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)
• 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.