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1970S TO THE 2000S

The power of cinema as a mass cultural medium in the twentieth century cannot be overstated. When the German writer Walter Benjamin wrote about the revolutionary power of cinema in "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" (1936), his words were suffused with a sense of loss for the value of "original" art objects as they are replaced by their infinitely reproducible representations. Benjamin's nostalgia seems all the more prescient in light of digital technology, which obscures even the necessity for reality as the basis of cinematic representation—we no longer need to film anything real at all—when whole worlds can be created by manipulating digital images on a computer.

Moreover, when we think of the movies, we immediately think of Hollywood, its name in shining lights on a hill. Yet European filmmakers have played a crucial role in shaping the form and scope of cinematic expression from its very inception, and over the course of the twentieth century, cinema has become a centerpiece of modern artistic and popular culture around the world.


In 1839 the first still photographs were taken by Louis Daguerre and his associate, Joseph Niépce. Within forty years, Eadweard Muybridge had found a way to do series photography with his famous studies of galloping horses. He was followed by Étienne-Jules Marey, who invented the "chronotopic gun" to record animal movements, and the development of celluloid film was not far behind. In 1891 Thomas Edison's assistant, W. K. L. Dickson, developed the kinetoscope (considered to be the world's first motion-picture camera), and by 1894 the first kinetoscope parlors had opened to the public. It was two French photographic equipment manufacturers from Lyon named Auguste and Louis Lumière, however, who invented the first widely used camera, the cinématographe, which could also be used to print and project film. The Lumière brothers thus established the standard speed for silent film (sixteen frames per second), and other versions of the kinetoscope and the cinématographe emerged almost simultaneously in Germany and Great Britain. Lumière camera operators spread out around the world, filming and exhibiting short vignettes of foreign landscapes and everyday life.

The earliest films were often referred to as actualités, since filmmakers such as the Lumières made little attempt to embellish or edit filmed scenes in any significant way. But another Frenchman, Georges Méliès, had been present at the first Lumière screenings in France and recognized the (literally) fantastic potential of the new cinematic medium. He began making narrative films, and developed many of the basic cinematographic elements that are in use today, including the fade-in/out, superimposition through double exposure, stop-motion photography, and the dissolve. As the twentieth century began, Méliès's films became more and more fantastic, including his famous Trip to the Moon (1902), as well as versions of the Arabian Nights (1905) and Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea (1907).

European filmmakers also helped to determine the standard ("feature") length of films: four very popular foreign films, all released in the United States between 1911 and 1914 (and all between four and nine reels long), helped to stretch the attention span of the average audience member to the ninety-minute to two-hour length with which we are familiar today. This new breed of films was expansive and epic, often with prestigious literary or theatrical precedent (e.g. The Loves of Queen Elizabeth [1912], starring Sarah Bernhardt, and Quo Vadis? [1913]). Italy followed the international success of Quo Vadis? with another huge epic, Giovanni Pastrone's Cabiria (1914). Unfortunately, Italy's success in the international cinema market had peaked by 1919, and its film industry had nearly collapsed by the mid-1920s.

In France, meanwhile, several filmmaking concerns made important contributions to the growing medium: a company named Pathé Frères, formed in 1896, achieved massive dominance in the international film market during the first decades of the century, while a smaller company founded by the inventor Léon Gaumont produced films made by the first female filmmaker, Alice Guy, and serial films by the director Louis Feuillade. Pathé broke new ground in several areas of the new industry, becoming one of the first companies worldwide to vertically integrate (that is, to hold a controlling interest at all levels of the business, from production to exhibition); Pathé also innovated such editing practices as hand-stenciling color onto certain release prints, a practice it continued through the early 1930s.

In Great Britain, cinema proliferated quickly, aided by the inventor R. W. Paul's widespread sale of projectors; the more films people saw, the more demand increased. The British filmmakers at the turn of the century were remarkable for their willingness to experiment with the actualité form, adding "trick" elements and other innovations in editing. The rich history of films from Scandinavian countries began before its famous proponent Ingmar Bergman was even born: films produced by Nordisk, in Denmark, were among the most popular and highly regarded of the first two decades of the twentieth century.


For all the ingenuity and growth in European cinema to 1914, the United States would come to dominate markets at home and abroad by the early 1920s, aided by the war in Europe. The onset of war in 1914 forced two of the biggest players in international cinema, France and Italy, to severely diminish their production; American firms saw their opportunity and seized it, pouring money into production values that would be recuperated in domestic and international revenues. The European film industries were crippled not only by the distraction of war but also by a closing down of borders between national cinemas, so that technical and stylistic advances no longer passed freely from one country to another. Thus did each nation begin to develop its own distinctive features and style, some strains of which would continue throughout the twentieth century.

