Thursday, 31 May 2012

Scene 16: The Cult Film and I

A couple of days ago, out of curiosity, a wish to expand my film knowledge and because I knew I'd be stuck in a car with nothing to do for an hour, I borrowed a film book from the library called Withnail and Us by Justin Smith. 

The book is about cult films and film cults in British cinema, that is it's actual subtitle, which analyses several cult films  including The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), Withnail and I (1987), The Wickerman (1973) Tommy (1975), which I hadn't realised was a cult film and  Performance (1970), which I'd never even heard of - see below for trailers of some of these. 

The book's aim is to try and  define to some degree what a 'cult film' is, and look into the practices of fans of cult films. 

The book turned out to be slightly more challenging than I first thought, because it seems to be written for people who've done film studies. Film studies of course the academic side of film and is rather different from the practical media production course I did at college. 

Nevertheless, I have so far read the introduction and the first chapter, which looks at The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and shall continue to read it, and see what it has to say in answer to the question it poses in its introduction - what is a cult film?

After doing a bit of research online for this post, I think I know what cult films are generally agreed to have in common - they are unusual films, unconventional, eccentric and consist of a mixture of genres. Sometimes  they are "so bad its good" or sometimes they include audience participation, such as The Rocky Horror Show. They have usually done badly at the box office, been panned by critics, or even banned and then grown quietly in popularity through word of mouth.  Most importantly though, cult films appeal to a small but loyal audience of fans. 

However,  Filmsite  points out that there is no hard and fast rules or checklists for cult films.
Whilst in an article from BBC News -  What makes a cult film? -  it is pointed out that films such as The Wizard of Oz and Star Wars have loyal fans that dress-up, like fans of cult films. Does this mean due to that these too are cult films? Or are they too mainstream?

Either way, I do believe that whatever makes a film cult,  happens organically. To attempt to make a cult film may seem like a simple idea - make it quirky, cheap and full of references to other films - but in reality cult films can't be planned, they just happen. Whatever makes them acquire the 'cult' status is not something a film producer can budget in. 

Anyway, check out Total Film's The 34 Greatest Cult Movies of All Time to see what cult films are out - and I'd be really interested to hear anyone else's views on this subject, and find out what films people think are cult and which are not, so please comment! 

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