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Retro Aesthetics, Affect, and Nostalgia Effects in Recent US-American Cinema: The Cases of La La Land (2016) and The Shape of Water (2017)

North American Studies Program, Universität Bonn, 53113 Bonn, Germany
Received: 7 May 2019 / Revised: 25 June 2019 / Accepted: 3 July 2019 / Published: 9 July 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Memory, Affect, and Cinema)
Nostalgia and retro are phenomena of modernism and modernization that are currently booming. This goes for political decision-making processes as much as for popular culture where retro aesthetics is the dominant mode of design: Both appear driven by ‘longings for a time that never was.’ While research on nostalgia and retro abound, nostalgia still remains a vague and undertheorized concept seemingly identical with retro. Engaging the ways in which Damien Chazelle’s 2016 movie La La Land and Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water of 2017 produce and interrogate affects, this essay shows how film allows us to make distinctions that the proliferating research on nostalgia and retro often fail to deliver. As we zoom in on how both films reference iconic moments in film history, it becomes evident that retro aesthetics operates in distinctively diverse manners. While La La Land interrogates cinema’s “nostalgia for nostalgia”, The Shape of Water reclaims nostalgia as a mode of social bonding. In this way, both movies foreground how the dynamics of nostalgia, at best, moves forward, not back. Film studies, in turn, can shed considerable light on how both nostalgia and retro work—and why they sell so well. View Full-Text
Keywords: cinema; nostalgia; affect; La La Land; The Shape of Water cinema; nostalgia; affect; La La Land; The Shape of Water
MDPI and ACS Style

Sielke, S. Retro Aesthetics, Affect, and Nostalgia Effects in Recent US-American Cinema: The Cases of La La Land (2016) and The Shape of Water (2017). Arts 2019, 8, 87.

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