Special thanks to Chris Anderson, Mark Benedetti, Burcu Bakioglu, Nathan Carroll, Robert Clift, Ian Conrich, Skip Hawkins, and Greg Waller for their help and encouragement; and to the collectors, specialty houses and Video Watchdog who all make it possible for me to do my work.

[1] By this term I mean the international films distributed in the U.S. which still play by and large in the festival and arthouse circuit, outside “mainstream” cinemas.[return to page 1 of essay]

[2] Manohla Dargis, “Sometimes Blood Really Isn’t Indelible.” New York Times, March 3, 2005, p. B7. Italics mine.

[3] See Thomas Schatz, Hollywood Genres, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1981.

[4] Manohla Dargis, Not Just Roaming, Zombies Rise Up.” New York Times, June 24, 2005, p. B1

[5] Joan Hawkins, Cutting Edge: Art Horror and the Horrific Avant-garde, Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2000.

[6] Tod Browning’s 1932 film Freaks is the classic case in point here. Released initially as a mainstream film, then shown on the exploitation and drive-in circuit, and finally resuscitated as an arthouse film. Georges Franju’s Les Yeux sans visage (The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus, Eyes Without a Face, 1959) and Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom (1959) offer further examples. For more on this, see Joan Hawkins, Cutting Edge: Art Horror and the Horrific Avant-garde, Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2000.

[7] Even the “the integration” of body genre films “into the upper tier of the festival circuit” has historical precedent. Taxi Driver, which was considered a hyper-violent film whose cultural “value” was debated at the time of its release, won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1976. To be fair to Dargis, though, the Festival traditionally prefers less violent films. Jospeh Losey’s Go-Between won the Palme in 1971, the same year that saw the release of Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs and Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.

[8] Paracinema is an elastic category which includes low horror, grade B sci-fi films from the fifties, hard-to-find European titles, sword and sandal flicks, Asian horror, juvenile delinquent films, exploitation and softcore porn, avant-garde cinema, and historical social guidance films (to name just a few genres). As Jeffrey Sconce has argued, fans with this special cinematic taste, are commonly linked by reading strategies and a certain cultural capital. For more, see Jeffrey Sconce’s, “'Trashing the Academy’: Taste, Excess, and an Emerging Politics of Cinematic Style” in this volume and Hawkins’ Cutting Edge.

[9] Other recent additions advertised on the website include Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Joan of Arc (1928), and Anthony Asquith’s The Browning Version (1951). See www.criterionco.com. For more on Criterion’s DVDs see James Kendrick, “Aspect Ratios and Joe Six-Packs: Home Theater Enthusiasts’ Battle to Legitimize the DVD Experience,” The Velvet Light Trap, no. 56, Fall 2005.

[10] Hawkins, op. cit., pp. 8, 87-116.

[11] See <www.nicheflix.com>

[12] See Cutting Edge, 33-52.

[13] Nathan Carroll, Public Access and Private Archives. Unpublished dissertation, in progress. Indiana University, Bloomington. For more on DVDs see the Fall 2005 special DVD edition of the Velvet Light Trap. Forthcoming.

[14] According to an Associated Press release, 75% of Americans polled for an American Online survey said they preferred to watch films at home.

Dated June 18, 2005. (Accessed July 6, 2005). For a detailed study of home viewing see Barbara Klinger, Beyond the Multiplex: Cinema, New Technologies and The Home, Berkeley et al: University of California Press, 2006.

[15] Currently, even the attempt to sustain the brand-name of an auteur seems to have been abandoned. Companies will buy the rights to an auteur’s film and then just keep it in the vault, often for years. Occasionally the film will finally turn up as an extra on a DVD many years later. For more on current distribution problems in the U.S. see Jonathan Rosenbaum, Movie Wars: How Hollywood and the Media Conspire to Limit What Films We Can See, Chicago: A Capella Press, 2000.[return to page 2 of essay]

[16] I am indebted to Chris Anderson for these observations and the quote.

[17] See, for example, Catherine Breillat’s Anatomie de l’enfer (Anatomy of Hell, 2004); François Ozon’s 5X2 (2004) and Regarde la mer (See the Sea, 1997); and Gaspar Noé’s Irréversible (Irreversible 2002) and Seul contre tous (I Stand Alone, 1998).

[18] James Quandt, “Flesh and Blood: Sex and Violence in Recent French Cinema” Artforum, February 2004, pp. 126-132. Beur is the term applied to second generation children of North African immigrants, who are born in France. Banlieue is the term for suburbs, and refers to the areas surrounding Paris where many people of North African descent live. They are not the only inhabitants, however, and the term “banlieue film” refers to films set in these troubled areas, which may be made by white filmmakers or members of other (non North African) ethnic groups. Roughly speaking, these films are the equivalent of ‘hood films made in the United States.

[19] See Jonathan Rosenbaum, Movie Wars: How Hollywood and the Media Conspire to Limit What Films We Can See, Chicago: A Capella Press, 2000.

[20] Dargis, “Sometimes Blood Really Isn’t Indelible,” p. B7

[21] Ibid.

[22] Quandt, op.cit. p. 127

[23] The French films which James Quandt links under the rubric, “the New French Extremity” are themselves a disparate group and a difficult cultural read. Quandt cannot decide whether they have more in common with the “épater les bourgeois” spirit of the French Surrealists or with the work of the right-wing anarchist hussards of the 1950s. That is, he cannot determine whether the films of these new cinematic provocateurs align politically with the Left or with the Right, whether they are culturally progressive or reactionary. In a sense, like many of the horror films Robin Wood discusses, they are both and it is perhaps this imbrication — or perhaps dialectic — of liberal and conservative tendencies which makes the films so deeply troubling.

[24] Stephen Holden’s review of Saw in The New York Times discussed the film in terms of the Iraq war, for example. Stephen Holden, “A Gore Fest, With Overtones of Iraq and TV.” New York Times, October 29, 2004. Archived at

[25] See Pierre Bourdieu Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, trans. Richard Nice, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1984.

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