One of the cool (or tough) things about indie film is its tendency to push people’s buttons. Extremes, ambiguity, eccentricity, seriousness, edginess, experimentation, provocation—all can be turnoffs, or on, depending on your point of view. For me, it’s mostly the latter, though it took a while to get there.
The first time an independent film seriously pushed me was when I was a young adult, beginning to study film formally, and saw Last Year at Marienbad at a French New Wave retrospective. This film may not have been technically “indie” as we’ve come to use that term (more on this in later posts), but with its austere tone, labyrinthine story, and enigmatic characters it was radically different from mainstream films of the time and even today.
I’ve seen Marienbad only that one time, and remember it less than my own angry reaction to it. The film seemed pretentious, incoherent, and harsh toward what I loved about movies. Indeed, it challenged many conventional assumptions about cinema; but my reaction also said a lot about me, about my limited understanding of film and culture. Gradually, as I learned about modern art (among other things), I became more open to films that challenge viewers to see things differently, to confront and maybe even enjoy their alternative sensibilities.
This post is part of a series in which I talk about independent film in a more detailed, wide-ranging, and personal way than I usually do here. And it’s a chance to hear from you. Feel free to post a comment anytime or let me know if you’d like to write a post.
By James Latham