A F***Load of Media and Film History
Julian Grant’s FLOST, or A F***Load of Scotch Tape, is a film that emerges from our era of media convergence. In this new century, video games, television shows, comic books, and You Tube videos all can be easily displayed on the same electronic devices and screens. Moreover, with internet streaming replacing discs for delivering home video, spectators have the increasing ability to watch diverse strains of film history with a few clicks of a mouse or a touch of their screen. In other words, we are able to access media instantaneously, whether it's a classic film from 1945, a recent comic book, or a viral video. This convergence is creating exciting new possibilities for redefining the visual language of cinema. While cinema has always borrowed from other art-forms such as painting, theater, and music— and even responded to the market-share threat of television by developing wider aspect-ratios for the image—its ability to assimilate other art-forms is rapidly accelerating in the present.
FLOST incorporates many of the aforementioned media into its narrative. Bursting with visual energy, it bombards its audience with music video and comic book aesthetics (in fact a graphic novel adaptation of the film is forthcoming), surveillance footage, split screens with multiple temporalities, digital mimicry of celluloid home movies, and many other styles. Most films, as with the popular Paranormal Activity franchise, only replicate one type of media by copying the look of home-video footage uploaded onto You Tube. The more ambitious works, like FLOST, blend many different conventions to arrive at an exciting new visual aesthetic for cinema.
Grant’s film also speaks to our ability to quickly access the archives of film history. FLOST is a conscious homage to film noir, the greatest of all genres in American cinema. Benji the beleaguered anti-hero is a nastier version of the great male-leads of noir history— Joe Gillis from Sunset Blvd, Walter Neff from Double Indemnity, and Jeff from Out of the Past come to mind. Like those characters, Benji obsessively provides voice-over for the double crossings, duplicitous females, and the dark psychology and fatalistic outcome of his story.
It’s not surprising to see today’s digital filmmakers returning to film noir for inspiration. After all, this is the genre where many of the great auteurs of American cinema were able to create highly stylized works on small budgets and tight-production schedules. For example, the great Edgar G. Ulmer's Detour was reportedly shot in 6 days. More importantly, directors like André de Toth, Joseph H. Lewis, and Jacques Tourneur helped popularize formal innovations in lighting, framing, and camera movement that have since become common film grammar. FLOST belongs to this tradition. Its visuals are a byproduct of our current period of media convergence where spectators can access everything instantaneously, but its desire to innovate is firmly rooted in film history.
Zoran Samardzija is Assistant Professor of Film/Video at Columbia College Chicago. He writes on a wide-range of film history and theory, including Eastern European Cinema.