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Postmodern cinema

Parents: postmodernism - cinema

Related: film - Kill Bill series - metafilm - 'The New Hollywood' and 'post-classical cinema' - Quentin Tarantino - "post-VCR" cinema

Contrast: modernist cinema - classical Hollywood

The 1990s saw the first generation of filmmakers with access to video tapes emerge. Directors such as Quentin Tarantino and P.T. Anderson had been able to view thousands of films and produced films with vast numbers of references and connections to previous works. This, along with the rise of so-called "independent film" and ever-decreasing costs for filmmaking, changed the landscape of American movie-making once again, and led a renaissance of filmmaking among Hollywood's lower and middle-classes—those without access to studio megabucks. [Aug 2006]

Postmodernism elevated the importance of cinema in artistic discussions, placing it on a peer level with the other fine arts. This is both because of the blurring of distinctions between "high" and "low" forms, and because of the recognition that cinema represented the creation of simulacra which was later duplicated in the other arts. [Aug 2006]

Philosophers before the 21st century almost exclusively referred to novels to share experiences or illustrate worldviews. Postmodern philosophers such as Žižek increasingly refer to films rather than novels to illustrate their arguments. Shared experience for contemporary readers is found in cinema because it is much easier to find someone who has seen the same film than someone who has read the same novel. Reading is out, seeing is in. Good examples of this tendency is Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Lacan (But Were Afraid to Ask Hitchcock) (1992) and The Pervert's Guide to Cinema (2006), both by Slavoj Žižek. [May 2006]

Death 24x a Second : Stillness and the Moving Image (2006) - Laura Mulvey [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]


Problems of definition
Modern cinema
If we want a definition for postmodern cinema, we should first define "modern cinema." Since cinema's development roughly parallels that of 'High Modernism' it is hard to define modern cinema. There was no cinema before modern cinema. Cinema was essentially modern, a new medium, just as the internet was in the 1990s.

Modernism and cinema
There was however a modernist cinema, a cinema where the tropes of modernist art and modernist literature such as fragmentation, abstractness and alienation were represented. There is also a direct link between modernist literature and cinema in a meeting that took place between Sergei Eisenstein and James Joyce one November day in 1929 in Paris. It appears that the stream of consciousness style of modernist literature was indebted to the development of cinema, where narrativity was expressed differently.

The rise of cinema and "moving pictures" in the first decade of the 20th century gave Modernism an artform which was uniquely its own, but it was largely undervalued by the literary and art intelligentsia.

Kill Bill and post-VCR cinema
Since there was no such thing as "modern cinema", it is difficult to speak of postmodern cinema. However, the introduction of the VCR introduced some aspects to film watching that may well be labelled postmodern, especially in the mode of consumption (non-linearity, easy access to archives). The way we consume films since the VCR-era of the late 1980s and beyond is radically different than the previous - cinema-centric - era. The best examples of this can be traced in a number of Quentin Tarantino, we have chosen the Kill Bill series of the early 2000s. [Oct 2005]

Postmodernism elevated the importance of cinema in artistic discussions

Death 24x a Second : Stillness and the Moving Image (2006) - Laura Mulvey

"In 1995 the cinema celebrated its 100th birthday..." (more)

Death 24x a Second is a fascinating exploration of the role new media technologies play in our experience of film. Addressing some of the key questions of film theory, spectatorship, and narrative, Laura Mulvey here argues that such technologies, including home DVD players, have fundamentally altered our relationship to the movies. According to Mulvey, new media technologies give viewers the ability to control both image and story, so that movies meant to be seen collectively and followed in a linear fashion may be manipulated to contain unexpected and even unintended pleasures. The individual frame, the projected film’s best-kept secret, can now be revealed by anyone who hits pause. Easy access to repetition, slow motion, and the freeze-frame, Mulvey argues, may shift the spectator’s pleasure to a fetishistic rather than a voyeuristic investment in film. By exploring how technology can give new life to old cinema, Death 24x a Second offers an original reevaluation of film’s history and its historical usefulness. --from the publisher

See also: death - film - Laura Mulvey

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