German cinema before 1912 was fairly nonexistent due to cultural resistance to the form, which was considered derivative compared to theater and morally questionable in terms of content. The first successful movement in German cinema, then, called the Autorenfilm (the "authors' film") justified its worth by borrowing its prestige from literary and theatrical predecessors—and in that sense really was derivative, and it predictably lost steam. Germany relied heavily on imports from other countries, including Denmark, but fear of anti-German sentiment conveyed in such films provoked Germany to ban all foreign films in 1916, almost completely isolating German cinema.

Russia's film industry was also somewhat slow to develop, and during World War I became as cloistered as Germany's film system. The result of such segregation from the rest of the world for Germany and Russia would be unique qualities with which we still associate these national cinemas, though in the case of Russia, many of these innovations would have to wait until after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, which brought Russia's burgeoning film industry to a screeching halt.

From Great Britain to Russia, Europe from 1914 to 1919 had one main preoccupation: war. The effect of this period in European cinematic history should not be underestimated, not only because it forced countries into their own corners of filmmaking but also because the themes and content of films made during this period inevitably shifted toward promotion of the war effort in each particular nation. Newsreels proliferated as a form, and American films filled the screens of European playhouses. European countries such as Denmark took advantage of their politically neutral status to gain a greater share of other European markets, and innovative Swedish directors such as Victor Sjöström enjoyed widespread acclaim for complex narrative innovations and use of landscape.


Following World War I, several of the twentieth century's most important filmmaking movements took shape in Europe. In Weimar Germany, most of the industry was gathered up by the government conglomerate Universum Film Aktiengesellschaft (UFA) in 1917. Such consolidation allowed for a distinctive and consistent development of film style, and the eventual result was expressionism. Yet preceding expressionism in the immediate postwar context of Germany was a spate of huge costume dramas meant to compete with Italy's epic historical films of the teens. The director Ernst Lubitsch, later known in the United States for his "Lubitsch touch," made his first films during this period in Germany.

Concurrently, a new strain of German cinema was taking shape: in 1918 the Austrian artist Carl Mayer and Czech poet Hans Janowitz presented a harrowing tale of madness, murder, and abuse of power to the then independent production company Decla-Bioskop (it did not merge with UFA until 1921). At first Fritz Lang was slated to direct The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari (1919), but it was ultimately assigned to the filmmaker Robert Wiene. Wiene sought to render his narrator's madness in visual terms, which he accomplished by having eminent contemporary expressionist artists execute the sets. The sets were extremely stylized, with distorted shapes and lighting painted directly onto the backdrops; combined with chiaroscuro setups in the actual lighting, the total effect was haunting, filled with shadows and dark corners. Wiene thus "expresses," or makes visible, the inner darkness and hallucinatory distortion of his characters' minds.

Expressionist films would dominate German cinema over the next decade, when several of its masterpieces were made. Fritz Lang's Destiny (1921; Die Müde Tod), for example, tells the story of a young woman who bargains with Death for the life of her lover, while Lang's next film, Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler (1922; Doktor Mabuse, Der Spieler), is one step more lurid, reverting from a journey through the ages (Destiny' s setting) to the dank underworld of the gangster. Lang made one of his last and most famous silent films, Metropolis, in 1927. This dystopic tale of a mechanized future pushed Lang's—and UFA's—resources to the limit: Lang and his team made a number of technical innovations and trick shots in order to represent the enormous scale of this future world; UFA, on the other hand, was helped to bankruptcy by the effort, and it would take many years for audiences and critics to recognize the brilliance of Lang's frightening vision.

The other key director of German expressionism is F. W. Murnau, whose film Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horrors (1922) is remarkable for the way its expressionistic elements are integrated into the acting, lighting, and cinematography rather than relying on highly stylized sets as in Lang's Metropolis or Wiene's Caligari. Murnau perfected the use of low-angle lighting to create expressive distortion of shadows cast by Nosferatu, rendering the vampire all the more menacing. Shot on location in eastern Europe, Nosferatu would cast its own shadow of influence on a wide range of filmmakers to follow, including Orson Welles and Werner Herzog (who made his own version of Nosferatu in 1979, starring Klaus Kinski and Isabelle Adjani). With The Last Laugh (1924), Murnau left expressionism largely behind, turning to a much more realistic mode, a trend in the mid-1920s known as "the new objectivity" (Die Neue Sachlichkeit). By the end of the 1920s, Murnau had immigrated to Hollywood, like so many other European directors of his vintage.

