A Lady and the Loot

Paper by Juliette Alliaume.

From the many different types of films in the cinema industry Independent cinema has produced a variety of films bringing together different blends of work. Such as some of the first hits of Sex, Lies and Videotape (1989), Pulp Fiction (1994), Juno (2007) and in more recent years Boyhood (2014). Independent cinema making its debut in the 1980s, though dating back to the 1940s, struck its audience with a mix of Cult Cinema, Underground Cinema, and Art Cinema all playing a huge role in the evolution of the film industry. Having to cover a range of cinema styles, Independent Cinema grew to roaring levels of ingenuity and creativity over the years of production. Such as this original Independent film Jackie Brown (1997) by the famous auteur director Quentin Tarantino who brought riveting aspects of the film to define and differentiate Cult Cinema, Underground Cinema, and Art Cinema from Independent Cinema. Independent films brought a balancing combination of Art Cinema, Cult Cinema and Underground Cinema all of which were able to create the films people refer to today as hit films.

Some of the first Independent Films came out in the 1940s where the filmmakers showed their independence in much more obvious ways, such as how there was no need for funding, their films were not feature-length films and they were not going to be shown in regular cinemas (Williams and Hammond 252). This laid the foundation for future Independent Cinema. John Cassavetes, who was a founding father, in a sense, of independent films, as they evolved from the 1960s through the 1980s (Williams and Hammond 253). As Williams and Hammond state, “a period when… a lack of high end product coming from the studios, demand from cable companies and a new bomb in video rental that the majors were yet to explore” (253). With all that said it was then small companies who took the plunge to challenge the big leagues in the production of films for mainstream audiences. Later, proving to be a mistake the small companies were unable to survive with the big companies, thus continuing the normal way in which independent films are made today. Soderbergh who was know as the “godfather” to Independent Films brought new and exciting films into the cinema industry. The influence of auteurs were especially prevalent in independent films, such as Quentin Tarantino. One of the better know Independent Films of history would be Pulp Fiction (1994) also with the director Quentin Tarantino at the wheel. Connecting the different aspects of Independent Films with Cult Cinema, Underground Cinema, and Art Cinema has allowed for films to have a blend of different eras and styles which made Jackie Brown (1997), I found, to be very good.

In the 1960s the Film Industry began to see a decline in it’s audience numbers and looked for new forms of cinema which could bring numbers back. As stated in Unit 2 Notes, competition was coming from European TV and film. American Film makers found a way to bring interest back into the Film Industry by bringing new aspects of film to America. Such as bringing those successful strategies from Europe, better know as Art Cinema. Art Cinema was very different from the previously know filming in America where characters in the films were goal oriented, when confronted with conflicts they were able to solve them and the film came to a clear resolution. Where as the new Art Cinema was very much the opposite, characters were not goal oriented, their conflicts go unresolved, and the films lack closer giving an effect on the audience of confusion with interest still (Unit 2 Notes). Independent films connect to Art Cinema in many forms, but specifically in the beginning of Independent Cinema it didn’t seem as though there was much story plot, such as examples from Do the Right Thing (1989) by Spike Lee. Although a great film, it seemed to have the same criteria of the first Art Cinema films. As for Jackie Brown (1997) the aspects of Art Cinema are more difficult to find, though from this written piece “Through the Looking Glass: The American Art Cinema in an Age of Social Change,” it can be said Jackie Brown fits very well in the Art Cinema category. As stated by Bert Cardullo the New American Cinema, better known as Art Cinema, was at a crossroad of change, where sex, gender, race and class were on the table, specifically “women’s liberation,” which connects Jackie Brown (1997) and the New America Cinema (86). Jackie Brown played by Pam Grier, plays the leading role of a flight attendant who’s gotten wrapped up with an illegal gun salesman and plots to steal all of his money. Jackie Brown is the innovator of this film and plot maker, this goes to show women in leading roles were on the rise. As the film progresses Jackie Brown formulated a concrete plan to move a half a million dollars from Mexico to America, all of which is Ordells money. As the textbook states, Hollywood and “New American Cinema” created “an independent film practice from the 1960s and 1970s,” thus bringing together the blends of cinema into one (Williams and Hammond 252). Jackie Brown manages to make the money exchange into her possession possible by almost having too many people working with her, but keeping more of the information to her self. For example, she came up with the ultimate plan of bringing all the money in and keeping it for herself but told Ordell she would bring it in for in and would only take 10% of the profits for herself.

