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Subjective Realist Cinema

Subjective Realist Cinema: From Expressionism toInception

Matthew Campora
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    Subjective Realist Cinema
    Book Description:

    Subjective Realist Cinemalooks at the fragmented narratives and multiple realities of a wide range of films that depict subjective experience and employ "subjective realist" narration, including recent examples such asMulholland Drive,Memento, andEternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The author proposes that an understanding of the narrative structures of these films, particularly their use of mixed and multiple realities, enhances viewers' enjoyment and comprehension of such films, and that such comprehension offers a key to understanding contemporary filmmaking.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-279-9
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-13)

    In an article on narrative in contemporary cinema,New Yorkerfilm critic David Denby writes about a cycle of mainstream films with complex narratives that seem more suited for the art houses than the multiplexes. Denby considers a number of these films, includingPulp Fiction(Quentin Tarantino 1994),Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind(Michel Gondry 2004), andBabel(Alejandro González Iñárritu 2007), and situates them in relationship to their precursors in the European cinema of the fifties and sixties. He writes:

    Resnais’s formalist work in the sixties was solemn and analytical. In the same period, Jean-Luc Godard, interrupting his commonplace...

  5. Chapter 1 Complex Narratives
    (pp. 14-38)

    The goal of this chapter is to situate the films that are the focus of my analysis in the institutional, economic, and narrative contexts of contemporary Hollywood. This will be done in two stages. The first will explore the changes in the American filmmaking industry that have produced the New Hollywood. The second stage will focus on the narrative forms common to the contemporary American “independent” sector of this New Hollywood, offering an explanation of fragmented and multi-strand narratives.In doing so, I will offer a definition of the multiform narrative, the structure used in films fromThe Cabinet of Dr....

  6. Chapter 2 Two Trajectories of the Cinema of Attractions
    (pp. 39-51)

    The story of early cinema has often been considered as an evolution from its primitive theatrical stage to a higher and more refined stage of narrative expression. Tom Gunning, however, has challenged this view in an argument that unites prenarrative film “in a conception that sees cinema less as a way of telling stories than as a way of presenting a series of views to an audience” (1990: 57). He argues that before 1906, early cinema, in both its actuality and nonactuality modes, was characterized by a presentational style. The Lumière brothers’ actuality films depicted simple scenes from everyday life...

  7. Chapter 3 Subjective Realism and Multiform Narratives
    (pp. 52-67)

    The classical Hollywood style, as we have seen, achieves its verisimilitude, in part, by seeking to hide the gap that separates it from reality. It aims to create believable characters located in a coherent space-time setting using naturalistic mise-en-scène and continuity editing. This style is dominant the world over and is the default mode of realist narration for visual storytellers. There are, however, other styles and definitions of realism, many of which have arisen in opposition to the classical style. This oppositional tendency was briefly considered in chapter 1 in relation to the way unconventional narrative styles have been seen...

  8. Chapter 4 Mulholland Drive
    (pp. 68-93)

    Mulholland Drive,like each of the films I will consider, features multiple narrative strands, multiple ontologies, and uses a subjective realist style of narration to tell its story. Indeed, it is these key features that distinguishMulholland Drive’ssubjective realist multiform narrative from other styles of complex narratives used in the cinema. In this chapter, I will show how the use of the multiform narrative inMulholland Driveparallels its use in films such asThe Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,an early example of the style from the European art cinema. In doing so, I will demonstrate the usefulness of the...

  9. Chapter 5 Memento
    (pp. 94-111)

    Memento,likeMulholland Drive,uses a multi-stranded narrative with alternate ontologies and a subjective realist narrative to represent the experience of its central character, Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce). As such, it is a clear example of a subjective realist multiform film.Memento,however, has proven interesting to scholars primarily for its innovative temporality, which moves backward rather than forward in time. Although my analysis ofMementowill consider this aspect of its complex narrative, it will be primarily focused on the film’s multiform structure, and I will argue that situatingMemento’snarrative in the category of the subjective realist multiform...

  10. Chapter 6 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
    (pp. 112-131)

    Of the three key films under consideration,Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is possiblythe most difficult to classify. Produced by Universal’s “specialty” film production company Focus Features, it was made on an estimated twenty million dollars, a budget four times that ofMemento.UnlikeMulholland Drive or Memento, Eternal Sunshinefeatures Hollywood stars (A-list veteran Jim Carrey andTitanic’sKate Winslet) in leading roles, and in this sense, is more akin to what Schatz calls the A-class star vehicle than the independent feature (2004: 35).¹ In addition,Eternal Sunshinewon an Academy Award in 2005 for Best Screenplay,...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 132-138)

    I have proposed in these pages that films such asMulholland Drive, Memento,andEternal Sunshinecan be understood as art cinema/Hollywood hybrids, focusing on the ways in which they employ aesthetic and narrative techniques developed in the art cinema of the twentieth century in the very different industrial and generic contexts of the American cinema. In this sense, earlier theoretical categories such as modernism, formalism, or even art cinema—though certainly relevant in analyzing the narrative and aesthetic forms of these films—do not seem to provide adequate frameworks for describing them given the contexts from which they have...

  12. Filmography
    (pp. 139-142)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 143-146)
  14. Index
    (pp. 147-150)