In France, parallel systems of film production materialized, divided into mainstream and more avant-garde experiments in film. A system of "cine-clubs" also began in France during the 1920s, founded by the novelist, director, and film critic Louis Delluc. Delluc believed that cinema could be studied and appreciated on a level with other art forms, and called for the formation of exhibition and viewing practices that would include lecture, discussion, and debate about contemporary films. The importance of the advent of cine-clubs in France and their proliferation around the world during the twentieth century cannot be overestimated; their support of films and film movements outside of mainstream cinematic entertainment often constituted the difference between a film's success or failure, and it helped to reinforce the concept of cinema as "the seventh art" in France.

In 1920s Europe, cine-clubs provided a venue for avant-garde artists of various modernist movements to experiment with cinematic form. There were impressionist filmmakers—not to be mistaken with the nineteenth-century group of French painters—who sought to express inner states without resorting to the stylization of the German expressionists (Germaine Dulac, Jean Epstein, Marcel L'Herbier), abstract graphic experiments (Hans Richter and Viking Eggeling), dadaist films (Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia, Man Ray, René Clair), early surrealist shorts (Fernand Léger, Dulac, and Antonin Artaud). Two crucial European films of the decade were made in France by Spaniards, Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí: Un chien andalou (1928; An Andalusian dog) and L'age d'or (1930; The golden age—it should be noted that Dalí's role was much less in this film). Both Andalou and L'age d'or are remarkable for their disjointed narrative "structures" and juxtaposition of bizarre images to represent dream imagery; they are likewise suffused with an eroticism and antiauthoritarian spirit that continue to captivate filmmakers and viewers today.

The director Abel Gance, while certainly avant-garde (in the sense of being ahead of his time) in many respects, and though he was working at the same time in France, only skirted the edges of the various groups just mentioned. Yet his contribution to European cinema is considerable. Gance considered the American director D. W. Griffith a spiritual father and endeavored to make films of the sweep and grandeur of Griffith's Intolerance (1916). In several films of the late 1910s and early 1920s, Gance cultivated his skill at associative (metaphorical) editing (J'accuse! 1919; La roue [1922–1923; The wheel]). With Napoleon (1927), Gance uses a dizzying array of effects and techniques to render Napoleon a monumental historical figure; at several moments in the twenty-eight-reel original cut (the first of six intended parts), Gance employs a three-camera triptych process in order to enlarge the screen to three times its normal width.

Other influential directors of the 1920s and early 1930s include Danish-born Carl Dreyer, whose 1928 Passion of Joan of Arc is still considered one of the finest films in the history of cinema for its use of dramatic close-up to draw the spectator into Joan's suffering; Jean Vigo (À propos de Nice, 1930; Zero for Conduct, 1933; L'Atalante, 1934), whose early death cut short a brilliant career and partnership with the cinematographer Boris Kaufman (brother of Dziga Vertov); and René Clair, who made among the most successful transitions to sound with the musical comedies Under the Roofs of Paris (1930), The Million (1931), and the astonishingly hopeful A nous la liberté (1931), a film that depicts the plight of the industrial worker in the era of the Great Depression (it is often compared to Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times).

Finally, no discussion of the silent era in Europe would be complete without examination of one of its most (literally) revolutionary cinematic movements: along with the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 came a radical new kind of filmmaking, known as Soviet "montage," so named for its emphasis on editing as the focal point for the production of meaning in cinema. In August 1919 the Russian film industry was nationalized and the State Film School was founded. Some of the Soviet era's key figures soon gathered there, including Lev Kuleshov and Vsevolod Pudovkin. During the civil war years (1918–1920), most state-sponsored filmmaking was devoted to propagandistic (often newsreel) material to be sent out and exhibited on agit-trains and other modes of transporting Lenin's message to the countryside. An agreement with Germany (the Rapallo Treaty) in 1922 effectively ended the embargo of film production materials to the USSR, and production sites were set up in numerous areas of the Soviet Union. Though a vast majority of the films exhibited in the USSR during the early 1920s were imports, the indigenous film industry slowly began making inroads.

