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.
In John Paizs’s ‘Crime Wave,’ 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.
About the author
Jonathan Ball is an award-winning author of dark, experimental artworks. He holds a PhD in creative writing and uses an analytical approach to show serious writers new ways to write, edit, and work so they can create innovative art that stands taller than the crowd. He is the author of numerous books, including Ex Machina (Book*hug), poetry about how machines have changed what it means to be human, Clockfire (Coach House Books), 77 plays that would be impossible to produce, The Politics of Knives (Coach House Books), poems about violence, narrative, and spectatorship, and winner of a Manitoba Book Award, and The National Gallery (Coach House Books). Jonathan also published John Paizs's Crime Wave (University of Toronto Press), an academic study of a neglected cult film classic, which was launched at the Toronto International Film Festival and also won a Manitoba Book Award. Jonathan has also directed short films, (including Spoony B, which sold to The Comedy Network), served as the managing editor of dANDelion magazine, and founded the literary journal Maelstrom. In 2014, Jonathan won the John Hirsch Award for Most Promising Manitoba Writer. He lives online at www.JonathanBall.com, where he writes about writing the wrong way. Jonathan currently lives in Winnipeg.