Thursday, 24 April 2014

Summa Galactica

Design by Choice
Reyner Banham
Academy Editions, London, 1981

While we're talking Reyner Banham, I thought I would post an article he wrote for New Society in October 1977 on the Star Wars phenomenon, reprinted in a collection of his criticism Design by Choice. I should state for the record that I'm not a SW fanatic; I like it but for me it has to assume its place in the SF pantheon and it probably won't be a regular feature of this blog.

I find much of Banham's design writing fairly turgid and overwrought, though his pop culture commentary is a little easier to digest. Note this was written before the film was released in the UK; Banham was semi-resident in the US by this time, teaching at the State University of New York, Buffalo.

It's hard to see the first Star Wars film (Episode IV: A New Hope) with such clarity now, so much has happened in the intervening 37 years, and indeed continues to occur as the filming of part VII may or may not be already taking place in Abu Dhabi. Banham's contention that the film's colossal success was due to it's positioning at the heart of popular culture is hard to contest.

Whether this hurried the end of popular cinema's potential as a progressive artform is arguable. Much was changing in Hollywood at that time, though if we are looking to place the blame the decline in cinema somewhere, Skywalker Ranch might be as good a place as any.

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