Parody: self-referencing with humor in the cinema

Black Dynamite (2009) -Project: Self-referencing with humor in cinema

The parody is a big part of the debate about self-referencing in cinema. Just 20 years after the eruption of cinema and the popular artistic form, she could think of herself. From the “Avenue of the West”, which we saw carefully in a previous tribute, to ” Singing in the Rain”   (“Singing in the Rain”) and the latest “The Artist,” the cinema seems to honor and “exploit” its artistic history. For this reason, it is not surprising how versatile the examination of self-referencing can be in the seventh art.

The kind of parody that we will particularly focus on in this article is the inter-subject or general parody. In this form parody concerns a particular cinematographic genre. Her creators occupy themselves with a certain cinematic period in which the greatest bloom of the species has taken place, and make it ridiculous, using the dominant cliches, ie aesthetic tools and narrative motifs, in their most extreme form. So they manage to break the original narrative and aesthetic unity of the original films, depriving the emotional impact they had on the audience. The viewer acquires instead the appropriate emotional distance and critical mood.

The cinema of reports

Although the term “cinema of references” was devised by the Noel Carroll theoretical only in 1996, the confusion of real and imaginary situations and people in cinemas has been practiced since the 1950s . Robert Stam explains meaning as follows:

[The cinema of references] l works on the assumption that viewers have the cinematic history. The purpose is to combine references to the most varied sources in a funny game with the viewer, whose narcissism is not flattered through the old-fashioned indirect identification with the characters, but through the demonstration of cultural capital, which is achieved by the recognition of references .

This kind of referrals are observed both in films that have as their subject the cinematographic production as well as in the parodies of the cinematic species, such as Top Secret comedies and Scary Movie. In works of this co-ordination, the interest of the filmmaker is focused on the film itself. The genus parodies are based entirely on the knowledge of their history, both for their creation and their recruitment by the public. Their narrative structure, technique and humor rely entirely on the pre-existing knowledge of the viewer. An exclusive goal is to refer to the history of cinema. Even secondary social, political and economic associations require the knowledge of the cinematographic source.

So what is parody?

In essence, parody is a secondary text, completely dependent on the original. That’s why parodies make their appearance, after the climax or saturation of the species has taken place. At the same time, parodies are timescapes of cinematic and not only history, practicing what Wes Gehring calls “creative critique.” While humor is a primary criterion for its popularity, in terms of quality characteristics of the species, this is not enough to be considered equivalent to other self-sufficient species. In addition to humor, the essential ingredient of parody, historical knowledge and evaluation are its core qualities.

The parody of genre in American cinema

The American film industry naturally dominates parody production. The creators of these secondary film texts know firsthand their sources of inspiration. So we are faced with yet another example where Hollywood judges himself. However, the self-report of parody does not have the negative criticism they have had in the entertainment industry, films such as “Avenue of the West” and “The Player”. On the contrary, the mood of parody is playful and lighter, without losing its instructive character to the next generations of filmmakers. Hollywood is self-portraising and dangling the finger on the creators and their artistic obsessions.

Black Dynamite (2009) Blaxploitation: the short presence of the species and its indelible print

A representative example of critics of younger filmmakers to the oldest – and now outdated – production is Scott Sanders’ Black Dynamite. Michael Jai White’s inspirer and creator starred in the hilarious comedy, parodying the kind of blaxploitation. This is a short-lived set of low-cost movies that shot between 1971 and 1975 in America and aimed to attract African-American audiences.

The great success of this genre was Gordon Parks’ “Shaft”, which was followed by a host of similar cinematic products. The films in question were full of violence and sex, logical inconsistencies and of course historical inaccuracies. Also the extremely low production costs had a clear impact on the final result. The actors were usually untypical and inexperienced, filming casual and the time available at all stages of production minimal. However, neither the almost inexpensive production of the films nor the ill-fated narrative stories seemed to be their main problem.

Sometimes, with blackened black men and sometimes with juicy black women in the leading role, the blaxploitaiton films produced the most hideous stereotypes of their time for the African-American community. All the stories took place in devastated ghettos, run by pimps and drug dealers. The protagonists were not the typical Hollywood heroes with noble and superior purposes. They were anti-heroes, just like the “bad guys” – mostly white strong men – whom they compete with. The protagonists of these films were derivatives of the lawless society in which they lived. From the same social milieu they seek revenge after a shameful crime that is committed against a loved one.

The ultimate parody: The Black Dynamite

All the above are blamed and jealous of the creators of “Black Dynamite”. This is the name of the central character – which everyone seems to know, even President Nixon! Black Dynamite is a former police agent. Having left the body after the war in Vietnam, he is now owner of ghetto tolerance houses and a great martial arts teacher. What really does Black Dynamite do is not so important, because he is simply the most comfortable and dynamic African-American that has ever existed! His routine, which includes mainly the practice of Kung Fu and the sexual pleasure of women, is interrupted when his young brother is assassinated. Like every blaxploitation film star, he will start searching for the guilty, with the purpose of eliminating them. In the process he will discover that behind his brother’s murder there is a dark plan to exterminate the black race!

