The Cinema of Discomfort

About time I posted something new, after a gap of all-but a year, so an update here on my next book, which is The Cinema of Discomfort: Disquieting, Awkward and Uncomfortable Experiences in Contemporary Art and Indie Film. This is now almost finished and due for delivery in October, for publication next year by Bloomsbury. A blurb follows:

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 were are encouraged to have towards difficult, sometimes controversial, characters or events. 

The Cinema of Discomfort examines a number of case-studies, including films by Todd Solondz (US), Ulrich Seidl (Austria), Yorgos Lanthimos (Greece), Athina Rachel Tsangari (Greece), Roy Andersson (Sweden), Ruben Östlund (Sweden) Joanna Hogg (UK), Maren Ade (Germany) and Rick Alverson (US). 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 – locally and within broader understandings of late modernity or neoliberalism – and the more particular institutional realms of art and indie film.

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