Film and television run at the front of the media pack, even before music and radio, in terms of cultural phenomena because of their audio-visual component, its temporal capability and availability. The creation of film and media is like a cycles of calls and responses between the (real) reader and the (Real) author. Production studios and/or any other architect of creative genius test the market for pertinence (demand) to which they respond with a commodity. This generalization may be made only when referring to dominant cinema and that means not only Hollywood but also any system in place whose primary objective is to rake in the mullah. But not all films are made to make money. These creative endeavours, often compartmentalised as Art Cinema and although they prove to be (based on proposed narrative theories), fall under the category of the Cult Film. Amongst other tenets of the cult film, the most common is the genre’s appreciation for alternative themes. It’s existence lays on the cult audience’s rebellion against hegemony and politics; keep in mind that it is the audience that makes a film a cult film, and not a film that attracts cultish audiences.

The Hollywood film code of 1930 instated the norms by which America was to view films for over three decades. The code operated under three general principles:
1.    No picture shall be produced that will lower the moral standards of those who see it. Hence the sympathy of the audience should never be thrown to the side of crime, wrongdoing, evil or sin.
2.    Correct standards of life, subject only to the requirements of drama and entertainment, shall be presented.
3.    Law, natural or human, shall not be ridiculed, nor shall sympathy be created for its violation.
These principles were explicated in Particular Applications. Though seemingly subversive and controlling, the code forced filmmakers to push the envelope and create a dialectic that circumnavigated the code but even by the advent of the MPAA film rating system, it had seeped into popular cinema and moulded the way people watched films and viewer expectation.

The impetus or research question for the essay is: To what extent did the Hollywood Production Code of 1930 play a role in paving the way for the Cult Film Genre?

Present-day western society has come leaps and bounds since the abolition of the Hollywood production code but the majority of films termed as a cult film were produced post production code. I wish to focus on different aspects of the film that elevate these ‘washed up’ films to cult status. The aspects I will focus on are:
•    The content and form
•    Audience response
•    Political economy
•    Cultural phenomena

I then intend to relate this to contemporary cinema and narratives that exemplify what I will try to define as a ‘cult narrative’. By using movies that have well established cult followings I will explain why James Cameron Mitchell’s ensemble film Shortbus (2006) is a cult movie and should be elevated to ‘cult status’. The movies I will focus on are: (Parenthesis refer to characters from the film)
•    Harold and Maude (1971) that deals with suicide. (Jamie)
•    Un Chien Andalou (1929) that deals with delayed desire and the unattainable. (Rob and Sofia)
•    Rocky Horror Picture (1975) that deals with non normative sexual behaviour and gender (The club owner of Shortbus)
•    Blow Up (1966) that deals with voyeurism (Caleb)

Selected Bibliography
•    Hoberman, J. and Jonathan Rosenbaum. Midnight Movies. New York: Da Capo Press. 1983.
•    Keathley Christian. “Trapped in the Affection Image.” The Last Great Picture Show. Amsterdam UP. 2004.
•    Umberto Eco. “Casablanca”: Cult Movies and Intertextual Collage. Substance. Vol. 14, No. 2, Issue 47: In Search of Eco’s Roses (1985), pp. 3-12

•    You And Me And Memento and Fargo. JJ Murphy

•    Cultographie’s Definition of Cult Cinema. (This article seems to have been written with referenced reading but is not dated or attributed to any one particular author) <<http://cultographies.com/definition.shtml>>
•    Through it I came across a website <<http://cultmediastudies.ning.com>>, through which I intend on contacting some media scholars about cult cinema.