The deliberately bad interpretations, the cartoon visual effects, the saturated colors, the labyrinthial plot and the emphatic contribution of the music are just some of the gifts of this parody. An existing urban myth of the time was used to plot the structure of the plot. The adultery of the alleged liqueur Anconda was based on the urban legend that wants the Church restaurant chain to poison African Americans with its fried chicken. White and his colleagues created a literally ruthless parody of kind, to remind the old and to learn the new ones. It is worth mentioning that this is the first film blaxploitation – or even based on its model – shot by black filmmakers. Genuine films were products of fantastic white script writers, so they are full of social inaccuracies and misinformations. Their popularity with the black audience can be attributed to the lack of alternatives and the internalisation of white visuals.

Falun Gong Thu Vu 000: Madian’s Land Corporation (1969) The parody in Greek cinema: the example of Thanassis Vengos

Last but not least, we could not miss the poorest in content but Greek content cinema. Greek cinematographers have demonstrated their clarity at the level of evaluation and reconstruction of the narrative motifs of the seventh art per periods. Looking back at the history of Greek cinema, our first stance is the year 1969. Thanasis Vengos’ second film as a “bald agent 000” subtitle “Madam’s Land Business” is one of the most famous Greek comedies. As her testimony is inspired by spy action movies, the protagonist’s image is legendary agent James Bond of the homonymous series of books and films.

It is necessary to clarify that the beloved Greek comedian does not try to betray the narrative and aesthetics of US espionage films. More uses those film products as a pretext for a chaotic comedy, as they offer plenty of opportunities for frantic chase, unstoppable thunder and misunderstandings. Thanasis Vengos plays Thanassis Vengos in the well-established role of the kindhearted and naive man with the great dreams – a characteristic form of the Greek old-fashioned. Contrary to Brond, the naive “Thu Vu’s agent” brings them up to the hypotheses he tries to exaggerate and, of course, fails miserably.

Allaum (1982) The world of cinema through the eyes of Harry Klynn

Recently late comedian Harry Klynn was known for his extremely horrible social and political satire. However, it was not a few times when the world of art and cinema was found in his target. In his comedy, ” Allaum”, he produces entirely cinematic formats, known and popular to the Greek audience. The film starts with fantasy film trailers with variations of well-known titles and genres. More typical examples are “The Night of Horror” and “Easy Lassaro”. This idea was later used by Markos Seferlis in his TV series “Attention Markopiedion”. In the bigger parts of the film, the policeman Beka’s policeman drunk, experimental art films and bucolic drama.

What to start with for this satirical masterpiece? The creepy temper and the phlegm of police Beka cause the disgruntled and nervous laughter to the most discerning viewer. Harry Klynn is also the funniest golfer of bucolic melodrama. Besides, sidewalk is still one of the most comic tricks that bequeathed the ancient theater to modern art. Lastly, the argument against the festivals and the hypocrisy of the art cinema is evident in the section “With Artemi”. In a brilliant way the cult Greek comedian analyzes and reconstructs in their most extreme form “the art”. From “Allaum”, two of his most prominent and most popular characters, the sneaky bloke and the Trampakula, have also emerged. Finally, this film proves that comedies can have a directorial view instead of relying entirely on their script.

Strictly Right (2008) The unforgettable duo Papathanassiou-Reppas

The next stop on the route between the Greek parodies will take place several years later, in 2001. This time, the difficult task of paranoid will be taken over by the twin Papathanassiou-Reppa with their popular comedy “The Clown Comes From Paradise”. Their second big film success after Safe Sex held an extensive and impressive cast of actors. The most prominent and most popular comic actors of that time participated in the tantalizing parody that included a wide range of genres from ancient Greek cinema, from the bucolic melodrama to the social folk drama. The plot was deliberately complicated, with giant obstacles for the heroes who eventually overcome the power of love! Unforgettable characters such as Jelena Delafraga (Mirka Papakonstantinou) and the inconspicuous Baras (Tasos Chalkias) nostalgically parade the serious but essentially irrational melodramas of the golden age of Greek cinema.

The last stop of the tribute will be another film by Papathanassiou-Reppa, the rather underestimated comedy “Strictly Right”. This film is a discreet yet discreet assessment of the cinema professionals. Two young filmmakers (Odysseas Papasipilopoulos and Pygmalion Dadakaridis) are looking for a producer to perform the shooting of the classic work of Leo Tolstoy, “Anna Karenina”. When shooting a producer of pornographic films (Dimitris Tzoumakis), he takes the lead role in his young companion (Dimitra Stoyianni). In the meantime he decides to turn the pornographic version of the well-known work with the same protagonist and that will be the beginning of evil. Their actors and their clusters, their creators and their artistic anxieties, the producers’ practices and the festivals – all come under the criticism of the two filmmakers through a paroxysmal comedy with surrealist interpretations.

As we have seen in the above examples, parody draws inspiration from pre-existing and not only texts. However, its result is not just a stapling of pre-existing filmography. It is more of a comic commentary on the established cinema conventions and motivates viewers to think and creators to subversive changes.