The first centralized distribution entity of the Soviet era, Gosinko, was largely replaced by another organization, Sovinko, when the former proved unsuccessful at reviving the flagging film industry during the early 1920s. Yet in 1925 it was Gosinko that produced one of the most influential films in cinema history: Sergei Eisenstein's Potemkin, which is an epic rendering of a popular uprising that took place on the battleship Potemkin in 1905. Its denouement on the steps of Odessa is cut in an extraordinary rhythm that captures both the suspense and the relentless onslaught of the massacre it depicts. Eisenstein went on to have a long and varied career in Soviet film, ranging in style and content from Strike (1925), depicting a factory strike in tsarist Russia (filmed on location with actual workers in place of actors), to Ivan the Terrible, Parts 1 and 2 (1944, 1958), a massively scaled biography of Ivan IV.

One of the USSR's other key filmmakers also originated during the revolutionary and civil war period: Dziga Vertov (né Denis Kaufman) began by working on agitprop documentaries during the late 1910s and early 1920s, developing a theory and approach to documentary filmmaking that would result in Kino-Eye (1924), Man with a Movie Camera (1929), and an astounding, sprawling work about the first Soviet Five-Year Plan called A Sixth of the World (1926).


In "Evolution of the Language of Cinema," the French film critic and cofounder of the journal Cahiers du cinema, André Bazin, argues that sound inherently nudged cinematic style toward realism, since it is less "flexible" than the visual image—that is, its syntax cannot as easily be changed. As national cinemas around the world made the transition to sound, transformations occurred on every level of production, from business infrastructure to style. Sound required new shooting setups for cameras suddenly immobilized by cumbersome devices for muffling the sound of their operation; exhibition spaces had to be outfitted with technology to project sound in theaters. In the early sound era, several versions were made of each film, but this proved too costly to be a sustainable solution. Then dubbing became quite common (and is still commercially accepted today by Italian audiences, for example), whereas in the Netherlands and Scandinavia films were (and are) almost always shown in their original version.

As the United States moved to sound technology between 1928 and 1932, several American companies set their sights on the European market as well. While RCA and General Electric were largely successful in Great Britain, industry forces based in Germany banded together to develop competing sound technology and to sue American companies in European courts for copyright infringement. The resulting corporate battle would not be resolved until 1930, when all of the international industry players met in Paris to negotiate which areas of Europe (and the world) would be controlled by whom. The agreement proved to be fragile, finally collapsing in 1939 as World War II loomed, but the net result for Europe was significant: the resistance to American dominion over sound technology prevented Hollywood from completely overwhelming the European film industry during the 1930s.

In Great Britain, several strains of filmmaking took advantage of the new dimension of cinematic representation: Alfred Hitchcock's films, for instance, only became better once sound was added. One of his early classics, Blackmail (1929), was even promoted as Britain's first full-length sound film, though that claim is still disputed.

In Blackmail, the lingering influence of expressionism is clearly present (in a trade agreement, Hitchcock had made his first two films in the 1920s as a contract director in Germany). During his British period, Hitchcock made several innovations, including the use of sound to reflect a character's stream of consciousness.

Another important development in 1930s Britain was a move toward social realism, an approach to and an ethics of filmmaking exemplified by the Scottish filmmaker John Grierson. Grierson founded the British documentary movement and has been credited with coining the term documentary. Profoundly influenced by predecessors Robert Flaherty and Sergei Eisenstein, Grierson sought to reveal the inherent drama in the struggles of everyday working people. He started the Empire Marketing Board Film Unit (and in 1933 the GPO Film Unit), gathering a group of bright young filmmakers around him, and together they produced such films as Drifters (1929), Industrial Britain (1933), Granton Trawler (1934), Song of Ceylon (1934), and Night Mail (1936). He was eventually appointed Canadian film commissioner and founded the National Film Board of Canada.

Instead of turning to nonfiction to represent the difficult social realities of the 1930s, French filmmakers infused narrative fiction film with harsher themes and stylistic techniques, an inclination known as poetic realism. The directors Jean Renoir, Marcel Carné, Jacques Feyder, Julien Duvivier, and Pierre Chenal all made films in this mode. Several of the most influential films of the period starred Jean Gabin (Pépé le Moko, 1937; The Lower Depths, 1936; and Daybreak, 1939) and Michel Simon (Boudu Saved from Drowning, 1932; The Last Turn, 1939), and both men starred in Carné's Port of Shadows (1938; Quai des brumes). While rendered differently by each director, films associated with poetic realism tend to deal with societal outsiders, petty criminals, and poor working-class people. Both Gabin and Simon use their bodies and facial expressions to convey deep humanity despite the heaviness and pessimism of the era. The atmosphere of these films is dank and foreboding, though Renoir's films sometimes bucked the inclination toward fatalism expressed by other filmmakers of the 1930s (for instance, Boudu maintains a somewhat comic tone, while The Lower Depths retains a much darker tone and message).