Independent Films can have a combination of different types of films such as influences from Art Cinema or even Cult Cinema. As the textbook states coming from the age of the Vietnam War, Cult Cinema wanted to show viewers how intense the war really was. Film makers often spoke of “bringing the war home,” in the sense of showing Americans what was happening abroad on foreign land (Williams and Hammond 205). Along with Cult Cinema in War there was Cult Cinema in prison, shown specifically in documentaries such as Teach Our Children (1973). In prisons the effect Cult Cinema had was based a lot on the music which was selected to change the scene from either anxiety and anger to liberation and gratitude. The change of tone in any film will frame what is going to happen, to the mood, and how characters attitudes will develop. In the film Jackie Brown (1997) there is a lot of prison action, from the beginning Ordell Robbie, played by Samuel L. Jackson, is put into a position of bailing out one of his employees for getting arrested with possession of machine guns. This is a violation of the law and the law is a very prominent part in this film as well. Ordell has a way with convincing people in the law it is no big deal and he knows how they work, this entail was a good and bad for Ordell. As Jackie Brown is leaving the county jail, where she had to spend some time for being charged with intent of selling cocaine, the scene goes from mediocre to enchanting. Ordell has again arranged for Jackie to be bailed out of jail, by a bail bonds man by the name of Max. This scene as Cult Cinema spoke of shows how the scenes from prisons can be set my the tone of the music. The tone of the music as Jackie begins to walk from the county jail is nonexistent, when Max sees Jackie walking his way and realizes she is a middle age attractive woman his mind stops and the audience can tell he has butterflies for Miss Jackie Brown. The music changes the tone for the audience and allows us to see the interest Max has in Jackie. When Jackie gets closer and Max is able to see her more the audience can see a change in Max’s facial expression; his eyebrows relax and his lips move a little as if he is trying to say something, but cannot find the words. This then sets a romantic tone for the rest of the film between Max and Jackie, a subtle but noticeable interest in one another. The effects of music in a Cult Cinema film such as that of Jackie Brown (1997) show a shift in music when Jackie is in the fitting room, during the money exchange, to high intensity almost seeming to make the audience anxious as Jackie is nervous during the money exchange. One of Ordells women, Melanie has already come for the “fake” money exchange where there is only 40 grand. Jackie then proceeds to move the half a million dollars into a Billingsley shopping bag and places two beach towels on top of the money. All the while the music is rising with intensity putting extra importance and stain on the situation for everything to go smoothly. Music has a huge part in films, whether it be a scene like that from Jackie Brown (1997) where the intensity is high or a film where the music comes in to calm the mood and restore a scene.

