THE POST-CINEMATIC CINEMA OF THE “PARANORMAL ACTIVITY” MOVIES
In his “Six Asides on Paranormal Activity,” published here at Filmmaker, Nicholas Rombes placed the Paranormal Activity films (particularly Paranormal Activity 2) within the realm of avant-garde cinema, even developing what he termed “the Fixed Camera Manifesto” to delineate the strategy of the latter film. Now, Rombes has elaborated upon his ideas as part of a group discussion about “the post-cinematic” as it relates to these films over at La Furia Umana. Also participating are Julia Leyda, Steven Shaviro, and Therese Grisham.
In the Paranormal films, it’s not the house or the characters who are haunted, but the cameras, whether they be moving and hand-held (as in the first film) or stationary and fixed (as in the second). On one level, I wonder if this deforms the reality-TV tropes that are so familiar….
Post-cinema lacks diverse channels of publicity. Unlike the French New Wave or Italian Neo-Realism or the Film Culture movement, there is no one to claim that films like The Blair Witch Project or the Paranormal films are experimental, and therefore they are not. The folks who make these films—unlike Lars von Trier, or Stan Brakhage, or Maya Deren—are not also writers, critics, or provocateurs. The avant-garde has always depended on publicity to achieve and police its once-notorious place at the edges of the canon. In the post-cinema world, the proliferation of social media outlets has resulted in not more discourses across platforms, but less. Filmmakers are, by and large, publicists rather than agents of disaster. It’s not that capital has thoroughly commodified cinema (this doesn’t seem to be the case), but rather that post-cinema lacks the powerful meta-narrative to swim upstream against the currents of unorthodox publicity. Where are the voices that proclaim the avant-garde post-cinema as the avant-garde post cinema?