Dr. Kate Liu and Dr. Wen-chi Lin
Fragments of Identities in North American Postmodern Fiction and Film
15 March 2000
" Postmodernism(s) "
Cristina Degli-Esposti outlines some major characteristics of postmodernism, discusses some films which are not
included in her essays, and presents the "neo baroque style" in postmodern cinema. Then in the second part of this
essay, Cristina provides a brief introduction to each section and topic in this collection of papers.
I. The Debate on defining the term "postmodernism." (3-4)
A. The concept of postmodernity firstly appeared in Arnold Toybee's 1939 edition of A Study of History. (historical
B. Federico de Onis used the word postmodernismo in his Antologia de la poesia espanola e hispanoamericana;
then later applied by Dudley Fitts in 1942. (aesthetic category)
C. Leslie Fiedler and Ihab Hassan began using postmodernism in the 1960's to question its significant meaning and
D. The first use of the term postmodernism is applied in motion picture while used in
a literary critical context. (ex.: Ridley Scott's Blade Runner)
II. The features and characteristics of postmodernism appear in postmodern texts. (4-9).
A. "Postmodern texts are concerned with the very act of telling/showing stories and remembering told/ shown
1. Through parody and pastiche, the use of strategies of disruption in postmodern texts includes self-reflexivity,
intertextuality, bricolage, mutliplicity, and simulation.
2. The strategies of inclusion in postmodern texts include several levels of reality and other texts storing great
quantities of information.
3. The utilization of new technology within the postmodern texts produce "a new relationship between the spectator
and the object of the gaze" (5).
4. "Memory, the archival site of the past, and the intertextuality work together to reproduce a collective recollection
of the pas into the present" (5).
5. The postmodern narrator is uncertain and often looks at the audience through the camera lens.
6. "The multiple perceptions of the postmodern vary with the change of the diverse interpretative system" (5).
B. "The contamination of genre in postmodern cinema and the utilization of new media¡Kallow
diverse fields to coexist together in hypertexts. (6).
1. The concept of layering and hypertext carries out the cross-interdisciplinary quality of current postmodern modes
of representation with finding a frame of reference. (6-7).
a. Peter Greenaway's TV. Dante. Inferno. Cantos I-VIII (1988)-- the adaptation of the first eight cantos of
Dante's.--(multi-layered and intertextual imaging, frame within a frame)
b. Wim Wenders's Lisbon Story(1995) --hypertext within the film, meta-cinematic and self-reflexive forms.---the
challenge of the word/image dyad.
C. Intertextual and hypertextual travels and the citational aeshtetics are typical features of any
postmodern text. (7).
1. The postmodern texts base their existence on repetition with a difference, recycling the past via the rereading of
every story and every meaning. (7)
2. The strategy of the fragmented use of slow motion in film emphasizes an expanded, segmented, and
reconstructed perception of real time and is given excessive, hyperbolic expression through deconstruction (7).
3. The technique of digression represents the existence of the postmodern hypertext which draws the spectator's
attention on the visual frame or the "circumstantial window" (7-8)
D. The elements, characteristics, and the presence of baroque orders of signification in postmodern representations.
1. The various expressive codes of the cinema and the media present "baroquisms," system of over-interpretation,
the subversive, disguised ways of seeing and observing through the camera lens question and displace the
spectators' attention. (8)
2. The baroque aesthetics, style, and style augment the concept of postmodernism in the cinema and specifically in
films dealing with conceptions of history, memory, time, space, the distinct position between modernist mechanical
technology with postmodern cyber-technology.
3. Elements of baroque aesthetics are part of the game between the postmodern cinema and its spectator.
4. The mnemonic condition of being in transit and transitivity in the great variety of travels of the character within
film passing through several worlds are explored in Federico Fellini's
La voce della luna (1990).
a. the variety of parallel worlds-- heterotropias--Michel Foucault
b. the menmonic, the inventory-like reference to the past-- Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction(1994); Milcho
Manchevski's Before the Rain
5. Postmodern films become mitlivoiced texts dominated by shifting perspectives by recreating other narratorial
centers and transforming into other entities (9).
E. The decenteredness of postmodern narratives has morphed into other forms of centrality that
exist in virtue of communicative relationships (10).
