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The nostalgic Mode of the Postmodern and Nostalgia as a Theme and Symbol of the End of the Century

The artistic merit of a postmodern work is often found in the unexpected joining of elements in the various chapters of cultural history, and in the mixing of genres, styles, conventions and cliches. This presumption that the paradigm is exhausted, and that innovation is trickery can be interpreted as nostalgia for a time when there was still faith in the power of creation and poetry. Accordingly, this type of nostalgic sentimentality is sometimes invalidated, while, at other times, it is enriched through an ironic viewpoint.

A paradigmatic example of this type of film nostalgia during the eighties and nineties is Tim Burton, whose films exude nostalgia at various representative levels — from the overall structure to the mood of his characters and various motifs. Exceptional expamples of this are the films Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1992), Ed Wood (1994), Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas (Henry Selick, 1993), Mars Attacks!, 1996), as well as Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (Clint Eastwood 1997), in which a pathological obsession with a traumatic childhood and a nostalgia for a nonexistent ideal society are at the forefront.

Unlike the eighties, the end of the nineties produced a number of very good films that, on the surface, resemble the manifestations of this postmodern sensibility, but that could not be pared down to the same stylistic paradigm (Pleasantville, Gary Ross, 1998, The Wedding Singer, Frank Coraci, 1998, Blast from the Past Hugh Wilson, 1998). Not even the manaristic broadness of Blast from the Past and The Wedding Singer can be compared to the richness of Batman’s para-narative structure.

On a note not related to a concrete decade, it is worth mentioning how the above mentioned films by Tim Burton are exceptionally postmodernistic, just like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, while in the case of Pleasantville, The Wedding Singer and Blast from the Past, the execution (which is in great part typical of postmodernistic art) is a secondary property of the structure. Even if it would be excessive to assert that these three films represent a return to realism/mimetism (in the sense of the classic Hollywood style), we would not be mistaken in saying that they do signify a return to some genres — the romanitc comedy, and even to some extent, the screwball. However, this time around, they are devoid of the irony that marked the return of the melodrama/horror in films such as Edward Scissorhands, Tim Burton, 1990.

Nikica Gilić

Controversies and Trends of a Decade
American Film Postmodernism — A New Epoch or a Delusion
Film Music in the Nineties: The Song and the Score — A Battle for Supremacy?
Conquered Space: The Western of the Nineties
An Encyclopedia of Directors for the 21st Century

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