Mod Murder: Death and Desire in Swinging London Film
This paper explores the themes of gender identity, self-reflexivity, and the concept of the cinematic gaze in British modernist film. Specifically, it focuses on how the social milieu of 1960s Swinging London informed the films Peeping Tom, Repulsion, and Blow-up regarding the construction of the sexualized female image and how it is replicated within the process of filmmaking itself. These self-conscious portrayals of the commodification of sexuality to violent ends thrived in the “mod” era. More than anywhere else at that time, London in the early- to mid-60s offered a crystallized view into the emerging sexual revolution while exploiting the very currency that cinema has furtively traded in since its inception: the appropriation of the female image for the pleasure of the male voyeur. This brief cycle of films self-consciously pointed to the perils of the mod love affair with image over content. By examining them within the confines of mise-en-scène and the psychoanalytical discourse of Laura Mulvey (voyeurism as sadism) and Gaylyn Studlar (voyeurism as masochism) as well as other cinematic texts on scopophilic desire (the works of Hitchcock), it becomes clear that British modernism offered a timely and unique discourse on the process of looking, and being looked at, in the cinema.
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