Indeed, Jean Renoir was the most significant and influential talent to emerge from France during the pre–World War II period. His films from the 1930s constitute their own pantheon of touchstones for generations of filmmakers to follow: such future luminaries as Luchino Visconti and Satyajit Ray (considered the "father" of modern Indian cinema) worked as his assistants over the years, and an entire generation of new-wave filmmakers consciously integrated aspects of his style. Several months before the premiere of Renoir's film The Rules of the Game in July 1939, the director was asked what "the rule" of the game in the title was. He answered that he sought "to show that for every game, there is a rule. If one plays otherwise, one loses the game." Rules of the Game recounts the story of a group of Parisians who gather at a marquis's country home for the weekend. With astonishing sympathy and skill, Renoir wanted to show what it was like to be "dancing on a volcano"—that is, how a fading class of people try to live on the eve of another world war. The film was somewhat misunderstood at first (due in part to the shortened version that was released in 1939), but it has since become one of the world's most beloved films. In the British film periodical Sight & Sound's 2002 decennial survey of the "Ten Greatest Films of All Time," The Rules of the Game was once again prominently featured, extolled for its ability to "cast a spell over you." In 2000 the French educational system used The Rules of the Game as one of its main subjects for the baccalaureat, the exam that all French students take to graduate from high school.

It was also during the 1930s that Henri Langlois, George Franju, and Jean Mitry founded the Cinémathèque Française, an organization dedicated to the preservation and exhibition of film. The Cinémathèque would prove to be instrumental in French film culture, as it not only saved fragile celluloid films from being discarded or lost but also served as a purveyor of taste (primarily Langlois's), as well as providing a physical and intellectual space in which young cinephiles could come together to watch and discuss films.

Socially and politically conscious filmmaking was also prevalent in certain Scandinavian countries and Belgium during the 1930s. As in France, cine-clubs served as vital informal conservatories for directors such as Joris Ivens (the Netherlands), Charles Dekeukeleire, and Henri Storck (Belgium). All made films that were prescient in their warnings about fascism in Europe. In Sweden, on the other hand, the film industry foundered both commercially and creatively during this period, losing considerable talent to Hollywood (Victor Sjöström, Mauritz Stiller, and Greta Garbo, among others).

Like Murnau, Lubitsch, and Erich von Stroheim before him, Fritz Lang would also eventually make the move to Hollywood, but not before directing two of the most important films of the early sound era: M (1930), a film written by his wife, Thea von Harbou, and based on a series of actual child murders in Germany; and The Last Will of Dr. Mabuse (1933). The latter film was banned by the newly elected National Socialists for its supposed subversive content. The Nazis recognized the power of cinema to shape the masses, though their focus was on state-sponsored documentary film rather than on narrative fiction film. Two state-sponsored documentaries of monumental scale were made with virtually unlimited resources by Leni Riefenstahl during the 1930s: the first, Triumph of the Will (1935), depicts the 1934 Nazi Party rally at Nuremburg, while the two-part Olympia (1938) amplifies the 1936 Olympics held in Berlin. The German film industry was controlled from 1933 to 1945 by the propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, but it was not formally nationalized until 1942.

Though Benito Mussolini came to power in 1922, Italy was also somewhat slow to exploit the mass propagandistic potential of cinema. The 1920s and 1930s were relatively fallow decades creatively in Italy, as the industry continued to adjust to the loss of the prestigious position it held internationally during the pre–World War I era of historical epics. Apart from LUCE (L'Unione Cinematogràfica Educativa), a governmental body formed in 1924 to oversee the production of newsreels, Mussolini did not attempt to nationalize Italy's film industry during the 1920s. This is not to say that Mussolini underestimated the power of film; he just held a long-term view for the redevelopment of Italian cinema. In 1935 a centralized governmental agency was formed to supervise the distribution and exhibition levels of the industry, the ENIC (Ente Nazionale Industrie Cinematorafiche), and in the mid-1930s Mussolini authorized the establishment of two entities that continue to affect Italian cinema today: a national film school (Centro Sperimentale di Cinematogràfia) and the Cinecittà studios in Rome.

