"Independent Film Industries Reinforce The Global Construction Of The Hybrid Genre" Discuss

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David Stevens

“Independent Film Industries Reinforce The Global Construction Of The Hybrid Genre” Discuss

Almost every country has its own film industry.  Films are being produced across the world, from the low budget gangster films of Britain’s “Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and Australia’s “Chopper” to the French ‘art cinema’ of “L’aventura” and the German action offering of “Run Lola Run”.  This is of course to exclude America.  Hollywood is the center of the global film industry and it can be considered impossible to gain international superstardom without passing through its coiffured gates.  What is it that separates Hollywood from the rest of the world? Is Hollywood the culmination of international filmic development? Has Hollywood incorporated the popular conventions of independent cinema into its mainstream as it did with the flourish of auteurs in the 60’s and 70’s?  To answer these questions one must first consider the definition of Hollywood and Independent cinema.  Pam Cook has defined international film industries simply as the “absence of Hollywood”, this though is harsh, as cinema existed before the globalisation of Hollywood, the ‘age d’or’ of France in the 1920’s for example.  So to analyse the relationship between Hollywood and the rest of the world a definition of the differing industries must be articulated, whether it be of industrial or generic conventions.  Furthermore, the role of the audience in this definition must be questioned and whether a film’s origin of production actually makes a difference in the way it is consumed.

Differences in films from different countries could lie in the differences in genre and its definition, even audience consumption.  Each country changes conventions of particular genres to their own social climate.  This Saussurian idea, that meaning of one thing can change by its surrounding text, can be identified within the Romantic Comedy genre.  In British ‘RomComs’ such as “Jack and Sarah” a grainy filter is used on the camera to add a gritty realism and lead characters are often faulted and possibly not as beautiful as their Hollywood counterparts in, say, “Jerry Maguire” where glossy superstars who are destined to be together discover their love in expensive settings, such as the recreated American Football game in “Jerry Maguire”.  These differing conventions from separate film industries are still considered part of the RomCom genre.  

A possible explanation of this could be their different target audiences.  British audiences can relate to clumsy, embarrassed lead characters falling in love in the rain as this is considered ‘typically British’.  Such stereotypes reveal the structuralist nature of society.  Balanced narratives and order do not exist in real life.  In the same vein, nationality does not dictate personality.  Yet media has developed such indexical representations i.e. clumsy is a sign of British (Hugh Grant in “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and “Notting Hill”), and implanted them in film.  These intrinsic meanings, as Bazin articulated, allow for rapid communication of meaning.  Equally, the American audience has an array of TV channels, including the big budget production of “The Sopranos” on HBO.  Therefore, an expectation of beauty and extravagance in the cinema arises and can be further compounded by being used to the culturally significant larger proportions of America and the size of her cities.  However, Hollywood films are sold across the world.  Explanations of this could consist of escapism, as other countries fantasize over the perceived paradise of American freedom and democracy.  Or it could be seen as an example of the globalisation of Hollywood, which in effect perpetuates cultural imperialism.  An opposing, pluralist view can be taken due to the international market for independent cinema, thus innovations appear amongst the mainstream. Plus, as film is, at its foundation, a commodity which wouldn’t be made if it couldn’t be sold, the idea surfaces that independent cinema caters for a niche market across the world and only exists because of this viable business motive; it is a “combination of novelty and nationalism to create sellabiity” (Bordwell).

 Such segmentation of film industry and genre is to falsify the situation.  In fact, as film distribution globalises, so do the conventions of genre.  As various national cinemas gain success over seas, these successes are both assimilated into the audience's mind and mainstream cinema.  Cognitive theory dictates meaning must be imprinted on the reader’s mind for it then to be used by the reader to create significance in a film as a sign.  Thus, as nationalistic ideas and conventions are proven to be successful in independent cinema, Hollywood then adopts them into the mainstream, just as the British and American RomCom has now unified through the likes of “Notting Hill”.  This example in particular can be applied to the critical theory of the Frankfurt school, as popular ideas are ‘tunneled’ together to create the mainstream.  Arguably, the constant ‘borrowing’ from independent cinema by Hollywood makes the definition of the two difficult and asks the question of what divides them.  The answer, which will be discussed further below, is often the separation of ‘industrial cinema and that of, as Pam Cook articulates it in “The Cinema Book”; “art cinema”.  Possibly the best way to attempt to define this difference is to closely compare the same genre across various national cinemas.

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The gangster genre, is a good specimen as examples of it exist in almost all film industries.  Specimens include:  “Run Lola Run” (Germany), “”Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” (Britain), “Chopper” (Australia)’ “Hard Boiled (Hong Kong) and “Goodfellas” (America).  Warshaw argued that more localised historical and cultural reasons lead to a genres success rather then the one undefinable ‘X’ which, Tudor thoerised, leads to universal appeal.  With independent examples this could be true as films examine the society’s criminal underground and question the law system.  Within the gangster genre traditional dominant ideologies are subverted; the film’s hero is society’s villain and ...

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