Barry Forshaw: British Crime Film

Barry Forshaw: British Crime Film

British Crime Film: Subverting the Social Order

by Barry Forshaw

Palgrave Macmillan, $39.95 pb, 253 pp, 9781137005038

Barry Forshaw, in his latest book, has turned from crime fiction in print to crime in the cinema: specifically British cinema. He establishes immediately that his primary interest is ‘genre cinema’. He does not define exactly what he means by this term, but his assumptions in relation to it are soon pretty clear. A genre film is one where the primary aim of the film-makers is ‘entertainment’ rather than any deeper aesthetic or ideological intent. His thesis, which he clearly outlines on the first page, is that such works may provide a more ‘nuanced, intelligent and politically informed analysis of British society’ than other, more respectable forms of cinema. The idea of respectability, or the absence of such, is central to his argument. He later states that ‘crime cinema is – and should be, for its own health – the cinema of the unacceptable’. What becomes apparent, as the films begin to be cited, is that his primary concern, and what defines his idea of ‘the crime film’, is a narrative in which the focus is not the detection of crime, but the act of committing crime. Forshaw is writing about those films in which one can detect an element of social criticism; not so much how a crime is committed, but why. This may not be a particularly new approach, but Forshaw tackles it with gusto and provides some forthright and challenging views.

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Michael Fleming

Michael Fleming

Michael Fleming has a PhD from Melbourne University in Cinema Studies. His areas of interest include British cinema (especially that of the 1960s) and genre in film (especially horror and the musical). He has tutored at Melbourne University in Hollywood Cinema and Italian Cinema since World War II. He has reviewed books on cinema for Senses of Cinema and Screening the Past. He wrote the liner notes for the Madman release of Anthony Asquith’s film of The Browning Version (1951).

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