Monday, 27 June 2011

Counter Cinema

Kathryn Bigelow's Near Dark (1987), an example of horror counter-cinema.

Searching for information on random actors from the 1980s and 1990s and what had happened to them since they starred in a decent movie that I watched, I stumbled upon the term; counter cinema.

Counter-cinema is the rough grouping of films, film makers, and institutions which attempt to work against the formalist and ideological domination of Hollywood cinema.

This is quite a broad definition. It effectively means that counter cinema includes films that do not follow linear plots, have stereotyped characters or are hyper-violent. In fact, one could say that counter cinema does not strictly exist as one concept.

Some research suggests that it started with feminist film. Feminist film theoretician, Claire Johnston, said women’s cinema could function as "counter cinema". Through consciousness of the means of production and opposition of sexist ideologies, films made by women have the potential to posit an alternative to traditional Hollywood films. In reaction to this article, many women filmmakers have integrated "alternative forms and experimental techniques" to "encourage audiences to critique the seemingly transparent images on the screen and to question the manipulative techniques of filming and editing", she says.

But it could also refer to cinema from developing countries. Indie film perhaps crosses into counter cinema. I think many Japanese ultra-violent horror films can be classified as a part of the concept. Maybe the most successful counter films of the last few years, are the Crank films and Gamer, which were directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor. These two directors are now working Ghost Driver 2: Spirit of Vengeance.

Other research says that author Peter Wollen established the term, counter cinema, in his 1972 essay on Jean-Luc Godard's Le Vent D'Est.

He said the cinema is designed to unnerve viewers.

What would you count as counter cinema? - See what I did there?

Alistair Anderson

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