By Yannis Tzioumakis
The Spanish Prisoner is David Mamet's most celebrated film. With a nod to Hitchcock's North by Northwest, The Spanish Prisoner is a deeply idiosyncratic film with origins outside of the Hollywood mainstream. The film is built on a heavily convoluted narrative that is the product of an unreliable narration; maintains an excessive, often anti-classical, visual style that draws attention to itself; and actively challenges the spectator to comprehend the narrative. In doing so, the work bridges genre filmmaking with personal visual style, independent film production with niche distribution, and mainstream subject matter with unconventional filmic techniques. Yannis Tzioumakis treats The Spanish Prisoner as an example of contemporary American independent cinema, exploring several ideas in film studies. He takes a rare look at specialty film product distributor Sony Pictures Classics; assesses the position of David Mamet within American cinema, especially within the independent sector; describes the "con artist" and "con game" film genres, with The Spanish Prisoner as an example of the latter; and follows the deviation of narrative, narration, and visual style from the mainstream/classical aesthetic.