It would take several years, however, before such infrastructural changes would transform the quality and diversity of cinematic output in Italy. The 1920s and 1930s were dominated by melodramas and telefono bianco (white telephone) comedies—so named for the inevitable appearance of a white telephone in nearly every film, symbolic of middle-class affluence. At the newly formed Centro Sperimentale, the film school director Luigi Chiarini gathered together students such as Roberto Rossellini, Giuseppe De Santis, and Michelangelo Antonioni, all of whom would become key figures in Italian cinema after World War II. Several important film journals also cropped up during the 1930s, including Black and White (which remains a forceful voice in Italian cinema today) and Cinema, which was run by Benito Mussolini's son, Vittorio Mussolini. As in so many other European countries during the period, Mussolini also enforced strict quotas on foreign films, banning American films completely in 1940, as the world once again went to war.

The effort to stem the dominance of Hollywood has been a persistent dilemma throughout the history of European cinema. As in Italy, protectionist measures were periodically put in place by European countries, primarily by way of quotas on the number of American films that could be shown in relation to indigenous cinematic production; national subsidization of film industries has also proven to be effective in countering the economic power conferred by Hollywood studios. Europe has also suffered from a drain of talent to the United States at various moments of the twentieth century, most often due to the double contingencies of economic and political exile. As a result, though, the influence of European directors, cinematographers, editors, and actors on the medium of cinema as a whole is undeniably vast. Without attempting to be exhaustive, European directors who transformed the face of Hollywood include Lubitsch, von Stroheim, Murnau, Lang, Sjöström, Hitchcock, Mihaly Kertesz (Michael Curtiz), Billy Wilder, Jean Renoir, Detlef Sierck (Douglas Sirk), Max Reinhardt, Max Ophüls, Robert Siodmak, Otto Preminger, and Fred Zinnemann.

During World War II in Europe, some cinematic production was curtailed, as might be expected where resources were scarce and populations were living under siege. European films made during wartime were mostly funded by governments for their escapist or propagandistic value. The Italian director Roberto Rossellini, for instance, directed three films between 1940 and 1943 (The White Ship, 1941; A Pilot Returns, 1942; Man of the Cross, 1943) with the support of Mussolini's Fascist regime. Rossellini, who would go on to make some of cinema history's most acclaimed humanistic films immediately following the war, "contorted" himself (his word) to fit the demands of wartime Italy. Interestingly, 1942 and 1943 were among the most commercially successful years ever for Italian film. According to the film scholar Tag Gallagher, the total number of films produced had increased sixfold since the mid-1930s, and audience numbers nearly doubled.

In occupied France, on the other hand, film production was completely halted at first. German films were given the most screen time, but French audiences did not respond enthusiastically, driving attendance downward during the first years of the occupation. In May 1941, Germany reauthorized French film production, and since American films were prohibited and Germans poured money into productions, the French film industry became more commercially successful than ever. At the same time, filmmakers involved in the Resistance continued to pool their energy and resources to make films, forming the Comité de Libération du Cinéma Français (Committee for the Liberation of French Cinema) in 1943. The committee members, including Jean Grémillion and Jacques Becker, were among the many Resistance fighters who filmed the liberation of Paris in August 1944. By then, Allied bombing had destroyed much of the crucial infrastructure of the French film industry: five studios, including warehouses storing films, and over three hundred theaters were destroyed.


The Vichy government centralized systems of production and controlled distribution and exhibition by barring films with objectionable content during the war. As in Italy, however, fascist control resulted in the foundation of a French national film school (the Institut des Hautes Études Cinématographiques) in 1943. Many other outlets for cinematic culture went underground during the war, including several film journals and the Cinémathèque Française.

Just as before the occupation, the postwar French film production system was dominated by smaller firms; though the two vertically integrated companies, Pathé and Gaumont, survived the war, capital was scarce in France after the war for all players. To make matters worse, the French government relaxed quotas on American films in 1946, further reducing the potential box office take (and thus investment capital into French film projects). During the same year, however, the French government also established the CNC (the Centre National de la Cinématographie), an entity dedicated to industry regulation, including government subsidization of French films. The result was an increased recognition and support of artistic and even documentary filmmaking, instead of allowing the market to be flooded with strictly conventional commercial fare. By 1948–1949, the French had restored protectionist measures, including quotas on American films, and founded the governmental publicity agency Unifrance to bolster their efforts at promoting cinema as the "seventh art": Unifrance's charter was to promote French film abroad, including the coordination of films to be exhibited at film festivals around the world. Testament to France's cultural commitment to cinema is the fact that the CNC, Unifrance, and the Cinémathèque Française (discussed earlier) all continue to exist today.

