Several years ago a friend of mine recommended that I watch Kinji Fukasaku's film, Virus (1980). I kept putting it off. At some point, I finally relented, watching the complete directors cut in a crappy version on YouTube. What I discovered was an end of the world film that defies genre classification. Haunting, insane, and completely over the top (in the best way possible), Virus is a delerious apocalypse melodrama. (With a typical cop-out ending, but do those really matter, anyway?) Virus got me to think about other films I loved that could be classified under this mashup of genre styles that we often think don't belong together, but surprisingly do in strange and compelling ways.
The concept of melodrama as a genre classification has been expanded in recent years by feminist scholarship, pointing to its connections to noir and the women's picture. Indeed, melodramas were originally films that consisted of dastardly criminals with bushy mustaches tying women to train tracks: the first action films! The pairing of the two terms, melodrama and apocalypse, is meant as a provocation, a challenge, to traditional genre categorizations (which were just made up in the first place, largely in the 1970's).
As I was putting the materials together for this course (originally in 2015), I found myself wishing that Todd Haynes had tackled the 1970's disaster film, but then I remembered the references to the Poseidon Adventure in Superstar and the 1970's TV Movie-of-the-Week illness film explicitly taken on in his 1995 film, Safe. A film (as he somewhat tongue-in-cheek has said is) about a couch. And I started to wonder. Why can't a film like Safe, with its domestic setting, its focus on a woman who may be "allergic" to the 20th century, why can't this be viewed as a disaster film? A disaster film about a couch (and the construction of the "subject").
I was also looking for a way to address concerns in recent scholarship about the Anthropocene. What could be more dramatical than the destruction of the planet? In that respect, this course is a swerve from my Imagine the Political course which focused on end of the world films and social theory. Once again, the course will include Night of the Living Dead, placed within the context of '68, including focus on its domestic setting as a critique of the family, the State, and the subject. The course will be international in scope. After nearly a decade, I am bringing back some staples from my previous writing and teaching: the totally weird Uzumaki together with Tsai Ming-Liang's Hole . I am also including one of my favorite films, John Woo's Bullet in the Head, together with Tony Williams explicit take on the film as an apocalypse melodrama. Even more exciting, the Fall 2016 version of this course begins with Mad Max: Fury Road.