Postmodernist film  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Postmodernist film describes the articulation of ideas of postmodernism through the cinematic medium. Postmodernist film upsets the mainstream conventions of narrative structure and characterization and destroys (or, at least, toys with) the audience's suspension of disbelief to create a work in which a less-recognizable internal logic forms the film's means of expression.

Postmodernism didn't break into cinematic mainstream until the advent of the French New Wave in the 1950s and 1960s, with such films as Jean-Luc Godard's À bout de souffle (deeply indebted to Bertolt Brecht's modernist epic theatre with its Verfremdungseffekt or 'defamiliarization effect'); and in Italy with Antonioni's L'avventura (1960) and Fellini's 8 1/2 (1963). Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí's 1928 surrealist short Un Chien Andalou provides an important modernist precursor, although its extreme deconstruction of structure and character make its meaning almost entirely arbitrary. In order to convey some desired meaning, postmodernist films continue to maintain conventional elements in order for the audience to grasp them. Two such examples are Jane Campion's Two Friends, in which the story of two school girls is showed in episodic segments arranged in reverse order; and Karel Reisz's The French Lieutenant's Woman, in which the story being played out on the screen is mirrored in the private lives of the actors playing it, which we also see.

By making small but significant changes to the conventions of cinema, the artificiality of the experience and the world presented are emphasised in the audience's mind in order to remove them from the conventional emotional bonds they have to the subject matter, and to give them a new view of it. An example is Michael Winterbottom's 24 Hour Party People in which the character based on Tony Wilson frequently breaks out of the constructed world of the film and talks directly to the audience straight through the camera lens. Jarring in effect, it conveys the characters' pre-occupation with breaking free of the cultural and economic constructions of the world they live in.

Winterbottom's postmodernist effect, however, is hardly new: Federico Fellini, among other master filmmakers, used it memorably in Satyricon (1969) and Amarcord (1973). David Lynch's Mulholland Drive (2001) exploits postmodernist aesthetics to an unusual degree while Quentin Tarantino`s Pulp Fiction is considered one of the finest examples of Postmodernist film.

The antithesis of postmodern cinema is remodernist film in which emphasis is placed on a subjective emotional connection to the film. Remodernism rejects postmodernism because of its perceived "failure to answer or address any important issues of being a human being". This so-called "failure" is debatable. One such remodernist film is Jesse Richards short Shooting at the Moon.

These two styles of filmmaking, however, need not be mutually exclusive. Since postmodernism has been absorbed into the contemporary lexicon of filmmakers, it has become just another way to explore themes and characters.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Postmodernist film" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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