XoXo Waylon

Tags: , , , ,

At the end class Jason threw the idea out that The Three could refer to Susan Orlean, Donald and Charlie all being the same person. This idea wasn’t apparent when we actually began to cut but during the process I realised that subconsciously it was exactly what I was aiming for—how could I re-cut the ending such that it implied that the three of them were one and the same?
We had to cut out all the parts referring to Donald after the phone-call to Charlie’s mother and the continuation of the script. So we had to cut the sequence where we see Charlie at his typewriter recalling the conversation between him and his twin while in hiding. We also removed the shot where Amelia asks Charlie in the subsequent sequence how the script is going. So Donald dies—that’s one down.
We don’t actually see Susan being taken away which could then imply that Susan never really existed. If to that you were to say that Laroche could verify her existence, I say that Laroche was driven to insanity by the death of his wife and the drugs got to his head. He is unreliable to us and hence also to the police. Her imprisonment is not physical but of the mind. This jarring experience paved the way for Charlie to purge himself of Susan which is why he is free to pursue Amelia.
There is a tiny 6-second shot of the chair which Charlie looks to off-screen which we removed and placed at the end of the sequence. This was crucial to the coherence of the sequence because it is the only common place where we see all three characters. How do we show three split personalities of the same person without giving it away? By using different characters but the writer’s chair is what places all of them on common ground.
Now the last shot may seem short but I definitely had more than three seconds in my cut. I think something went wrong in the exporting to quicktime process so please excuse the ambiguity and keep in mind that we would like you to linger on that image. Even though it isn’t a work-in-progress treat the last shot as one por favor.

xoxo Waylon

Adaptationalising

I reconnected with a friend who is a music major and he said that he was not going to pursue a career as a concert pianist because he thought he wasn’t good enough. He said he doesn’t think he is good enough at interpretation. I mean early Baroque music could not really be played loud and soft because the piano didn’t have the capacity to do so yet. So now when played all the crescendos and louds and softs were added in to suit the ‘pianoforte’, the author did not put them there, yet they are generally accepted as part of the work. Similarly what did a crescendo mean to the deaf Ludwig van Beethoven? I don’t exactly remember how we came about to this topic that night but i tried applying Chatman’s theory of the implied author to Music. It’s really very hard to do so. It works with literature and with film but there are problems.

I don’t believe that music is very different from film, I mean the modernists have been drawing parallels between the two for a long time now. Music’s component of reproduction is not present in the other medias. This sets it apart from the novel or a film.For music to achieve it’s full potential it must be transformed from notational form to audio waves. This is being done by a person who is not the composer, can we then say that with music there is always a narrator, the person interpreting the piece?

Now, back to Beethoven, growing progressively deaf, continually producing music. This little fact affects our reading of the text, should it not? I mean shouldn’t the interpreter bear in mind that during his career his music underwent a drastic change of scale in terms of timbre and style. When did that shift occur? Is it wrong to play his later music with the same treatment as his earlier work? I am trying, here, to understand whether a piece of information as such changes the nature of the implied author. Does it matter enough that we must make a distinction in the implied author prior to deafness and post? I surely do think so because then i can comfort myself as a concert pianist saying that i am being true to my material and true in my interpretation. But if the real author is undergoing such radical changes that causes his perception to shift, that would cause a ripple affect throughout Chatman’s theory right down to the real reader. Then Foucault goes ahead and asks ‘What does it matter who is speaking?’ Then… what does it matter how we interpret? Then isn’t my friend’s claim that he isn’t good enough at interpretation only a value judgement becuase there then would be no ‘correct’ way of interpreting [classical] music unlike the common misconception.

XoXo Waylon

My nuclear family moved away from Mumbai city when I was really little to another city so my companions from a very early age was television and books. Never once did I stop to think about what it meant that someone was writing and producing these things for me to write; who this person was; what became of him before and after i read/watched a work.

The act of writing “is a question of creating a space into which the writing subject constantly disappears”. This space, like a nebulous black hole, sucks everything that existed before the act of reading into it. The author may cease to exist as living entity but transcends mortality and is ingrained within the text. But this transcendence is not enough to fill the enormous void left behind. The implied author absorbs everybody involved in the production, editor, muse (every creative source has a muse), deleted paragraphs that appear in the form of re-written and re-worked passages, and the history and socio-economic conditions to ensure “the aesthetic principle of the work’s survival.” I relish this idea.

I believe that it is for this reason that we are forced to create an implied author and are faced with problems by the using author’s proper name to refer to work. Because by evoking the author’s real-world entity we attribute the entire process to just one person. What about the muse? (Has anyone seen Stranger than fiction?) What about Queen Latifa? Do they not have as much to do with the work as it’s creator? From this article it seems to me that the creation of the implied author apart from being embedded in theory also arises from ethics. The utterer’s meaning is apparent in the text but only in the form of the words within the closed book. Like the idea of Schrodinger’s cat, the act of looking changes the outcome of the experiment. Once we open the book the utterer’s meaning is obscured through interpretation (the experimentation or the act of reading/looking).

