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INVESTIGATING CINEMA AND FILM – FI2228
Level 5 – Academic year 2010/2011

“WITH CLOSE REFERENCE TO POSTMODERN CONTEMPORARY CINEMA EXPLORE THE NOTION OF GENRE HYBRIDITY ”

Camilla Cabras K09198598
Teresa Correia K0921789
Ioannis Kostarias K0944202
Milica Stanišić K0823899

Assignment: one 3,000 word group essay; four 1,000 word personal commentaries.

Module leader: Tom Whittaker

Tutor: Davina Quinlivan

There was a time in cinema history when audiences chose their Friday night movie because it was released by a certain studio, or because it was classified as representative of a genre, therefore they knew quite precisely what to expect: usual themes and settings, recognisable iconography and cinematographic style, possibly common narrative structure and devices, familiar faces starring in the roles they were mostly known for. All these features used to be constantly present throughout the entire movie, and it was unlikely to see such defining boundaries being crossed.

In the mid 1980s the filmic iconography and themes were subject to significant changes, in the era of a flourishing cultural movement known by the name of Postmodernism, which affected all major areas of expression and art, including cinema, music, and literature.

Considering this statement, it would be worthy to indicate how the genre theory has changed, focusing on specific cinematic genres, from drama to science fiction. The genre boundaries progressively faded, and the existence of more than one within a film occurred. Therefore genre hybridity became a predominant feature of postmodern worldwide cinema. Around the 1980s, hybridity as a notion occurred in Hollywood film industry as well. This essay will discuss and question the relationship between cinematic genres and postmodernism.

The emergence of Postmodernism and the development of genre hybridity in relation to Jim Jarmusch's work

It could be argued that genre hybridity is one of the essential features of film in order for it to be considered postmodern. Scholars have not yet agreed when or how postmodernism precisely occurred, and some even challenge its existence: "If the term modern already illustrates the present, how can something be postmodern?" (Hassan, 1985, p.119-132). However, it certainly can be explained as an artistic movement that requires different genres to be brought together in one text or visual image because it "reaches back to the past and forwards to the future trying to synthesize these two 'imaginary places' in narrative fiction" (Degli-Esposti, 1998, p.4).

Postmodernism is a time of intense cultural revisionism, and public debates on important issues, “when boundaries between high and low culture turned progressively blurry” (Suarez, 2007, p.3), a time when cinematography was greatly marked by one of most influential independent filmmakers, Jim Jarmusch. With the intention to reach further critical awareness and sophistication, his work does not conform to ideas of high modernism and plays with experimental modernist repertoire and street styles: punk, new wave, club culture, hip hop, etc.

In the early stages of his work (Stranger than Paradise, 1984) we might see the influence of Neo-Realism: the independent filmmaking, filming in black and white, using non professional actors, shooting on location etc., which makes it difficult to determine the genre of the film. He distinguishes his story-telling, structured in three parts entitled “The New World”, “One Year Later”, and “Paradise”, which is a narrative structure later adopted by his followers (i.e. Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill or Pulp Fiction, discussed later in the text).

However, Jarmusch admits himself that: “It’s easier to talk about the style of the film than what’s it about” (Tasker, 2002, p. 179). In need to determine its genre(s), Stranger than Paradise could be labeled as neo-realist, drama-comedy, although Jarmusch uses many “dead moments” to...
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