By J. P. Telotte
Technology fiction motion pictures 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
Instead, they confront us with the fact of fabrication, bring the technology itself up close for our inspection, and in the process hold our own, at times hesitant embrace of the technological up for examination as well. What we repeatedly see in those Machine Age confrontations is a complex story of distance and detachment. For as we range across the science fiction films of several countries, trying to sketch the different contexts in which they confront the technological, we shall consistently encounter narratives about great physical, cultural, or epistemological distances and the struggle to overcome them to move from the Earth to the moon, to span this world's barrier oceans, to unite different cultures or classes, to gain some great knowledge or distinction.
They offer, as Barry Grant simply puts it, "contemporary versions of social myth" (115). Page 18 Those myths help us by imaginatively resolving the seemingly unresolvable problems with which we wrestle. Thus, even as our culture has struggled recently with issues of cloning, genetic manipulation, and artificial intelligence, our science fiction films have repeatedly offered up a central and multiply resonant image, that of the android/robot/cyborg, the image of human artifice, as a means of narratizing those concerns and rendering them less uncanny, less menacing, and, in the case of the Star Wars trilogy's almost cuddly robots, even comforting.
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.
A Distant Technology: Science Fiction Film and the Machine Age by J. P. Telotte