A24 as Popular Global Art Cinema

Curator's Note

It is nearly impossible to talk about A24 without mentioning the company’s newfound popularity. If we situate the group as the inevitable result of an emergent trend in filmmaking, beginning with the indie sleaze and cult classics of the 90s after an 80s blockbuster renaissance, and gaining traction at the turn of the century with art cinema titles such as Amelie (2001), Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001), Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), Oldboy (2003) to name a few, A24 fits well within the bounds of what I am calling “popular global art cinema.”

What I am calling popular global art cinema could be considered a sub-genre of both Galt and Schoonover’s “global art cinema”[1] and what Nick Davis calls the “desiring-image” where commercial narrative cinema “reflects and indeed produces non-normative desire by the end of the twentieth century and leading into our own.”[2] I argue that its formal construction (i.e. the way popular global art cinema relates ambiguous moments of pure sensation and experimentation to those of narrative certainty) as a totality reflects the organizing logic of neoliberalism as a total structure, much like Seigfried Kracauer’s theory of the “mass ornament” did for modernity.[3]

Just as the mass ornament could be understood through The Tiller Girls or the military parade, popular global art cinema is just one example of this formal structure. This phenomenon is equally conveyed as a popular expressive logic across various media and expressive forms, each of which possesses unique ways of communicating narrative content through form. You can see the desire for organized experimentation in the now mainstream quality of indie games, such as Life is Strange (2015), Undertale (2015), and Stardew Valley (2016). These emerge in the early teens at the same time as A24. This is to imply that only some art films, indie games, and modes of expression acquire mainstream, pop culture status and circulation—which should be considered in relation to evolving technologies, modes of distribution, and labor redistribution within an information economy.

We can see this transition from narrative to experimentation most succinctly in the Under the Skin (2013). In the beginning, it is a character who is in danger. In moments of experimentation, it appears as if our innards are being taken by the film and digitally re-worked. Harsh visuals, sounds, and lighting are continually directed at spectators throughout the movie, whether in moments of experimentation or the sun through the window of a car. We must grapple with the fact that this movie equally consumes us as a critical part of its narrative meaning. 

I am currently theorizing this emergence in my own work, and I’d love to open it up for discussion.


Davis, Nick. The Desiring Image: Gilles Deleuze and Contemporary Queer Cinema. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013

Galt, Rosalind and Karl Schoonover. Global Art Cinema : New Theories and Histories. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Kracauer, Siegfried. “The Mass Ornament.” The Mass Ornament: Weimar Essays. Translated and Edited by Thomas Y. Levin. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995.

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