French film of the late 1940s and 1950s has been called "cinema of quality" (cinéma de qualité), a term that refers to the reliance in the postwar period on literary adaptations with high production values filmed on studio sets. It would be this impulse of "quality," of finely honed scripts and careful symbolization, against which the new-wave filmmakers would later set themselves. Important French filmmakers of the period include Marcel CarnéandJacquesPrévert (Children of Paradise, 1945); Claude Autant-Lara, with the assistance of the screenwriting duo Jean Aurenche and Pierre Bost (Devil in the Flesh, 1947); and RenéClement (Forbidden Games, 1952; also written by Aurenche and Bost). Three directors who do not quite fit into the "quality" mold but are nonetheless of note are Robert Bresson, Jean Cocteau, and Henri-Georges Clouzot, whose films (Ladies of the Bois de Boulogne [1945] and Diary of a Country Priest [1950]; Beauty and the Beast [1945] and Orpheus [1950]; Le corbeau [1943; The raven], and Les diaboliques [1955], respectively) influenced both the new wave to come and innumerable directors working beyond the boundaries of France. Jacques Becker, who was an assistant to Renoir during the 1930s, also made his masterpiece, Casque d'or (1952; The golden coach), during this period. Finally, toward the end of the 1950s, two more key players in French cinematic culture made films with lasting impact: Georges Franju's The Keepers (1958), his first feature, which was a quasi-documentary story of a man confined in an insane asylum, and Jean-Pierre Melville's Bob le flambeur (1955), a kind of muted, French version of noir filmmaking. France of the 1950s even spawned a comic genius: though he only made a few films, Jacques Tati's Holiday (1949), Monsieur Hulot's Holiday (1953), and My Uncle (1958) are still considered among the most inspired comedies of all time, expertly combining the physical comedy of Chaplin with a tender satire that is unique to Tati.

For other European countries, the postwar period was not nearly as varied. Sweden and Denmark made a quick recovery from the war and began to specialize in art films, for which both national cinemas remain known today. The British film industry, for its part, was whittled down to a few vertically integrated companies (the most powerful was the Rank Organisation). As in France, many postwar British films consisted of "prestige" literary adaptations, including works by Laurence Olivier (Hamlet, 1948; Richard III, 1955), Gabriel Pascal (Caesar and Cleopatra, 1946), and newcomer David Lean, whose Dickens adaptations serve as an instructive prelude to his epic period pictures of the 1960s, Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Doctor Zhivago (1965).

In the newly divided Germany, an interesting situation developed in the capital, Berlin. While East and West had completely separate spheres of film production, distribution, and exhibition, strange pockets of cross-influence developed. As the film scholar Katie Trumpener explains, "border" movie theaters in West Berlin during the postwar period were often populated by East Berliners who would sneak across the city divide in order to see Western (during the Allied occupation, primarily American) films. American films totally dominated the West German market from 1945 to 1949—a prerogative of American occupation that also took place in Japan during the same period—and American financial interests also "occupied" the emerging West German production system by replacing the old centralized UFA system with numerous smaller firms. These new film companies focused their attention on the domestic market, generating primarily light entertainment fare, including Heimat (homeland) films that consisted primarily of domestic dramas of German village life.

The dominance of American films in postwar Germany is an extreme example of the proliferation of American cinema throughout the European market after 1945; American companies saw an opportunity as Europe rebuilt and reorganized, and took it. By 1948 several countries had reinstated (or increased) protectionist measures initiated during the 1930s: France, for example, put strict limits on American imports in 1948 and required that French films be shown a minimum of twenty weeks a year in all theaters. Britain and Italy passed similar laws in 1948–1949, also opting for a combination of quotas and minimum required screen time for domestic output. In the early 1950s European film companies also began combining resources to form larger European coproductions, a practice that continues today in an attempt to counter American blockbuster films.

