Tag Archives: Norman Jewison

Pre-orders open for my monograph on Norman Jewison’s 1975 film, Rollerball

My monograph on Norman Jewison’s 1975 dystopian science fiction film, Rollerball, something I have been working on for the last couple of years, now has a cover and will soon be in the world via Constellations imprint of the independent film and media studies publisher, Auteur.

This is the first semi-academic publication I have written and I am excited but also a little nervous about how it is going to be received.

Rollerball depicts a future dominated by anonymous corporations and their executive elite, in which all individual effort and aggressive emotions are subsumed into a horrifically violent global sport, remains critically overlooked. What little has been written deals mainly with its place within the renaissance of Anglo-American science fiction cinema in the 1970s, or focuses on the elaborately shot, still visceral to watch, game sequences, so realistic they briefly gave rise to speculation Rollerball may become an actual sport.

Drawing on numerous sources, including little examined documents in the archive of the film’s screenwriter William Harrison,the book examines the many dimensions of Rollerball’s making and reception: the way it simultaneously exhibits the aesthetics and narrative tropes of mainstream action and art-house cinema; the elaborate and painstaking process of world creation undertaken by Jewison and Harrison; and the cultural forces and debates that influenced them, including the increasing corporate power and growing violence in Western society in late 1960s and early 1970s.… Read more

Pulp Friday: A Clockwork Orange

It has been a while between posts, I know. This site, as well as a number of other things in my life, has taken a back seat in order for me to meet a few pressing deadlines, in particular, working on a monograph for a English publisher on Norman Jewison’s 1975 dystopian science fiction classic, Rollerball.

While Jewison was not a great fan of science fiction he was impressed by two science fiction films, both of them made by Stanley Kubrick: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and A Clockwork Orange, released in 1971 (although it was not released in Australian until 1988). It is this latter film that is the subject of today’s Pulp Friday post.

Published by Anthony Burgess in 1962, A Clockwork Orange is set in a near future dystopian England suffering from an epidemic of extreme youth violence and economic stagnation. The book’s teenage protagonist, Alex, narrates the story of his various criminal exploits and the subsequent efforts of the conservative state authorities to rehabilitate him, in a made up language Burgess called ‘Nadsat’.

Burgess’s own politics were conservative, with a streak of anarchism running through his thinking. He wrote A Clockwork Orange in three weeks, influenced by his views of the growing youth culture in early sixties England.… Read more

Rollerball & decoding cinematic dystopias

tumblr_nblo2mWDl81sndzdgo1_500The Independent newspaper recently reported that the British Broadcasting Corporation is designing a television program in which unemployed and low paid workers will compete against each other, The Hunger Games-style, for cash prizes. The idea follows the success of Benefits Street, a UK reality TV show similar to the much-criticised SBS series, Struggle Street, about an area in Birmingham where ninety per cent of the residents are on social welfare benefits.

The newspaper report is one of several recent things that have got me thinking about how aspects of dystopian cinema are bleeding into real life. Another is the fortieth anniversary in late June of the science fiction film, Rollerball. Although derided by critics upon release for its violence, the film is now viewed as one of the high points of seventies dystopian cinema. It has also proven remarkably prescient regarding aspects of the future it depicted.

Rollerball is set in 2018. Nation-states no longer exist but are replaced by huge corporations, each focusing on an aspect of human need: transport, food, communication, housing, luxury, energy, etc. The most popular form of entertainment is a violent sport called Rollerball, and the most successful competitor is Jonathan E, who plays for Houston, the city controlled by the Energy Corporation.… Read more