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Parent category: non-mainstream - nobrow - paraliterature
Cutting Edge: Art-Horror and the Horrific Avant-Garde (2000) - Joan Hawkins
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Key texts: Hard Core (1989) - Linda Williams - Men, Women, and Chain Saws (1992) - Carol J. Clover - The Monstrous-Feminine - Barbara Creed (1993) - Trashing the Academy (1995) - Jeffrey Sconce - Sleaze Mania (1999) - Joan Hawkins - Cutting Edge (2000) - Joan Hawkins - Porn Studies (2004) - Linda Williams
Subgenres: abstract film - academic - academic porn - art film - avant-garde film - 'bad' films - "body genres" - cult films - experimental film - exploitation film - film - film theory - horror film - sex hygiene films - pornographic film - structural film - transgressive film - violent film - underground film
Academic study of paracinema (2000s definition): Mikita Brottman - Barbara Creed - Noel Carroll - Carol Clover - Kate Egan - Robin Griffiths - Joan Hawkins - Katrien Jacobs - Mark Jancovich - Linda Kauffman - Laura Kipnis - Ernest Mathijs - Xavier Mendik - Cristina Pinedo - Connie Shortes - Jeffrey Sconce - Eric Schaefer - Steven Jay Schneider - Donato Totaro - Linda Williams
DefinitionParacinema is an academic term to refer to a wide variety of film genres out of the mainstream, bearing the same relationship to 'legitimate' film as paraliterature like comic books and pulp fiction bears to literature.
The term was coined in the early seventies by Ken Jacobs to denote countercultural and underground films of the sixties but re-coined in 1995 by Jeffrey Sconce, an American media scholar, to denote 'an extremely elastic textual category' which includes entries from seemingly disparate genres of the non-mainstream and which is fuelled by strategies of oppositional taste (see The Cultural Politics of Oppositional Taste (2003)). Major theorists of the 1990s and 2000s paracinematic variety include Linda Williams, Joan Hawkins, Carol J. Clover and Barbara Creed. [Aug 2006]
Paracinema in the context of avant-garde or experimental film studies
Related: avant-garde film - experimental film - structural film
The term paracinema is also used in the context of avant-garde or experimental film studies to denote works identified by their makers as films but that lack one or more material/mechanical elements of the film medium. Such works began to appear in the 1960s in the wake of Conceptual art's rejection of standard artistic mediums like painting and embrace of much more ephemeral, transient materials and forms (including concepts themselves, independent of realization in any concrete material form).
In exploring the fundamental nature and purpose of their medium, experimental filmmakers in the 1960s and 1970s began to question the necessity of film technology for the creation of cinema, and began making works without film that were nonetheless still considered part of the avant-garde film tradition. Such works include Ken Jacobs's "Nervous System" works and live shadowplays, the latter made with no film, camera, or projection, only shadows cast by flickering lights onto a screen (Jacobs was the first person to coin the term "paracinema" [see references] in the early 1970s). Anthony McCall's "solid light" films, such as Line Describing a Cone (1973) and Long Film for Ambient Light (1975), are other examples; Long Film for Ambient Light, despite its title, employed no film at all. It consisted simply of an empty artists' space lit over a 24 hour period by sunlight during the day and electric light at night. Tony Conrad's Yellow Movies (1972-1975), rectangular pieces of paper coated with house paint and allowed to turn yellow from exposure over many years, are yet another example of filmmakers' investigation of the fundamental properties and effects of cinema outside the physical boundaries of the film medium.
In many cases, "paracinematic" works came out of a sense among radical filmmakers that the film medium posed overly restrictive and unnecessary constraints (e.g. material and economic limitations) on their search for new kinds of cinematic experience. "Cinema," in this context, is understood as a much more varied art form than among most other kinds of filmmakers, who assume that "film" cannot be disconnected from the film medium. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paracinema [Aug 2006]
Williams, Hawkins, Sconce
To be fair, [Joan] Hawkins does acknowledge that "horror, porn, exploitation, horrific sci-fi, or thrillers", on the one hand, and art or experimental cinema such as Peter Watkins' The War Game (1965) or Brakhage's The Act of Seeing With One's Own Eyes (1971), on the other, "use sensational material differently": the former simply for visual gross-out effect and shock, the latter with higher artistic or intellectual intent (Hawkins, 2000: 6). But Hawkins, in a manner similar to [Jeffrey] Sconce, is careful to distance herself from such arguments as Linda Williams', which value the latter over the former (see Williams, 1995: 144). Instead, Hawkins explains that Watkins' and Brakhage's films are "deemed", though presumably not by Hawkins herself, "to have a higher cultural purpose, and certainly a different artistic intent from low-genre blood-and-gore fests" in much the same way that the works of the Marquis de Sade, which, though found in adult bookstores, are nonetheless viewed by "the intellectual elite" as "the masterful analyses of the mechanisms of power and economics" (Hawkins, 2000: 6). --Why Call them "Cult Movies"? American Independent Filmmaking and the Counterculture in the 1960s, Mark Shiel, University of Leicester, UK, 2003 http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/film/journal/articles/why-call-them-cult.htm [Aug 2006]
It is not difficult to see evidence of the paracinemaís counter-aesthetic in such films as the new crop of Slasher/comedy films, martial arts-stunt based films like the matrix trilogy (1999-2003) and Tarantinoís Kill Bill (2003), MTVís reality films (Jackass (2002) and the real cancun (2003)), all of Takashi Miikeís films, and direct to video productions (like girls gone wild and bumfights). And letís not forget the plethora of television shows that have adopted a paracinematic counter-aesthetic, usually mixing it with a heavy dose of self-conscious style (The Sopranos, Queer as Folk, Six Feet Under, Nip/Tuck, just to name a few), or the so-called reality programs that dabble in it as well (Extreme Makeover, American Idol, Fear Factor, etc.). --Eric Vornoff via http://www.synoptique.ca/core/en/articles/vornoff_2/#fn1 [Mar 2005]
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