An academic monograph examining the Winnipeg filmmaker’s 1985 cult film as an important example of early postmodern cinema and as a significant precursor to subsequent postmodern blockbusters, including the much later Hollywood film Adaptation.
John Paizs’s Crime Wave
“Since his incredible 1980s spree of creativity no one has made films like John Paizs. He somehow captured in his magic crime-coloured bottle the anarchy of Frank Tashlin, the rancid hilarity of George Kuchar, and the warm heart of early Disney, and in doing so evoking, with his empowering low budgets, the polish and perfectionism of Golden Age Hollywood while secretly holding hands under the table with sleazier film histories. And his plot twists per minute average cannot be topped! Jonathan Ball's thorough and beautifully written study of Paizs's lone feature-length outing is a gift to film history. Read this book and watch the movie!” — Guy Maddin
JOHN PAIZS’S CRIME WAVE examines the Winnipeg filmmaker’s 1985 cult film as an important example of early postmodern cinema and as a significant precursor to subsequent postmodern blockbusters, including the much later Hollywood film Adaptation.
Crime Wave’s comic plot is simple: aspiring screenwriter Steven Penny, played by Paizs, finds himself able to write only the beginnings and endings of his scripts, but never (as he puts it) “the stuff in-between.” Penny is the classic writer suffering from writer’s block, but the viewer sees him as the (anti)hero in a film told through stylistic parody of 1940s and '50s B-movies, TV sitcoms, and educational films.
Writer and filmmaker Jonathan Ball offers the first book-length study of this curious Canadian film, which self-consciously establishes itself simultaneously as following, but standing apart from, American cinematic and television conventions.
Paizs’s own story mirrors that of Steven Penny: both find themselves at once drawn to American culture and wanting to subvert its dominance. Exploring Paizs’s postmodern aesthetic and his use of pastiche as a cinematic technique, Ball establishes Crime Wave as an overlooked but important cult classic.
“Making something new always involves finding things that have been betrayed somehow by the actual passage of history and dragging them into the present. Just as John Paizs’s Crime Wave diligently reinvented the half-forgotten styles of early Hollywood for a new audience, Jonathan Ball carefully and painstakingly argues for the importance of this innovative but neglected film.” — Darren Wershler, Department of English, Concordia University
“John Paizs’s Crime Wave is an important study of Canadian and trash cinema, bringing back onto critics’s and fans’s radar what could easily be seen as a key film in those two cinematic traditions.” — Clint Burnham, Department of English, Simon Fraser University