TV REVIEW: Edge of Outside

A serendipitous occurrence: on the day that TCM first broadcast a special called “Edge of Outside” last week, our librarian intern was working on a reference question about independent film. We agreed that the definition of “independent” was fairly tenuous and fuzzy, given the fact that a number of major studios have allegedly independent branches.

The documentary came to much the same conclusion, but noted that one can have an independent voice even within the studio system. (Indeed, United Artists was but an early example of the anti-studio movement.) It was a very entertaining look at a group of directors both familiar and unknown to me. In the latter category, Sam Fuller, pictured, who like Charlie Chaplin and early Frank Capra operated as outsider. Orson Welles, who Spike Lee described as a “cautionary tale”, was a director who designed movie as autobiography.

The special spends much time with John Cassavetes, who was inspired by the Italian neorealism and French “new wave” following World War II, and was the epitome of the director who, like later directors who would max out their credit cards to work, just HAD to work. Stanley Kubrick was also given considerable air time. Sam Peckinpah, who has put out a number of graphically violent films, was described as a filmmaker showing the clash between man and his environment.

One of the interesting comments came from John Sayles, who indicated that the limitations and challenges of independent film are also liberating. One is “forced to create an artistic solution” without the big budget.

You may quibble with the definition of “independent film” or complain that a given director or another was given short shrift. Woody Allen has final say in everything from casting to the final cut, and that’s about all we hear about him, for instance.

But I liked it, and if you like film, I think you’ll enjoy it too.

Every Wednesday night this month, TCM is showing “filmmakers who have worked on the edges of Hollywood”. The “Edge of Outside” special will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, July 19 at 11 p.m. The final evening of the series, July 26, features Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation, Robert Altman’s Nashville, and Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull.

Not so incidentally, the library reference request I mentioned was for a particular document that discussed the market share of independent film within the broader market, something we did not have access to. However, our intrepid intern found the Focus 2006: World Film Market Trends document from the European Audiovisual Observatory, which contains some comparison of independent and major studio films (p. 36 of that report) as well as a breakdown of North American market shares by distributor (p. 38). He also cited American Film Market (IFTA trade association conference); the National Alliance of Media Art and Culture, “Future of Independent Media”; Nielsen Media – write “movies” in the search field; and The MPAA Research Statistics – register to use, but it’s free, and it discusses other forms of popular entertainment as well as movies.