New Brutality Film: Race and Affect in Contemporary Hollywood Cinema
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The 1990s saw the emergence of a new kind of American cinema, which this book calls the “new-brutality film.” Violence and race have been at the heart of Hollywood cinema since its birth, but the new-brutality film was the first kind of popular American cinema to begin making this relationship explicit. The rise of this cinema coincided with the rebirth of a long-neglected strand of film theory, which seeks to unravel the complex relations of affect between the screen and the viewer.
This book analyses and connects both of these developments, arguing that films like Falling Down, Reservoir Dogs, Se7en, and Strange Days sought to reanimate the affective impact of white Hollywood cinema by miming the power of African-American and particularly hip-hop culture. The book uses several films as case-studies to chart these developments:
• Falling Down both appropriates of the political black rage of the ‘hood film and is a transition point between the white postmodern blockbuster and the new-brutality film.
• Gangsta films like Boyz N the Hood and Menace II Society provided the inspiration for much of the new-brutality film’s mimesis of African-American culture
• The films of Quentin Tarantino (including Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction) are new-brutality films that attempt to reanimate the affective power of Hollywood cinema.
• Se7en, Strange Days, Fight Club,and The Matrix trilogy signify both the development and the demise of the new-brutality film.
This book charts and analyses an important period of Hollywood cinema as well as engaging with key contemporary thinkers (Deleuze, Jameson, Zizek and Benjamin) in a strikingly innovative fashion. The work will appeal to dedicated film scholars, critical theorists and readers with a general interest in film.
the gangster Mr. Blonde (Micahel Madsen) to attack the cop in the way he does, beyond the self-confessed and chilling rationale that ‘I enjoy torturing cops’. The violent scenes, like those in Peckinpah, cannot be contained within narrative meaning - they are somehow beyond it. Blonde is also reminiscent of the nomads which populate Scorsese’s cinema of the seventies. Like the rest of the gangsters, dressed in their strangely anachronistic and yet strangely new black and white suits, Blonde seems
(arguably Jewish) geriatric golfers that their private golf course should be a public park where families should be free to roam and go for picnics. His former job as a defence worker, where he helped to ‘protect America’, and his desire to reclaim the utopian family life he believes he once had, could be said to lie at the heart of the white American male’s ideological existence. As bell hooks argues, ‘there is a way in which Falling Down is about a white man who’s saying, ‘I trusted the system.
Casablanca, Murder, My Sweet, or Out of the Past provoke laughter today among spectators, but nevertheless, far from posing a threat to the genre’s power of fascination, this kind of distance is its very condition. That is to say, what fascinates us is precisely a certain gaze, the gaze of the ‘other’, of the hypothetical, mythic spectator from the 40s who was supposedly still able to identify immediately with the universe of film noir. What we really see, when we watch a film noir, is this gaze
offers an account of what happened to Benjamin’s notion of cinematic shock once Hollywood narrative film achieved its dominance. He argues that the drive towards an affective cinema was corrupted in what he calls ‘bad cinema’, and what others have called Classical Hollywood film. Attempts to provide a physical and affective cinema, ...would be confused in bad cinema, with the figurative violence of the represented instead of achieving that other violence of a movement-image developing its
The way that blackness and the black body becomes a barrier to the viewer’s curious gaze in this scene is reminiscent of the titillating but obstructive language of rap, as it is used in the ‘hood film. As I noted in chapter two, the difficulty that white audiences have in understanding rap occurs at the time when the desire to find meaning in the dialogue in the ‘hood film is at its most intense. Mark Winokur notes that our ‘own ignorance of black codes are being signified - our desire to be