Contemporary mainstream cinema is good for you: connections between surrealism and today's digital blockbusters

William John Robert Campbell Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores the ways in which digital special effects cinema shares some of the principles and effects of surrealist cinema, namely by rendering indistinguishable waking and dream images. Although there is much debate concerning the 'true' nature of surrealism, this article endorses the view of André Breton (2000) in his second surrealist manifesto that surrealism works best in a political and moral sense when it is hidden in the mainstream. To this end, the article proposes that the recent French film, Amélie (J.-P. Jeunet 2001), is potentially more 'surrealist' and thus subversive than surrealist films that are signalled as such. This is because Amélie seamlessly blends fantasy/fantastic images into the 'real' world, such that both seemingly share the same ontological status. Furthermore, where classic surrealist films like Un Chien Andalou and L'Age d'Or (L. Bunuel and S. Dalí 1929 and 1930) juxtapose waking and dream images one after the other, Amélie, through digital compositing, has the two work in harmony, in shot together and therefore at the same time. This 'spatialized' harmony as opposed to temporal juxtaposition might even constitute a stylistic, if improbably, form of surrealism that potentially makes mainstream digital effects in cinema a 'liberating' experience.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-30
JournalStudies in European Cinema
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2009


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