That man pictured above? He happens to be one of the most important filmmakers alive.
No, really. Lloyd Kaufman — director, writer, producer, distributor, and head of Troma Entertainment — is absolutely one of the most innovative auteur directors in the history of cinema.
Okay, the silly pictures have to stop. Though he makes admittedly goofy, oftentimes incredibly (and intentionally) dumb, no-budget flicks, Lloyd Kaufman’s dead-serious approach to independent filmmaking makes him a figurehead that all aspiring, would-be directors should look up to.
Sure, Roger Corman has more respect from mainstream filmmaking. Yes, Charles Band makes more serious monster movies. But Lloyd Kaufman has something that far outweighs these attributes– the ability to influence and inspire generations of filmmakers through sheer, unbridled passion for the medium.
Pop any in-house Troma movie by Kaufman or partner Michael Herz into your DVD player and tell me you can’t feel it. The lust for creating just oozes off the screen (usually accompanied by green vomit and other bodily fluids). Yes, Troma films generally lack polish in most departments, but an undeniably punk-rock spirit has yielded legitimacy to the company’s motto: “Movies of the future.”
As such, Yell! Magazine feels that it our duty to pay respect — yes, you read right– by presenting to you, the reader, five clear cut reasons why Lloyd Kaufman and Troma are among the most important symbols in contemporary cinema.
1- Troma is intelligent
While Lloyd Kaufman may be responsible for writing, directing, and distributing some of the absolutely dumbest films imaginable (and I mean that in a good way), the man is no intellectual slouch. Case in point — he began his career at Yale! Majoring in Chinese Studies!! With intentions to go on to become a social worker!!! Yes, the man who used AIDS as the “biological threat” plot device in Troma’s War and became infamous for running over a child’s skull in The Toxic Avenger (see above) was going to be a social worker fluent in Chinese. That is, before his true calling beckoned him.
That calling, of course, was filmmaking. Lloyd Kaufman started his career with an eye for the avant-garde, albeit with a comedic slant (e.g., The Battle of Love’s Return and The Girl Who Returned). Though admittedly incoherent and sort of boring, the films contain much of what later made Troma great, combining slapstick and sexual humor while curbing techniques from such masters as John Ford, Charlie Chaplin, and Sam Fuller, as well as underground pioneers like Stan Brakhage.
From the very beginning, Troma made cinema-literate, albeit exploitation, a style that has continued today in such films as the rise-and-fall Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger Part IV and Terror Firmer. This attention and homage to the classics has also stretched into the literary world with Tromeo and Juliet and the upcoming Schlock and Schlockability.
Yet, what makes Troma’s in-house films really interesting is the politics at play. The company has pitted such past causes against Reganomics (Troma’s War), the battle of the sexes (Squeeze Play), Columbine (Citizen Toxie), political corruption (The Toxic Avenger), corporate pollution (The Toxic Avenger, Class of Nukem High) and the fast food industry (Poultrygeist). If anything, topical ideas and opinions represent the narrative backbone of their most seminal films.
While the humor of each film is typically bawdy and offensive, Troma’s typically moral messages offset the outrageousness and give their films enough heart and brains to consider them legitimately great satire. Sure, Lloyd Kaufman’s films seem dumb on the surface, but they’re the smartest kind of dumb you’re going to find outside of South Park. Incidentally, Matt Stone and Trey Parker have openly (and lovingly) admitted that Lloyd Kaufman is a huge influences. Just watch their first (Troma) film Cannibal: The Musical! if you don’t believe me.
Which brings us to… find out more Lloyd Kaufman love after the jump.