1. Several forms of "tourism" has manifested and proven to be substitute forms for the spectatorial recipient (10).
a. The cinema provides a paradigmatic model for postmodern subjectivity.
b. The temporal flanerie of cinematic spectatorship has been intensified in new forms of spectatorship produced by
cable television, the multiplex cinema, and VCR.
c. Postmodernism had been defined by new forms of cinematic spectation that often demand a remarketing and
reslling the past.
2. The conceptualization of time brings out the essentiality of historical perspective.
a. Combination of the past styles and future technology-- Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1926).
b. George Lucas and Steven Spielberg's Star Wars -- the future is based on the categories of a medieval past.
c. Huyssen's concept to the concpetualiztion of time in the postmodern texts.(11).
3. The historical continuum and the present-past relationship has resulted in anamnesis or suggested recollections
a. "Anamnesis induces dissociated and partial memories that combine into shapes and create their own storytelling,"
b. the postmodern art form--can produce its own narrative but leave the plot up to the spectator.
c. George Lucas and Steven Spielberg's film presents the world of the future generated from the medieval past--
Johnny Mnemonic (1995) Virtuosity (1995).
4. The cyberpunk sci-fiction in these films represent forms of textually that open a door on new cultural
a. The genre of sci-fiction introduces techniques of communicational trompe l'oeil
b. The intertextual net of references create a trompe l'oeil effect.
c. Gabriele Salvatores' Nirvana (1997), a noir, Pirandellian mnemonic-techno-triller, a unique instance in the
spectrum of Italian cinema---Blade Runner.
5. Postmodern films, as a reflection of visual and confused society, their perplexed ways of telling stories through a
disorienting use of editing. (12)
a. Fictional elements merge with the real people or facts recorded-- Robert Zemeckis' Forrest Gump (1994) and
Woody Allen's Zelig (1983).
b. Uses of layers of representation, the combination of high-definition technology and metaleptic, multilayering
F. Postmodernism appears in chameleon-like shapes as nostalgic revisitation.
1. The obsessive use of the past, memories, and quotations as ways to compensate for
postmodernism's lack of history (12).
a. Jameson detects a nostalgia mode since the 1970s in revisitation filims-- George Lucas's American Graffiti
(1973)¡KBernardo Bertolucci's Il Confromista (1970). In the late 1980s, Giuseppe Tornatore's Nuovo cinema
b. The historical revisitation appears to be responding to the postmodern urge to find a place in history. (12).
c. "The postmodern view sees the metamorphoses which appear to be portrayed in the images of postmodern
d. The way of retaining the past and history is called "historiographical metafiction. (Linda Hutcheon)
2. The electronic media send facts to memory and record via cameras and videos the cultural
3. The theorization of contemporary and postmodern theory like postmodern text in the various layers of reality
with narratorial component are utilized to analyze postmodern texts as an interpretation of series of stories,
memories, and inventions (13).
III. The brief introduction to Postmodernism in the Cinema
A. The concepts of ideology, the mnemonic, the parodic, and the media.
1. Cynthia Baron's analysis of Robert Altman's The player (1992)--use of self-reflexive techniques and the presence
of a Hollywood counter- tradition
2. Marwan Kraidy's essays of Disney's Aladdin (1992)--race, gender, and class
3. David Weinstein's reading of The Simpsons -- the representation of the hyperreal aspects of postmodern society
of the maker and the comsumer
4. Timothy Shary's analysis of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure(1989) ¡Kthe outcome of the commodification of
B. Cross-cultural identity and national cinemas
1. John Bruns' analysis of Japanese director Junzo Itami's 1987--Tampopo
2. Rosanna Maule's analysis of authorship in re-conceptualization of the notion of national cinemas.
3. Janina Falkowska's essays on Polish cinema--Konard Szloajski The Pigs(1993)¡K.
C. Notions of the pasts in postmodern perspective and of tourism through time.
1. Ellen Strain's essay on issues of tourism, post-history, coloniztion.
2. Christine Bolus-Reichert-- French cinema--Black and White in Color (1976), Clean Slate (1981),
3. Barry Laga's analysis of Barton Fink (1991)
D. The overtness of an auteurial presence.
1. Marshall Deutlbaum's essay on Akira Kurosawa's Dream(1990)
2. Philip Hilden- Moses' discussion of Peter Greenaway's Drowning by Numbers(1988).
3. Mary M. Wiles' postmodern analysis of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Querelle (1982).
Degli-Esposti, Cristina. "Postmodernism(s)." Postmodernism in the Cinema. Ed. Cristina Degli-Esposti.