The Face of Cult

Cult movies and the power of the close-up
by Mike Miley   posted Jun 27, 2011

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Loved the video, it was an interessant perspective on cult movies. And... can I be a lot incovenient and ask you to list the movies you used in the video? I'd really want to see them all... Thanks!
Samantha   posted 12.08.11

Majora: Thanks for your comment. The film at 2:34 is from the end of WITHNAIL & I (the consummate UK cult film), and the other two clips are from TOMMY.
Mike Miley   posted 21.07.11

Great video, Mike, but what are the movies shown at 2:34, 2:50, and 3:38?
Majora"s ocarina   posted 20.07.11

Thank you thank you Mike, I was like Buscemi in Reservoir Dogs: "Great, not I'm completely f***ing tortured."
Bickle, T.   posted 14.07.11

Thanks to everyone for your questions and thoughtful comments. Bickle, T: The clip you're asking about is from ERASERHEAD where the woman across the hall approaches Henry for either the first time or when she seduces him. Gyuuy: That is a clip from PERFORMANCE. Bellzy & Zasta: You both (as others have as well) bring up that some of these shots would now be classified as medium shots rather than close-ups, and I do see your point. The close-up has gotten closer, as it were, as time has gone on, and I do admit that I erred on the wider side of the close-up here, though I hope that does not negate or dilute the overall point. Bellzy, you also raise some good points re: marginality and the criteria I'm using to select clips. While many of these films are certainly not strangers to film theory, most do subvert the value system promoted by mainstream Hollywood (call it heteronormative or whatever you like), but it's not so much a "Hollywood vs. the underground" sort of thing so much as these films' assault on traditional morals and codes in society at large. As far as Donnie Darko goes, I kind of agree with you: I actually do not like the film but do admire the power of many of its images, which I do think fit with my idea of cult films ushering the viewer to a looking glass kind of world that allows him/her to learn more about areas of himself/herself that s/he normally ignores/represses. There are many films that have been called cult classics (e.g. Casablanca or Spinal Tap or even Office Space) that have cult followings but do not quite achieve what I set out in the essay (although you and Umberto Eco may disagree with me on Casablanca). As to your final point, I see it the opposite way: rather than forcing these films to fit a preconceived notion about Lacan and cult cinema, I wanted to show how these ideas are present in these films and discuss how their presence could inform an attempt to define a cult film. Again, thanks to all of you for giving this your attention and for sharing your thoughts.
Mike Miley   posted 11.07.11

What a cliche jargon laden disappointing video. Some of the worse VO work I have ever heard.
mark tornits   posted 08.07.11

What film is featured at 3:10?
Gyuuy   posted 06.07.11

Found this quite well done, moving: made me choke up at the end! Brilliant piece, Mike.
Nicholas J. Faust   posted 05.07.11

I will say it is a visually pleasing collection of clips, but I'm not so sure I get what you're going for. First of all, many of these images are medium shots, and are pulled from films I would hardly label as "marginal". Marginal in comparison to mainstream Hollywood? They're certainly not marginal in regard to film theory. Also, a title like Donnie Darko doesn't really transgress common cinematic boundaries in any way. Also, you totally neglect to include titles from classical Hollywood cinema, like say Casablanca, which may be one of the defining cult films. You're prioritizing one definition of cult cinema, and your re-contextualizing basic mirror stage, Lacanian film theory to fit what you consider to be a cult film.
Bellzy   posted 05.07.11

Can someone please tell me what movie the clip that runs from 1:25-1:27 is from? I don't recognize the actress walking into frame. Thanks.
Bickle, T.   posted 05.07.11

Some of these are medium shots, not close-ups. Apart from that, great video. :) My addition would be this shot from "American Psycho":
Zasta Krockett   posted 05.07.11


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Mike Miley teaches Film Studies and Literature at Flintridge Preparatory School and is a graduate of Loyola University New Orleans and the American Film Institute Conservatory. His film criticism has appeared in Bright Lights Film Journal, Film International, the New Orleans Review, and Scope.

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