We started last week’s recitation by showing the students the rape scene from David Lynch’s Blue Velvet. The students where then asked to discuss whether or not David Lynch could be considered as an independent filmmaker. Some comments suggested that Lynch was successful at bringing the two together, while others pointed out that, while he was reaching beyond independent film culture of the 1990s, Lynch’s approach was to unusual to be considered mainstream.
This then led us to the presentation of the Lewis reading about auteur cinema in the 1990s and the blurring of the line between mainstream and independent cinema with big studios buying independent studios without dismantling them and many directors jumping back and forth between the two worlds. The evolution can be tied to the development of niche audiences. We identified David Lynch, Spike Lee, Tim Burton, Quentin Tarantino or Kathryn Bigelow as examples of auteur filmmakers that navigate between mainstream and independent. We shortly discussed Bigelow’s career and the fact that she was the first woman to win the Oscar for best director with The Hurt Locker, which we compared to Point Break.
Recapitulating the recitation the week before, we looked at the films we had discussed this week under the light of the concept of “independent” given by Goeff King, who argues that an independent film is defined by his production, aesthetic and ideology.
Jaap then showed the class several scenes from Starship Troopers, and we looked at how the film represents a subversion of the mainstream. This also led us to a discussion about representation of gender roles in films of the 1990s. Jaap argued that Kathryn Bigelow had maintained a certain balance between independent and commercial aspects of her work, and successfully questioned gender roles as she moved from independent to mainstream cinema. Jaap pointed out that Bigelow had been a successful woman filmmaker both in the mainstream and in the counter-culture. In the light of these elements, we then discussed gender in Point Break.
Instead of casting female into male roles, Bigelow sticks to the traditional repartition in the action genre. However, she also uses this to initiate a deeper in the homoerotic relationship between Johnny and Body, two hyper masculine figures reflected in the internal struggle of Johnny between his life as a cop and a surfer. We raised the question whether Johnny throwing away his badge at the end and letting Body die while surfing represented an indication of which masculine type kept the upper hand. Another element is that the only woman in the film is depicted in a rather androgynous way, turning the relationship between the main characters into a homoerotic love triangle.
We then moved on to comparing gender performativity in Point Break and Boys Don’t Cry. The students pointed out that the gender roles in Boys Don’t Cry were almost more explicitly defined, with two different forms of masculinity: a tolerant and kind, and a violent one. The class also brought up the issue of telling apart the effects from the acting from the cast.
We continued the discussion on the topic after Jaap showed the class a clip from The Hurt Locker. In the scene, the soldiers start to fight with each other after coming home from a mission to release tension — thus enacting a male performance.