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Science Fiction Double FeatureThe Science Fiction Film as Cult Text$
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J. P. Telotte and Gerald Duchovnay

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781781381830

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781781381830.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM LIVERPOOL SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.liverpool.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Liverpool University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in LSO for personal use.date: 27 September 2021

The Coy Cult Text: The Man Who Wasn’t There as Noir SF

The Coy Cult Text: The Man Who Wasn’t There as Noir SF

(p.38) 2. The Coy Cult Text: The Man Who Wasn’t There as Noir SF
Science Fiction Double Feature

Mark Bould


This chapter first discusses the genre proficiency and playfulness of the Coen brothers. It then considers the ways in which the Coens situate specific objects in their mise-en-scéne so as to imbue them with meaningfulness, while simultaneously rendering their meanings ambiguous. These objects function like metaphors (and, indeed, puns), pulling together otherwise distinct conceptual domains so as to create brief, sometimes awkward, moments of playful, energetic semiosis. In The Man Who Wasn't There (2001), the objects combine, in a science-fictional mode, two key cult effects: what Stephen J. Greenblatt describes as resonance — ‘the power of the object displayed to reach out beyond its formal boundaries to a larger world, to evoke the complex dynamic cultural forces from which it has emerged and for which … it may be taken … to stand’ — and wonder — that is, the power ‘to stop the viewer in his tracks, to convey an arresting sense of uniqueness, to evoke an exalted attention’.

Keywords:   cult films, cult cinema, Coen brothers, The Man Who Wasn't There, resonance, wonder, science fiction

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