Rival Narratives of Autonomy in American Film: Auteur Martin Scorsese and Experimental Film

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 09:30
Location: Hörsaal 14 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Paul LOPES, Colgate University, USA
After World War II, American film developed a vibrant world of filmmaking outside the Hollywood Studio System. This world was made up of distinct genre communities dedicated to different ideals of autonomous filmmaking. This essay looks at the public stories of two such genre communities: experimental film and independent film, with an emphasis on Martin Scorsese as an icon of independent film. It reveals how these communities articulated what Pierre Bourdieu considers incommensurate cultural distinctions of a pure aesthetic and an aesthetic of the real. These genre communities articulated fundamental social class distinctions in these aesthetics as well as in their genre ideals and public stories. These communities also oriented their autonomy and rebellion against distinct cultural institutions, criteria of judgement, and audiences. These two public stories reveal the structured meaningful activities in the last half of the twentieth century that shaped distinct genre communities in the subfield of autonomous film in the United States and how artists and others approached the creation and appreciation of film. The aesthetics and orientations of film genre communities in the post-war period reveal a broader field of autonomy than envisioned by Bourdieu in his theory of the “autonomization” of art fields. Autonomous filmmakers in post-war American film ranged from directors of drive-in pulp movies to creators of avant-garde experimental film. Auteurs like Martin Scorsese and their aesthetic of the real found a niche in the middle brow world of commercial independent film.