This summer Bennett Glace ’16, the recipient of an Emerson Grant, is examining ‘trash’ cinema with Visiting Professor of Art History Scott MacDonald in their project titled “Another Man’s Treasure: An Exploration of ‘Trash’ Cinema.”
When asked to describe ‘trash’ cinema, Glace explained, “[It] is not easily defined. The films that can be called ‘trash’ are at once skewed takes on Hollywood convention and daring explorations of cultural and sexual taboos. These films were traditionally made on shoestring budgets and tended to court controversy.”
The controversial nature of these films is an important element in Glace’s project as he intends to look into the attempts in Hollywood history to censor these ‘trash’ films. He also hopes to analyze the influence popular cinema may have had on the development of ‘trash’ cinema. As Glace noted, ‘trash’ cinema “is an attack on Hollywood staged by artists with deep affection for Hollywood excess and convention.” It stands to reason then that developments in popular cinema might influence these artists to employ, or perhaps mock, the production techniques of mainstream Hollywood films.
But beyond the controversies and influences surrounding ‘trash’ cinema, Glace appears particularly interested in the artistry and vision of the genre. As he said, “The best ‘trash’ filmmakers manage to make what is kitschy into something cutting-edge.” Many people might write off these films as low-budget box-office failures, but Glace believes they deserve a deeper analysis and artistic appreciation.
Glace, a cinema and media studies minor, undertook this project because of his fascination with experimental film and love for “the campier and cheesier side of Hollywood and American life.” He is investigating the topic by studying critical essays, listening to interviews, reading biographies of the artists and of course watching many films.
As for recommendations? “The Cobra Woman in particular is a must see. Jack Smith, one of the founders of 'Trash,' used to watch it and cry. It's really interesting to see the parallels between box-office hits like this and the little-seen masterpieces of artists like Smith,” Glace remarked.
Bennett Glace ’16 is a graduate of Pennsbury High School, Pa.