of American Movies rev. ed. (New York: Vintage, 1975, 1994), p. 21.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Kevin J. Harty, “Cinema Arthuriana: A Filmography,” Quondam et Futurus 7 (Spring 1987): 5–8; 7 (Summer 1987): 18. Harty, in “Lights, Camera, Action!: King Arthur on Film,” in King Arthur on Film: New Essays on Arthurian Cinema (North Carolina: McFarland, 1999), p. 6 [5–37], identifies these four plots. In this essayas well as his introductions to Cinema Arthuriana: Essays on Arthurian Film (New York: Garland, 1991) the revised and expanded edition published by McFarland in 2002, and The Reel Middle Ages: Films About Medieval Europe (North Carolina: McFarland, 1999), Harty provides excellent overviews of Arthurian film, which include brief discussions of all of the films in this study, as well as comprehensive filmographies and bibliographies.Google Scholar
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    Rebecca Umland and Samuel Umland, The Use of Arthurian Legend in Hollywood Film (Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1996) and John Aberth, A Knight at the Movies (New York: Routledge, 2003).Google Scholar
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    Laurie Finke and Martin Shichtman, King Arthur and the Myth of History (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 2004); Patricia Ingham, Sovereign Fantasies: Arthurian Romance and the Making of Britain (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001)Google Scholar
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    Robert Burgoyne, Film Nation: Hollywood Looks at U.S. History (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), pp. 1, 2.Google Scholar
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    Vivian Sobchack, “Genre Film: Myth, Ritual, and Sociodrama,” in Film/ Culture: Explorations of Cinema in its Social Context ed. Sari Thomas (London: Methuen, 1982), pp. 147, 148 [147–165].Google Scholar
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    Terry Eagleton, Ideology: An Introduction (London: Verso, 1991), p. 15.Google Scholar
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    Judith Hess, “Genre Films and the Status Quo,” in Film Genre: Theory and Criticism ed. Barry Grant (London: Methuen, 1977), p. 54 [53–61].Google Scholar
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    Jeff Jensen, “The Return of the King,” Entertainment Weekly (July 16, 2004): 39–44, 40.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Susan Aronstein 2005

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  • Susan Aronstein

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