The author’s work is his own and no one can change that. If I were to quote a passage from a book i have to include details of the physical object (the book) the editor, the publication house, etc. So theory has created a space for us to pay homage to all the forces that interact during the creation of a piece of work.

XoXo Waylon

What is an Author?, Foucault asks. It is not with pretentious intent that I write that I fail to understand, in light of what we are reading, why I must sit and blog about this if I somehwat die the moment I press the ‘publish’ button. Although I have not yet been accepted as an author my writing constitues my work. It has some sort of functionality as we have seen in the case of our very own JJ Hurvich who was recently contacted by a film-maker she happened to write about on a blog. But in terms of being graded for the work we present here, why does it matter that I will be graded for this if this text becomes an entity of it’s own independant of me. Before I continue I must make the distinction between writing a response paper that Jason will grade and give back to me, and a blog post which I am formally publishing on the internet for people to read and respond to. My intended meaning is being graded within this formal infrastructure but how can one grade something if I am ‘dead’?

By writing this I intend to question my role as an author within the blogosphere but the tone I use here may be interpreted otherwise. So if “…the intended meaning conflicts with the evidence of the poem itself, we cannot allow him to make the poem mean what he wants it to mean, just by fiat”. The blogosphere is a medum free of the constraints of formal academia which would lead me to believe that it is then a more poetic response paper and the quote applies.

I was really frustrated and had to write this after WordPress ate one of my posts and pushed me to the edge of my wits.

XoXo waylon

The perfect paper topic. It really doesn’t exist. I’ve been looking for it in my head, on the ceiling of my room, under stones near Otter Creek. Nope. Nowhere. I didn’t even know where to begin and no I didn’t have a crazy realisation due to some uncanny occurrence. I tried narrowing down the movies that I love from the bizarre graphically disturbing, cheesy romantic comedies, chick flix, etc. but they weren’t that narratively intricate. I mean I have to say something about it for all them pages. I guess my uncanny revelation was going back to the blog and noticing that I didn’t necessarily need ‘A’ movie to write a paper.

So I began writing this post and Max Hulme and Roberto Ellis were in my room and talking about what we were going to wear for Halloween (I’m thinking Leeloo). And even though I wouldn’t categorise the fifth element as the ideal cult film mainly because of it’s box office success it got me thinking that I was just looking at it from the wrong angle.

So if Roberto dresses up as Ruby Rod, Max as Emanuel Zorg, and me as Leeloo we would be in some way creating a narrative of sorts. We are definitely going to take on aspects of the characters and play them out in some way. So I would like to investigate the cult film. I think this would be interesting to investigate mainly becausecult films have cult followings who take these narrative threads and weave them into the real world soaking in the light of their subjective interpretation. I’d like to see how these narratives manifest in the real world.

My second idea, on a similar note, is investigating the t.v show Heroes. It’s a comic book that is advertised for after every episode, there’s an online game too (it’s a facebook game) that functions similarly to WOW. You have to be a Hero and as you explore the worlds you acquire different powers and play not in fantasy lands but in 3-D renderings of real-world cities.

Well this is what I’m interested in but I know i have to narrow this down much more. Ideas?

Bollywood films (the coupling of Bombay and Hollywood) refers the the Hindi language faction of Indian cinema. Please note that there are others like Kollywood (Tamil Cinema), Tollywood (Telegu Cinema) which all have their respective production houses and distributors. Indian cinema is one of the oldest cinematic schools in the world producing it’s first feature length in 1913.

Since Indian cinema was born in the wake of global turmoil, with heavy domestic repercussions, it has always been escapist in it’s spirit. From the get-go bollywood films incorporate songs and dancing within the storyworld as if it were a pedestrain thing to do. The narrative ordinarily teleports characters to clubs, ancient ruins, Switzerland for a quick jig and carry on with the plot as if nothing ever happened. These 4+ minute breaks in come equipped with an entourage of friends and acquaintances who also serve as dancers.