As quoted by David Church, “Cult cinema is most often associated today with the “midnight movie” phenomenon that J. Hoberman and Jonathan Rosenbaum explain emerged in the early 1970s as an outgrowth of 1960s underground film culture.” Connecting the different cinema styles to one another builds for a stronger Independent Film which Jackie Brown (1997) proved to do. The American Underground industry used sex and violence to gain its audience in the 1960s and 1970s. New York’s intellectual crowd seemingly enjoyed these films where nudity and crime were present (Williams & Hammond 63). Sex was a large aspect of the New American Film (Art Cinema) industry as well. Underground Cinema was a type of avant garde work, which it has remained this way still unlike how independent films have now in recent years lost their independent make up because major companies are producing and distributing them (Williams & Hammond 260). The avant garde style within underground cinema formed what continues through the cinema industry and worked as a floor plan. Many people found these types of films intriguing and new. The term underground came from the films in the 1940s that were particularly male action pieces, Manny Farber termed it “anti artiness” (Williams & Hammond 63). Additionally, the textbook stated Underground films were, “low budget, technically primate techniques and either banal or sexually explicit content became cool, fashionable and equally derided” (Williams & Hammond 62). In Jackie Brown (1997) when Melanie, whom is living in a house Ordell is providing for her, meets Ordells long time friend Louis, they keep the greeting to a minimal, not talking much to one another, yet still being polite. After Ordell has left the apartment Louis is then left alone with Melanie. Not three minutes after Ordell has left Melanie asks Louis if he would want to have sex, the question was very blunt and straight to the point. This part of the film is showing aspects of underground cinema where sex is involved. Other than this scene the film really has no other sex scenes or scenes which refer to sex. When also referring to other underground cinema films there is often violence involved, luckily in Jackie Brown (1997) there is a lot of violence. For example, when Melanie has finished the “fake” money exchange with Jackie and is leaving Billingsley with Louis she is nagging Louis about where the car is and pushing his buttons. Louis has had enough and tells her to stop talking or else, not another word…Melanie says “Ok Louis” and Louis shoots her on the spot in the parking lot. There was no stopping Louis after he got annoyed with Melanie, especially after she was teasing him about loosing where the car was parked, he had enough and looked back after her shot her and said he told her to keep her mouth shut. Following Melanie’s death is Louis’ death when Ordell finds out he has been fooled and Jackie has stollen his money from under him. Along with sex and violence, vulgarity is paired right along with them. Jackie Brown (1997) has an enormous amount of vulgarity from both the men and women in the film. Vulgarity was also a large part of Blaxploitation which Jackie Brown (1997) had influences of, especially that of upsetting white audiences with violence and revenge themed. Although I did not see this film to have had that effect on its white audience, but maybe more so on authoritative people, such as police.

From Art Cinema, Cult Cinema, and Underground Cinema came the ultimate combination of phenomenal Independent Films which created an energy in cinema that has lived on through the decades. Jackie Brown (1997) by Quentin Tarantino, raised the bar of a suspenseful drama where the main character, a black female flight attendant, stole the light and the loot of the film. Not only does this film embody a well produced Independent Film, but it also captures what it takes to be a well-balanced, successful film in the 1990s. From Cult Cinema the film exhibited aspects from a war period; such as violence and corruption, while Art Cinema originating in Europe brought characters with uncertain goals to Independent Films being about to work towards more concrete goals, and Underground Cinema revealed sex and violence within a film. From these different ranges of style Independent films were able to capture many forms of cinema and blend them into one extraordinary film.
Alliaume !7

Works Cited

Linda Ruth Williams, and Hammond, Michael. Contemporary American Cinema. Maidenhead:
Open UP, McGraw-Hill Education and House, 2006. Print.
Patti, Lisa. “Global Art Cinema: New Theories And Histories.” Film Criticism 36.2 (2011):
78-80. Academic Search Premier. Web. 6 Aug. 2015.
Cardullo, Bert. “Through The Looking Glass: The American Art Cinema In An Age Of Social
Change.” Midwest Quarterly 52.1 (2010): 86-102. Academic Search Premier. Web. 6
Aug. 2015.
Church, David. “Freakery, Cult Films, And The Problem Of Ambivalence.” Journal Of Film &
Video 63.1 (2011): 3-17. Academic Search Premier. Web. 6 Aug. 2015.
Buchsbaum, Jonathan. “A Closer Look At Third Cinema.” Historical Journal Of Film, Radio &
Television 21.2 (2001): 153-166. Academic Search Premier. Web. 7 Aug. 2015.

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