Geoff King, Professor of Film Studies, Brunel University London
The aim of this site is to offer a resource for anyone interested in the study of American indie film or related aspects of world cinema and film culture. The focus of my work has shifted somewhat in recent years, to include a wider range of international arthouse cinema alongside the American indie sector. The main target audience of this site is students and other academics involved in this field. But I hope it will also be of interest to a wider constituency, including members of the indie/arthouse film community and anyone else interested in this part of the movie landscape.
Material you can find here includes a list of relevant publications, in some cases annotated, and links to some useful resources over on the right-hand side. There are also extracts from my own books on the subject. I’ve also started an Occasional Blog on indie film and related matters, although this has not been very active recently; see link above or here
My new book, The Cinema of Discomfort: Disquieting, Awkward and Uncomfortable Experiences in Art and Indie Film, is now published (expensive hardback but paperback due out in April 2023)
This is the cover text:
How do we understand types of cinema that offer experiences of discomfort, awkwardness or disquieting uncertainty? This book examines a number of examples of such work at the heart of contemporary art and indie film. While the commercial mainstream tends to offer comforting viewing experiences or moments of discomfort that exist largely to be overcome, The Cinema of Discomfort analyses films in which discomfort is offered in a sustained manner. Cinema of this kind confronts us with material such as distinctly uncomfortable sexual encounters. It invites us into uncertain relationships with awkward and sometimes unlikable characters. It presents us with challenging behaviour or what are presented as uncomfortable realities. It often refuses information on which to base judgments. More discomfortingly, cinema of this kind tends to provoke uncertainty at the level of what emotional responses we are encouraged to have towards difficult, sometimes controversial, characters or events.
The Cinema of Discomfort examines a number of case-studies, including Palindromes by Todd Solondz (US) and Dogtooth from Yorgos Lanthimos (Greece), along with other examples from Austria, Sweden, the UK, the US and Germany. Offering close textual analysis of the manner in which discomfort is generated, it also asks how we should understand the appeal of such work to certain viewers and how the existence of films of this kind can be explained, as products of both their socio-cultural context and the more particular institutional realms of art and indie film.
My previous book, Positioning Art Cinema: Film and Cultural Value (2019), which includes a chapter on the relationship between art and American indie film, is now out in a new and much more affordable paperback edition.
Here’s the cover blurb for Positioning Art Cinema:
Art cinema occupies a space in the film landscape that is accorded a particular kind of value. From films that claim the status of harsh realism to others which embody aspects of the tradition of modernism or the poetic, art cinema encompasses a variety of work from across the globe.
But how is art cinema positioned in the film marketplace, or by critics and in academic analysis? Exactly what kinds of cultural value are attributed to films of this type and how can this be explained? This book offers a unique analysis of how such processes work, including the broader cultural basis of the appeal of art cinema to particular audiences.
Geoff King argues that there is no single definition of art cinema, but a number of distinct and recurrent tendencies are identified. At one end of the spectrum are films accorded the most ‘heavyweight’ status, offering the greatest challenges to viewers. Others mix aspects of art cinema with more accessible dimensions such as uses of popular genre frameworks and ‘exploitation’ elements involving explicit sex and violence. Including case studies of key figures such as Michael Haneke, Pedro Almodovar and Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, this is a crucial contribution to understanding both art cinema itself and the discourses through which its value is established.
A recent collection I’ve edited on indie film is A Companion to American Indie Film in the Wiley Blackwell ‘Companion’ series. A great team of contributors on board for this, which offers a concerted examination of various facets of indie film and the wider culture to which it belongs. An extract including the introduction, contents page and details of contributors is available here.
My most recent previous single-author book is Quality Hollywood: Markers of Distinction in Contemporary Studio Film (2016). Although not focused on the indie sector as such, this book explores a number of dimensions of ‘quality’ as understood in relation to Hollywood that are relevant to the broader spectrum that runs from the indie sector to Indiewood and then to the ‘quality’ end of Hollywood and on to the more conventional ‘mainstream’.