The typical Bollywood film is on average 180 minutes long and similar to the classical hollywood structure is broken into three acts. The exposition or first act introduces the protagonists where. This act tends to be comically driven where the characters meet and interact. Typically films involve a romantic theme in some way or form. A common convention of the first act is the song of the lovefool. In this type of song the hero covets the heroine but is spurned. Many a time this song is used to indicate a change in attitude of one of the characters for the other. These songs serve a dual purpose because they also place the hero in a position of being idolised or if depicted with an entourage he is the alpha male and she the alpha female.

Their love folly propells the narrative into the second act where they are faced with an obstacle in typical bollywood style it will be in the form of a ‘negative’ character or a villain. The movie drastically changes tone here. The pinch of the second act or the end of the second act is when all indian movies will have an intermission.

I watched the village in India and the movie broke for intermission right where the young girl scales the walls and finds the ‘real world’ outside the camp. I wandered back into the theatre like a zombie only out of respect for the dead mute. But for hindi movies you really need one.

Back to Bollywood. The third act brings all the characters together. Through some elaborate coincidence most of the surviving characters will somehow be in close proximity of each other and end up at the resolution. Some movies even go as far as to line up the characters in the final shot as if they were posing for a photograph.

It’s a real treat watching the right Bollywood movie. For an outsider who has never been in contact with an Indian or never has been exposed to Indian culture this charade would seem unnecessary and excessive. But to a middle-class blue collared worker the prospect of seeing switzerland in technicolour, a beautiful woman/hot man, gyrating hips, crying, a few gags, love lost, reassured masculinity for Rs 120, (conversion rate Rs 47 to a dollar). The cinema in India is an experience everyone should have. People dance in the isles, scream, boo, whistle, clap. Not all at the same time. And not in the multiplexes.

I love the cinema.

xoxo Waylon

When reading Bordwell about Narration and their relation to Time and Space i kept wondering, what was it about these readings that made them so dull? I realised that i was taking apart a film in such a way that the pieces ceased to make sense. I think here in college I am very aware of both, they play an important role in my life because i have to constantly be hopping from one building to another keeping my appointments, class, etc. For me screentime, syuzhet, and fabula are all one chimera and i don’t want it any other way.

What i was left thinking about after the (very slow) read is that fabula and syuzhet are like mushrooms (magic ones) and orange juice in your stomach; your stomach is time itself, fabula would be the mushrooms (of course), and finally syuzhet would be the orange juice. The toxins in mushrooms are a natural adaptation to being eaten. It’s basically poison that teaches an animal to not eat the mushroom again, but I’m using this whole allegory for the visuals.

The orange juice’s citric acid  (we’ll call them the formal elements used to tell the tale) is tantamount to the body. The liver must breakdown and flush this out and so the effect of the mushrooms lasts longer because the body is busy breaking down the acid and hence your trip is longer. Why am i going on about this? because all his categories on Duration make sense except when the fabula is shorter than the syuzhet. Yes, yes, i did read the essay but he uses the example of battleship potemkin’s plate-breaking. But this section is a drop in the ocean that Potemkin floats in. I understand syuzhet to be only part of the ‘true story’ so i can’t really wrap my head around this particular instance.

xoxo waylon

Technology facilitates our lives so profoundly that it has created a paradigm shift in social interactions. Basic household appliances like wine openers are so clever that you have to read a manual to learn how to use them. Why employ a carpenter when IKEA has warehouse stores of DIY furniture? People don’t go to the local watering hole, instead they sit at home with a 12 pack and visit match.com or chat with underage, or in the case of Me and You and Everyone We Know overage people.

The ensemble cast structure in MYEWK is affective in how it narrates the story. The agency of the characters within the story world is disconnected from each other but is really like a missed call. The casualness with which the movie treats issues plays on the spectator’s tendency to respond to situations with the question ‘what if?’. By not isolating any one character as more important than the rest, we are invited to ask ‘What if I were in this situation? Would I react similarly? Are we that desperate?’ Miranda July seems to thinks so. JJ Murphy furthers this idea by concluding that the movie through its use of the ensemble cast and hence never establishing a clear protagonist, highlights the lack of intimacy within this suburb and its inhabitants quest for it.

Bollywood in my lifetime saw the wake of a new type of film similar to the ensemble structure of film. We discussed earlier in the semester about how viewer’s expectations really affect how we watch films where i mentioned how Bollywood films with alternative narrative structures are thrown amongst high-production value sing-song movies and generally don’t fend too well for themselves.

