To begin class, we watched a clip from Blue Velvet (the scene where Dennis Hopper rapes Isabella Rossellini with Kyle McLoughlin hiding in the closet). Jaap raised the question if David Lynch could be classified as an independent filmmaker and if Blue Velvet could be considered a mainstream film. Blue Velvet was in fact independently produced, but distributed by MGM, a major studio at the time. Ultimately, Jaap wanted us to think about if this same grey area could apply to Kathryn Bigelow for Point Break.
We then transitioned into a presentation on the Lewis readings. The presenters touched on how some of the most influential auteurs of the indie movement in the late 80’s and early 90’s started out small, but gained such a large following as their careers blossomed that they ended up bridging the gap between mainstream and indie, without necessarily changing the style in which they made their movies. Here, they cited Spike Lee, Lynch, Oliver Stone, and Quentin Tarantino.
Jaap touched upon the three categories that filmmakers seem to fall into: the independent, mainstream, and a mixture between the two. We then discussed where certain filmmakers fit into these categories. After screening a clip from Starship Troopers, it’s evident that someone like Paul Verhoeven has the ability to make a mainstream film, where humans are fighting giant bugs in a battle to save earth, but the themes and undertones conveyed in the film can serve as a signature of the director’s voice, regardless of studio influence. The same goes for Tarantino. While he’s become a very recognizable brand, his style has remained consistent. The way his films get made has changed. He certainly has a lot more money and studio backing at his disposal now, but this is due largely in part to the immense following he has amassed. His voice has remained untouched and uninfluenced by the mainstream.
The second presentation discussed how someone like Kathryn Bigelow could still be considered an auteur, despite working within the studio system. Her unique style, and her preoccupation with reversing gender roles, is still evident in most of her film, even under the watchful eyes of the corporate studio.