The Spanish Prisoner

The Spanish Prisoner

The Spanish Prisoner

The Spanish Prisoner

Synopsis

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.

Excerpt

In recent years American independent cinema has not only become the focus of significant scholarly attention but as a category of film it has shifted from a marginal to a central position within American cinema — a shift that can be also detected in the emergence of the label ‘indie’ cinema as opposed to independent cinema. the popularisation of this ‘indie’ brand of filmmaking began in the 1990s with the commercial success of the Sundance Film Festival and of specialty distributor Miramax Films, as well as the introduction of dvd, which made independent films more readily available as well as profitable for the first time. At the same time, film studies started developing courses that distinguished American independent cinema from mainstream Hollywood, treating it as a separate object of study and a distinct discursive category.

Despite the surge in interest in independent cinema, a surge that involved the publication of at least twenty books and edited collections alongside a much larger number of articles on various aspects of independent cinema, especially about the post-1980 era, the field - as it has developed — still remains greatly under-researched in relation to the changes of the past twenty years that define the shift from independent to ‘indie’ cinema. This is partly because a multifaceted phenomenon such as American independent cinema, the history of which is as long and complex as the history of mainstream Hollywood, has yet to be adequately and satisfactorily documented. in this respect, academic film criticism is still in great need to account for the plethora of shapes, forms and guises that American independent cinema has manifested itself in. This is certainly not an easy task given that independent film has, indeed, taken a wide variety of forms at different historical trajectories and has been influenced by a hugely diverse range of factors.

It is with this problem in mind that ‘American Indies’ was conceived by its editors. While the history of American independent cinema is still . . .

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