In the late 90’s Karan Johar, a bollywood baby made his directorial debut with Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (locally referred to as KKHH, literally translates as ‘something happens’… owing to the tingling pre-coital feeling in the stomach) The movie’s first act is a mostly a flashback of a girl reading a letter from her deceased mother written for her to read on her 8th birthday. The first act shows the love triangle between Rahul, Anjali and Tina. Rahul and Anjali were best friends until Tina came along and everything fell apart.

In the second act, the daughter then goes to camp where Anjali happens to be the camp counselor… kinda Parent Trap but Bollywood style, he comes when he finds out his daughter has a cold, their love is rekindled. But she is engaged to be married. Third act begins and it’s all arranged and all (this happens a lot in Hindi movies… A Lot!) and he goes to the wedding and yes it does have a happy ending.

Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gam (locally referred to as K3G) was also financed by daddy, Yash Johar, but this time he took this ensemble style idea and magnified it. K3g is about a filthy rich family, and I’m talking richer than the queen of england type rich. The eldest son of the family (adopted son) is coming back from school. We think that it’s going to be about family but then the son goes and falls in love with the daughter of the butler. The dad gets pissed, throws him out because he isn’t paying heed to family tradition… the little adopted bastard! There’s a younger son who never understood why they were exiled and so in act two the story shifts to the grown brother, who is now not fat anymore (he used to be chubby but is now transformed into the greek looking Hrithik Roshan. He goes to college and happens to fall for the sister of the maid (who lives with the adopted son and the maid and their son… blah blah) Younger son unites family and with a lot of backstory we see character conflicts and motivation from the parents. they are all developed! Well you also have 3 hours to do it all.

My point here is that the ensemble cast in these two examples did not set itself up as being different but incorporated itself structurally to fit the norms of classical Bollywood cinema. They were ginormous successes by the way. They have songs, dance sequences, gross suspension of belief, shifting protagonists (which is what makes a bollywood film an ensemble film), is three hours long and features comedy, tragedy, love, hatred, revenge and violence with a star cast… and a bow, if you wish! Since these movies there have been more but instead of not isolating specific characters as protagonists, they group people together and give them a common goal, and within these groups there are characters with their own subplots, wants, wishes and desires whereas MYEWK goes in the other direction and uses the ensemble structure to separate itself from the classical Hollywood narrative. Their stories get wrapped up independently with no apparent repercussions on each other whereas in Bollywood they mostly end up on a positive note where all the characters now know almost all details of the syuzhet.

xoxo Waylon

Tags: , , , ,

Writing dialogue for a screenplay is, I find, the hardest thing to do. Coming up with visuals is easy because when creating a story-world all you have to do is think it.

…Think black earth covering vast expanses of desert. The flaky dry ground cracked from being parched due to millenia of no rain. Red hot lava flows withing these cracks making it barely navigable. St. Peter decides to pay the devil a visit but what does he say to the devil. Is he funny? is the devil mischievous? I mean in this type of a scenario what makes dialogue seem reel? what could these characters say to one and other that would be plausible?

Bronwen Thomas’ article, in my opinion, does not translate well into cinema. The visual element that dialogue sets up in Deception is pure imagination. I say this because there are very few visual cues given to us to form a mental image of the speakers. Thus we rely on tone to create a picture of Philip and his mistress. So he’s a Jew but we don’t know this at the beginning. Does this mean that when we do find out, some part of his features change? Or just our attitude towards him. Do we then add curly hair on his head and pronounce the shape of his nose differently? It’s a clever, though confusing way of exposition.

Bronwen claims that “the spaces between the utterances and the subtle shifts in the dynamics between the characters tat gradually draw us in, …” Film cannot work this way because what draws the viewer in, unlike the reader, is his connection with the material. As we have learnt from the Rosenblum article about Annie Hall, not until the character Annie was established as the spindle around which the narrative thread can strung did the movie have any form. Until then the movie seemed to be about Allen’s ability to talk and deliver a gag. But if I wanted to see that then we’d go to a stand up show instead of a movie. Dialogue is important but it should never supercede the image.

xoxo Waylon

« Older entries

Sites DOT MiddleburyThe Middlebury site network.