- Paperback: 232 pages
- Publisher: British Film Institute (2 Aug. 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1844574156
- ISBN-13: 978-1844574155
- Product Dimensions: 17.1 x 1.3 x 23.5 cm
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1 customer review)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 363,604 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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British Trash Cinema Paperback – 2 Aug 2013
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A guide to sidelined post-war and onwards British 'Trash' cinema, written by a scholar with depth of knowledge on the subject and great enthusiasm for the subject
About the Author
I.Q. Hunter is Reader in Film Studies at De Montfort University, Leicester. He is the editor of British Science Fiction Cinema (1999), and the co-editor of British Comedy Cinema (2012), Controversial Images: Media Representations on the Edge (2012) and Science Fiction Across Media: Adaptation/Novelization (2013).
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"The notion of trash therefore involves a complex matrix of associations closely bound up with class and power. But trash has positive connotations too, insofar as it possesses an anarchic uncivilised immediacy that is uncontaminated by the bourgeois realm of art. Trash challenges the socially imposed authority of top-down high culture, which so often feels alien to everyday experience and desires. Trash culture, from this point of view, can be revalued as the cultural Id, the Unconscious Other of repressed middle-class taste."
Hunter does raise some interesting questions about what we get out of watching particular kinds of films. And it is amusing how he acknowledges that film taste can be a somewhat fragile ego-prop :
"Cultists are more than happy to be in the 2 per cent minority who either love or hate a film, and to take pride in their contrariness. Yet it can still be an uneasy experience to hate or be indifferent to a film that others love and admire, in case this indicates that one lacks the cultural capital to appreciate the film; it may even shake one's sense of identity, which, after all, depends to some extent on possessing a coherent, socially valid and emotionally satisfying set of implicit aesthetic criteria by which to negotiate the cultural choices that define who we are."
While I can identify to some degree with that attitude - there are probably some popular films I pride myself on not liking and many obscure films with less obvious appeal which I pride myself on loving - I'm not sure that I tend to worry about such things as much as the author. To me the world of trash cinema is like a foreign country, the reason for watching the films is the thrill of discovery, the visceral charge of seeing some violence or gore and the voyeuristic pleasure of seeing some naked starlets. Cultural edification doesn't really come into it, beyond perhaps a certain mind-expansion which comes when we are taken outside of our conventional world. I don't feel the need to defend watching George Harrison Mark's Come Play With Me (1975) any more than I would the average Jean-Luc Godard movie. Occasionally one sees an "art movie" which actually moves or inspires, but I find that a lot of the time I'll watch such movies in the same spirit I might do a cryptic crossword. Unless I'm moved or inspired and come away with a different view of myself or the world, then having my brain tested by trying to decipher the political or philosophical message some auteur is trying to convey is no more valuable to me than having my private parts titillated and my sense of the absurd tickled by a dated smut film. I suppose this is one of the advantages of not being a professional film academic. I can simply like a film without needing to think about whether there is some way I can defend its cultural significance in an article for a distinguished film journal.
But the real value in this book is the films and film-makers to which it introduces us. Did you know that there was major controversy in Britain in 2004 because the British Lottery money helped to fund a gross-out sex comedy called The Sex Lives of the Potato Men? Have you ever heard of a sleazy horror film called Killer's Moon (1978), about a bunch of middle-aged male escapees from a mental hospital high on LSD, given them as a treatment, who attack a bunch of school girls while believing that everything they are doing to them is a part of a dream - a film to which feminist novelist Fay Weldon contributed extra dialogue? What about Michael (Death Wish) Winner's feminist vigilante film Dirty Weekend (1993)? And we get to meet the flamboyant Antony Balch, who made experimental films with William Burroughs, managed a number of cinemas which he programmed with a heady mix of art films and smut and who directed the cult classics Secrets of Sex (1970) (a film which apparently mocks the heterosexual men at whom it is aimed while being filled with eroticised young men reading gay literature) and Horror Hospital (1973). And there is a look at a series of over-the-top art films such as Joseph Losey's Boom (1968) Anthony Newley's Can Heironymous Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness? (1969), Derek Jarman's Jubilee (1978), Ken Russell's The Lair of the White Worm (1988) and Peter Greenaway's The Baby of Mâcon (1993). All this plus Hammer prehistoric and sci-fi epics, gory horror and some surprisingly downbeat sex films.