Midnight Movies  

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"The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, "the cult film par excellence," which ran continuously at the same Paris movie house from 1920 through 1927."--Midnight Movies (1983) by Hoberman and Rosenbaum, page 23

"Above all else, the surrealists insisted that the relationship between film and spectator was primarily libidinal. That Paul Éluard discovered Peter Ibbetson (a 1935 Hollywood film that Breton considered comparable only to Luis Buñuel's L'Âge d'or in its depiction of L'Amour fou) by impulsively trailing an attractive woman into a movie theater was seen as ultimate proof." --Midnight Movies (1983), page 36

"If the origins of art are to be found in religion, the movies are surely the universal secular faith of the twentieth century." --Midnight Movies (1983), page 15

"Every feast, even when it has purely lay origins, has certain characteristics of the religious ceremony, for in every case its effect is to bring men together, to put the masses into movement and thus to excite a state of evanescence, and sometimes even delirium, which is not without a certain kinship with the religious state. A man is carried outside himself and diverted from his ordinary occupations and preoccupations. Thus the same manifestations are to be observed in each case: cries, songs, music, violent movements, dances, the search for stimulants which raise the vital level, etc. It has frequently been remarked that popular feasts lead to excesses, and cause men to lose sight of the distinction separating the licit from the illicit ..." The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (1912), Émile Durkheim

"Although critic Manny Farber had published "Underground Films: A Bit of Male Truth" in the November issue of Commentary, his "underground films" were the culturally disreputable action flicks of then obscure directors like Howard Hawks and Raoul Walsh. In 1961, [Stan] Vanderbeek gave the term its better-known meaning when he wrote a manifesto, "Cinema Delimina: Films from the Underground", for the summer issue of Film Quarterly. The filmmakers he discussed included Robert Frank, Shirley Clarke, Norman McLaren, Jonas Mekas, Robert Breer, Ed Emshwiller, Bruce Conner, and Stan Brakhage, many of whom (as well as filmmakers like Gregory Markopoulos and Harry Smith) were members of an older film avant-garde with roots that extended back to the 1940s. Throughout the 1960s, "underground movies" were synonymous with all avant-garde or "experimental" films. In this chapter, however, we have narrowed the focus of the term to concentrate on a group of filmmakers who emerged in New York City during the early sixties and whose work was distinguished from both commercial movies and the earlier avant-garde by a combination of willful primitivism, taboo-breaking sexuality, and obsessive ambivalence toward American popular culture (mainly Hollywood)." --Midnight Movies (1983). page 40.

If the origins of art are to be found in religion, the movies are surely the universal secular faith of the twentieth century. "What is religion?" asks Parker Tyler in The Hollywood Hallucination. "Is it not strictly speaking the spiritual illumination of the dark?" Purely as phenomena, the cinema provided d simulation of religious epiphany on dn unprecedented, assembly-line scale; although written before World War I, the French sociologist Emile Durkheim's description of "the positive cult" is a virtual prediction of the sort of behavior observable any weekend night at the two hundred American theaters offering The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Every film, no matter how tawdry, ruptures the flow of ordinary "profane" time to offer a whiff of immortality, a heightened presence, that can be experienced by the passive spectator without actual physical contact. In terms of Catholic ritual — whose midnight mass bears an unmistakable resemblance to the midnight movie — transubstantiation involves a spiritual passage from the physicality of the wafer and the wine to the physicality of Jesus Christ's flesh and blood. In terms of film illusion, transcendence involves a spiritual passage from the physicality of a seat in a darkened theater to the physicality of an imaginary time-space continuum, whether devised by Walt Disney or Michael Snow, Roberto Rossellini or Russ Meyer." --Midnight Movies (1983). page 15-16.

Related e



Midnight Movies (1983) is a film history book by American film critics J. Hoberman and Jonathan Rosenbaum. The collection of essays documents the midnight movie phenomenon (films unfit for mainstream consumption so they are shown at midnight). It also documents the earliest cases of film cults in Paris and the United States.

The book includes chapters on the early careers of David Lynch, Alejandro Jodorowsky, John Waters and George Romero and references Émile Durkheim and Parker Tyler in the second chapter Cults, Fetishes and Freaks: Sex and Salvation at the Movies.

Table of contents

Author's note -- Acknowledgments -- 1: Birth of Rocky Horror -- 2: Cults, fetishes, and freaks: sex and salvation at the movies -- 3: Underground -- 4: El Topo: through the wasteland of the counterculture -- 5: George Romero and the return of the repressed -- 6: John Waters presents "The Filthiest People Alive" -- 7: Rocky Horror madness -- 8: Eraserhead -- 9: Rock, drugs, drag, camp, punk, gore, and agit-prop -- 10: Rethinking midnight movies: a dialogue -- Afterword -- Bibliography -- Index.

See also


  • Hoberman, J., and Jonathan Rosenbaum (1983). Midnight Movies (New York: Da Capo Press). ISBN 0-306-80433-6

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