Postmodernist film is a classification for works that articulate the themes and ideas of postmodernism through the medium of cinema. Postmodernist film attempts to subvert the mainstream conventions of narrative structure and characterization, and tests the audience's suspension of disbelief. Typically, such films also break down the cultural divide between high and low art and often upend typical portrayals of gender, race, class, genre, and time with the goal of creating something that does not abide by traditional narrative expression.
Postmodernism is a complex paradigm of different philosophies and artistic styles. The movement emerged as a reaction to high modernism. Modernism is a paradigm of thought and viewing the world characterized in specific ways that postmodernism reacted against. Modernism was interested in master and meta narratives of history of a teleological nature. Proponents of modernism suggested that sociopolitical and cultural progress was inevitable and important for society and art. Ideas of cultural unity (i.e. the narrative of the West or something similar) and the hierarchies of values of class that go along with such a conception of the world is another marker of modernism. In particular, modernism insisted upon a divide between "low" forms of art and "high" forms of art (creating more value judgments and hierarchies). This dichotomy is particularly focused on the divide between official culture and popular culture. Lastly but, by no means comprehensively, there was a faith in the "real" and the future and knowledge and the competence of expertise that pervades modernism. At heart, it contained a confidence about the world and humankind's place in it.
Postmodernism attempts to subvert and resist and differ from the preoccupations of modernism across many fields (music, history, art, cinema, etc.). Postmodernism emerged in a time not defined by war or revolution but rather by media culture. Unlike modernism, postmodernism does not have faith in master narratives of history or culture or even the self as an autonomous subject. Rather postmodernism is interested in contradiction, fragmentation, and instability. Postmodernism is often focused on the destruction of hierarchies and boundaries. The mixing of different times and periods or styles of art that might be viewed as "high" or "low" is a common practice in postmodern work. This practice is referred to as pastiche. Postmodernism takes a deeply subjective view of the world and identity and art, positing that an endless process of signification and signs is where any "meaning" lies. Consequently, postmodernism demonstrates what it perceives as a fractured world, time, and art.
Postmodernist film – similar to postmodernism as a whole – is a reaction to the modernist works of its field, and to their tendencies. Modernist cinema, "explored and exposed the formal concerns of the medium by placing them at the forefront of consciousness. Modernist cinema questions and made visible the meaning-production practices of film." The auteur theory and idea of an author producing a work from his singular vision guided the concerns of modernist film. "To investigate the transparency of the image is modernist but to undermine its reference to reality is to engage with the aesthetics of postmodernism." The modernist film has more faith in the author, the individual, and the accessibility of reality itself than the postmodernist film.
Postmodernism is in many ways interested in the liminal space that would be typically ignored by more modernist or traditionally narrative offerings. The idea is that the meaning is often generated most productively through the spaces and transitions and collisions between words and moments and images. Henri Bergson writes in his book Creative Evolution, "The obscurity is cleared up, the contradiction vanishes, as soon as we place ourselves along the transition, in order to distinguish states in it by making cross cuts therein in thoughts. The reason is that there is more in the transition than the series of states, that is to say, the possible cuts--more in the movement than the series of position, that is to say, the possible stops." The thrust of this argument is that the spaces between the words or the cuts in a film create just as much meaning as the words or scenes themselves.
Postmodernist film is often separated from modernist cinema and traditional narrative film by three key characteristics. One of them is an extensive use of homage or pastiche, resulting from the fact that postmodern filmmakers are open to blending many disparate genres and tones within the same film. The second element is meta-reference or self-reflexivity, highlighting the construction and relation of the image to other images in media and not to any kind of external reality. A self-referential film calls the viewer's attention – either through characters' knowledge of their own fictional nature, or through visuals – that the movie itself is only a movie. This is sometimes achieved by emphasizing the unnatural look of an image which seems contrived. Another technique used to achieve meta-reference is the use of intertextuality, in which the film's characters reference or discuss other works of fiction. Additionally, many postmodern films tell stories that unfold out of chronological order, deconstructing or fragmenting time so as to, once again, highlight the fact that what is appearing on screen is constructed. A third common element is a bridging of the gap between highbrow and lowbrow activities and artistic styles – e.g., a parody of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling in which Adam is reaching for a McDonald's burger rather than the hand of God. This would exemplify the fusion of high and low because Michelangelo is widely regarded as one of the greatest of all painters, whereas fast food is commonly named among the lowbrow elements of modern society.
The use of homage and pastiche can, in and of itself, result in a fusion of high and low. For this reason, homage is sometimes accompanied by characters' value judgments as to the worth and cultural value of the works being parodied, ensuring the viewer understands whether the thing being referenced is considered highbrow or lowbrow.
Lastly, contradictions of all sorts – whether it be in visual technique, characters' morals, or other things – are crucial to postmodernism, and the two are in many cases irreconcilable. Any theory of postmodern film would have to be comfortable with paradoxes or contradictions of ideas and their articulation.
Ridley Scott's Blade Runner might be the best known postmodernist film. Ridley Scott's 1982 film is about a future dystopia where "replicants" (human cyborgs) have been invented and are deemed dangerous enough to hunt down when they escape. There is tremendous effacement of boundaries between genres and cultures and styles that are generally more separate along with the fusion of disparate styles and times that is a common trope in postmodernist cinema. "The futuristic set and action mingle with drab 1940s clothes and offices, punk rock hairstyles, pop Egyptian style and oriental culture. The population is singularly multicultural and the language they speak is agglomeration of English, Japanese, German and Spanish. The film alludes to the private eye genre of Raymond Chandler and the characteristics of film noir as well as Biblical motifs and images." Here is a demonstration of the mixing of cultures and boundaries and styles of art. The film is playing with time (the various types of clothes) and culture and genre by mixing them all together to create the world of the film. The fusion of noir and science-fiction is another example of the film deconstructing cinema and genre. This is an embodiment of the postmodern tendency to destroy boundaries and genres into a self-reflexive product. "The postmodern aesthetic of Blade Runner is thus the result of recycling, fusion of levels, discontinuous signifiers, explosion of boundaries, and erosion. The disconnected temporality of the replicants and the pastiche of the city are all an effect of a postmodern, postindustrial condition: wearing out, waste."
Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction is another example of a postmodernist film. The film tells the interweaving stories of gangsters, a boxer, and robbers. The film breaks down chronological time and demonstrates a particular fascination with intertextuality: bringing in texts from both traditionally "high" and "low" realms of art. This foregrounding of media places the self as "a loose, transitory combination of media consumption choices." Pulp Fiction fractures time (by the use of asynchronous time lines) and by using styles of prior decades and combining them together in the movie. By focusing on intertextuality and the subjectivity of time, Pulp Fiction demonstrates the postmodern obsession with signs and subjective perspective as the exclusive location of anything resembling meaning.
Aside from the aforementioned Blade Runner and Pulp Fiction, postmodern cinema includes films such as:
Barton Fink is a 1991 American period film written, produced, directed and edited by the Coen brothers. Set in 1941, it stars John Turturro in the title role as a young New York City playwright who is hired to write scripts for a film studio in Hollywood, and John Goodman as Charlie Meadows, the insurance salesman who lives next door at the run-down Hotel Earle.
The Coens wrote the screenplay for Barton Fink in three weeks while experiencing difficulty during the writing of Miller's Crossing. They began filming the former soon after Miller's Crossing was finished. The film is influenced by works of several earlier directors, particularly Roman Polanski's Repulsion (1965) and The Tenant (1976).
Barton Fink had its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1991. In a rare sweep, it won the Palme d'Or, as well as awards for Best Director and Best Actor (Turturro). Although the film was a box office disappointment, only grossing $6 million against its $9 million budget, it received positive reviews and was nominated for 3 Academy Awards. Prominent themes of Barton Fink include the writing process; slavery and conditions of labor in creative industries; superficial distinctions between high culture and low culture; and the relationship of intellectuals with "the common man".
The diverse elements of the film have led it to defy efforts at genre classification, with the work being variously referred to as a film noir, a horror film, a Künstlerroman, and a buddy film. It contains various literary allusions and religious overtones, as well as references to many real-life people and events – most notably the writers Clifford Odets and William Faulkner, of whom the characters of Barton Fink and W. P. Mayhew, respectively, are often seen as fictional representations. Several features of the film's narrative, particularly an image of a woman at the beach which recurs throughout, have sparked much commentary, with the Coens acknowledging some intentional symbolic elements while denying an attempt to communicate any single message in the film. Despite disagreement over certain details of the work, Barton Fink continues to be positively received, with screenwriter Charlie Kaufman among its admirers.Birth of the Living Dead
Birth of the Living Dead (sometimes known by its working title Year of the Living Dead) is a 2012 American documentary film directed by Rob Kuhns. It is about the 1968 horror film Night of the Living Dead and that film's legacy. It features interviews with Night of the Living Dead director George A. Romero, Elvis Mitchell, Jason Zinoman, Larry Fessenden, Gale Anne Hurd, and Mark Harris.Lalit Mohan Tiwari
Lalit Mohan Tiwari is an Indian film and television actor. His best-known television roles are that of Sanjaya in the series Mahabharat (1988–1990), and the one in the historical television series Bharat Ek Khoj - The Discovery of India (1988).An alumnus of the National School of Drama, he made his debut in films with Sudhir Mishra's Yeh Woh Manzil To Nahin (1987). Next was the postmodernist film, Om-Dar-B-Dar (1988), which became a cult classic. He has acted in numerous parallel cinema films with director Shyam Benegal, such as Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda, Mammo, Hari-Bhari, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose: The Forgotten Hero, Welcome to Sajjanpur and Well Done Abba!. He has also acted in mainstream Bollywood films such as Chandni, Lamhe and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.Om-Dar-B-Dar
Om Dar-B-Dar is a 1988 Indian postmodernist film directed by Kamal Swaroop and starring Anita Kanwar, Aditya Lakhia and Gopi Desai in lead roles. The film, about the adventures of a school boy named Om along with his family, is set in Ajmer and Pushkar in Rajasthan, and employs nonlinear narrative and an absurdist story line to satirise mythology, arts, politics and philosophy. The film won the Filmfare Critics Award for Best Movie in 1989.
It was never commercially released in India, though it achieved success in International Film Festivals, including Berlin where it premiered, and it soon became a cult film. In 2013, National Film Development Corporation of India (NFDC) had planned an official national release of a digitally restored print of the film. The film finally released in Indian theaters after 26 years, on 17 January 2014.Purgatory House
Purgatory House is a critically acclaimed Independent film written by 14-year-old Celeste Davis and directed by Cindy Baer, who were paired in the Big Sisters of America program when Davis was 11 years old. It deals with the topics of teen suicide and drug addiction from a teen's perspective. Shot in Los Angeles in the summer of 2001, this movie marked the beginning of the Democratization of Film. A critical darling, it screened at 25 festivals, won 12 festival awards, 2 PRISM Award Nominations, appeared on 5 critics lists for "Best Films of the Year" and was then distributed by Image Entertainment.Remodernist film
Remodernist film developed in the United States and the United Kingdom in the early 21st century with ideas related to those of the international art movement Stuckism and its manifesto, Remodernism. Key figures are Jesse Richards and Peter Rinaldi.
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