Cine-Literacy and Contemporary American Cinema: Reflexive Authorship and Fragmented Audiences Under Conglomerate Hollywood
In the twenty-first century, American independent films made by auteur directors have been transformed by the dual forces of populist cinephilia and technological innovations. The influence, within the movie industry, of home entertainment, the internet, media consolidation, and the proliferation of film festivals can be seen in the emergence of new genres, some of which strategically occupy the space previously accorded the mid-tier or middle film. By and large, however, with conglomerates largely controlling the film industry, the sharp division between blockbusters and the smaller “indie” productions continues to grow. Both Hollywood’s speciality “crossover” outputs, with their mid-level budgets, and the low-cost works produced independently of the majors, share aesthetic and thematic elements, suggesting that these screen narratives are products of wider industry trends. By displaying reflexive and ironic sensibilities that target cine-literate audiences, and frequently reviving dormant genres, contemporary cinema reflects the industry’s structure and viewers’ shifting relationship to film. This thesis seeks to explore how the industry shapes the contemporary auteur tendency through an examination of two case histories. While one is a little-seen independent film and the other is an Oscar-winning indie film, both Robinson Devor’s The Woman Chaser (1999) and Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (2009) are deliberately critically divisive films which provide a site for particular audiences to test their arcane knowledge. Appealing to a niche audience, these films, with their provocative difference from the Hollywood mainstream blockbuster, and the other forms of the middle film such as the romantic comedy, signal the development of new genre films for the cine-literate from an emerging generation of American auteur directors. These works afford viewers a form of knowledge which could enhance their sub-cultural capital, and their targeted appeal speaks to shifts in generational tastes and film’s position as a niche art form in the twenty-first century.
Advisor: Radner, Hilary; Shogimen, Takashi
Degree Name: Master of Arts
Degree Discipline: Department of History and Art History
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Reflexivity; Auteur; Film; Cinema; Populist Cinephilia; Middle Film; Cine-literacy
Research Type: Thesis