Low-Flying Stars: Cult Stardom in Mumblecore
The American independent film sector offers numerous instances of what Timothy Corrigan (1990) describes as the ‘commerce of auteurism’, employing the filmmaker as a distinctive persona ‘organizing audience reception’, and ‘bound to distribution and marketing aims’ (Corrigan 1990: 46). Gerald Mast’s claim, made in 1981, that, in the New Hollywood, the director ‘had become one of the film’s stars’ (1981: 424) may be evinced in the crowd-pulling power of a Spielberg or a Cameron, but most studio releases still tend to rely on the perennial appeal of popular genres and actors. It is in the independent sector that the ‘director as star’ is observed most routinely, underpinned by what Michael Z. Newman describes as an ethos of ‘personal cinema … contrasting the independent artist against the soulless studio committee’ (2011: 45) — an ethos imported from art cinema and the avant garde. And in figures such as Gregg Araki, Larry Fessenden, Jim Jarmusch, Harmony Korine and David Lynch, we can make a case for the existence of filmmakers as cult stars, in the sense that their personalities are central to the discursive production that accompanies their films, which tend to inspire intense and obsessive responses on the part of fans. In the instance of Quentin Tarantino, whose work Newman describes as some of the ‘central examples of cult cinema of the 1990s and 2000s’ (2011: 211), on-screen appearances have significantly bolstered that cult persona, supplementing paratextual material with roles in his own films and those of others in which, I would contend, audience pleasure and engagement is principally derived from watching Tarantino doing his fast-talking shtick — in other words, we watch him perform a version of ‘Tarantino’ rather than marvel at a fully ‘integrated performance’ (Maltby 2003: 289).
KeywordsCult Acting Film Festival Cult Persona Independent Film Popular Genre
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