One+One Newsletter No.1September 9, 2013
It’s Not The Homosexual…at London Underground Film FestivalNovember 9, 2013
Editorial by Bradley Tuck
Trash n. Trash v. To Trash, Trashing, Trashes,
For those of us brought up with the British English lexicon the word “trash” seems both familiar and yet foreign. In the UK the word of choice is “rubbish”. The word “trash” is more commonly found in American English and more likely to be heard in American movies. Trash is the discards, the refuse and garbage of American culture. In this respect, unlike the word “rubbish”, “trash” brings to mind the theme of Americanisation and global products such as Coca Cola or McDonald; Cheap, fast, “feel good” food often lacking in quality and nutritional value. It is in this respect that we might move from the noun “Trash” to the verb “To Trash”. “To Trash” is to devalue, to denigrate, to lower the cultural standards to the level of mindless consumerism. “Trash” signals the destruction of bourgeois taste, the blurring of high and low art and the globalisation of consumerism. In terms of cinema we might think of the leftover detritus of the Hollywood studios: the unnecessary remake, the mindless action film or the tedious rom-com.
The noun “Trash” may also be compared to the noun “Shit”. Shit is something beyond rescue or revision; it is simply something waiting to be flushed away.
But “trash” also denotes something positive. The trash cinephile searches through cinema’s garbage hoping to find forgotten or rejected gems. Whilst films such as Troll 2 or Myra Breckenridge have been labelled the worst films ever made, it is important to note that many such films may, in retrospect, turn out to be simply not conforming to conventional or mainstream tastes. In this respect, trash films are often cult films. If Star Wars is credited as having a cult following, it often totters on the edge of being a full blown religion. Other films, such as Boom, Pink Flamingos, Forbidden Zone, El Topo or Eraserhead, derive their cult status in their heterodoxical relationship to Hollywood template. Trash is a low budget or counter-aesthetic incompatibility with this Hollywood template.
“Trash”, however, is often more specifically applied to exploitation cinema. Exploitation films are often genre films that exploit popular trends and niche interests to make a quick buck. The term exploitation is broad and can cover anything from the B-movies of Ed Wood or Roger Corman to the gore films of Herschell Gordon Lewis. Prevalent topics for exploitation films are sex, violence, horror, gore, drugs, martial arts and science fiction. Exploitation cinema spans countless subgenres such as sexploitation, nunsploitation, blaxploitation and nazisploitation and films such as Russ Meyer’s Up!, Jesus Franco’s Vampyros Lesbos, Cesare Canevari’s The Gastapo’s Last Orgy, Roger Corman’s The Trip, Jack Hill’s Foxy Brown or Noribumi Suzuki’s School of the Holy Beast are diverse examples.
“Trash” is also a disparaging phrase used to describe the working and underclass. Phrases like “white trash” or “trailer trash” are especially pertinent. Trash cinema is often a kind of underclass cinema caught between carnivalesque spectacle, Chaucerian bawdy comedy and bad taste that sometimes approaches something like the avant-garde rally cry “épater la bourgeoisie”. In this respect, trash cinema is an affront from deviants and social exiles exemplified in the trailer trash of Pink Flamingos, the low-life inhabitants of Morteville in Desperate Living, or the ghettoised black culture of Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song.
Trash is also the title of a Paul Morrissey Film, which deals with issues of poverty, drug addictions and homosexuality. In the work of directors such as Paul Morrissey, George and Mike Kuchar, Jack Smith, The Cockettes and John Waters’ trash and queer cinema converge. Such filmmakers explore the life of queers, freaks and dropouts. Whilst diverse in styles and approaches (such as the Hollywood pastiches of the Kuchars, the bad taste of John Waters or the grittier moments of Paul Morrissey) such films offer a strange mixture of the camp and carnivalesque with bodily fluids and bad taste.
From Russ Meyer’s failed attempt to direct the Sex Pistol’s Film Who Killed Bambi to Derek Jarman’s punk film Jubilee, trash and punk have intersected in their use of low-fi aesthetics and counter-cultural rebellion. In this respect, trash might also be understood as an attempt to apply the punk motto DO IT YOURSELF to film.
Duchamp’s urinal: Fountain, Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans prints and Tracy Emin’s My Bed all exemplify 20th century art’s attempt to transform trash into high art. Through such actions trash, detritus or everyday utility has been brought into the art space and transformed. Likewise many films, apparently trashy in form, have either moved beyond mere low-brow status and achieving accolade within the establishment, or have gone beyond the merely disposable, using exploitation tropes and trash aesthetics to comment on the human condition. Maybe trash has gone highbrow; maybe it always was. Maybe we can invent a new term: “high trash”.
This issue is dedicated to “trash”, or to put it another way, this issue is dedicated to the hallmarks of underground cinema: Trash, Exploitation and Cult. In this volume, volume 1, we specifically explore exploitation and blaxploitation cinema. We will journey from the splatter film through to spaghetti westerns and blaxploitation cinema, critically engaging with the genre, whilst exploring its eruptions into political and social commentary. In volume 2, we will move onto issues of the exhibition of such films, as well as journeying into the carnivalesque capers of queer cinema.
I.Q. Hunter – True Blue Confessions of a British Trash Aesthete
Mikel Koven – Herschell Gordon Lewis Interview
Greg Scorzo – On Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill. Or what happens when the Art House is Seduced by the Grind House
Ben Noys – Once Apon A Time in Brazil: Glauber Rocha’s Antônio das Mortes (1969)
Garrett Chaffin-Quiray – One Black Cowboy and a Cracker: Seeing The Legend of Nigger Charley, The Soul of Nigger Charley, and Boss Nigger through blue eyes
Bradley Tuck – Who Framed Brer Rabbit? Racial Politics in Walt Disney’s Song of the South and Ralph Bakshi’s Coonskin