In the USSR and Soviet bloc countries, Soviet political control ran deep into its various national film industries, and production funds were relatively scarce. The cultural policy permitting only socialist realist art was reinstated and enforced even more vigorously than before World War II. The first epic production of the postwar period in the Soviet Union, Sergei Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible, Part 2 was banned for its depiction of a ruthless authoritarian regime. Most of the important filmmakers from the interwar period—Eisenstein, Dovzhenko, and Pudovkin included—only made one or two films after 1945. Little of interest was made during Stalin's final years of life, until the "thaw" that began in 1953 when Stalin died. From 1953 to 1958, until Nikita Khrushchev came to power, Soviet film production increased and censorship was somewhat relaxed.

Nonetheless, the most interesting films made in Eastern Europe during the Cold War came from outside the Soviet Union: during the 1950s and 1960s, the Łódź Film Academy in Poland (which was founded in 1948 to churn out Stalinist propaganda) turned out some of the most important filmmakers of the twentieth century. Andrzej Munk (Man on the Tracks, 1956; Eroica, 1957) and Andrzej Wajda (A Generation, 1954; Kanal, 1957; Ashes and Diamonds, 1958) have influenced generations of filmmakers in Poland and beyond. Both took a hard, deromanticized look at the lost illusions of the postwar period. Wajda's Ashes and Diamonds, for instance, tells the story of a noncommunist resistance fighter who must assassinate a Communist Party official. Though the resistance fighter, Maciek, seems to die with a futility equal to his own murderous act, he transfixed audiences, subverting the overt pro-Communist message. A young film student named Roman Polanski also attended the Łódź Film Academy and acted in Wajda's A Generation. His first feature, A Knife in the Water (1962), made him both famous and infamous (a dialectic that would plague his entire career): it was nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign film in 1963 and earned a place on the cover of Time magazine, but in Poland it was cited by the governing Gomulka regime as one of the reasons to shut down the Łódź Film Academy altogether, which it did in the early 1960s. Other Soviet bloc countries, including Czechoslovakia and Hungary, also denounced the "subversive" content of Polish cinema during the late 1950s, effectively silencing their own freedom of expression.

Perhaps the most influential innovation of European cinema in the postwar period emerged not from the production phase of filmmaking at all but from its distribution and exhibition practices: international film festivals such as Cannes, Venice, and Berlin would serve as crucial proving grounds for a select stratum of the international cinema market. Festivals also insisted on the recuperation of cinema as an art, and not simply or principally a commercial product. Festivals also reinforced national identity and prestige in a fragile, healing postwar European culture. The Venice, Cannes, Locarno (Switzerland), and Karlovy Vary (Czechoslovakia) film festivals were all restored in 1946, and Berlin (1951), San Sebastian (Spain, 1954), London (1957), Barcelona (1959), and Moscow (1959) followed over the next decade.

Like a handful of other European directors, the Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman gained worldwide renown after World War II through the international art film festival circuit. Bergman's deeply personal and often existential films appealed intensely to this highly educated, cosmopolitan audience. Though many critics consider his first masterpiece to be Summer Interlude (1951), Bergman gained international recognition with his highly allegorical tale The Seventh Seal (1957), in which a medieval knight plays a game of chess with Death during the plague. The Seventh Seal won the Special Jury Prize at Cannes in 1957, tied with Andrzej Wajda's Kanal. In Bergman's next film, Wild Strawberries (also 1957), another character confronts death, but this time the journey is much more contemporary and personal, expressed in dreams and flashbacks. From his 1966 film Persona to his 2003 feature, Sarabande, Bergman has continued to probe the larger human questions of identity, familial and romantic relationships, and, of course, mortality.

International film festivals also helped to "discover" an emerging movement in Italian postwar cinema that would come to be known as Italian neorealism. Directors and screenwriters associated with Italian neorealism include Luchino Visconti, Roberto Rossellini, Vittorio De Sica, Giuseppe De Santis, and Cesare Zavattini (who coined the term). Neorealist filmmakers wanted to move away from the artifice of the classical Hollywood style; instead they shot on location, used primarily nonprofessional actors, and sought to expose the drama they saw in everyday life. Zavattini wrote that"the ideal film would be ninety minutes of the life of a man to whom nothing happens" (Cook, p. 367). Yet we should not assume that neorealist filmmakers did not construct their films very carefully, or that neorealist films are devoid of melodrama or pathos. In many ways, Rossellini's Rome, Open City (1945) consists of a conventional melodramatic plot; likewise, De Sica's Bicycle Thieves (1948), which is often held up as the epitome of neorealist cinema, is composed of painstakingly controlled shots, many of which use a method of shooting called depth of focus, which refers to shots filmed with fast lenses that allow both the foreground and the background to remain in focus, creating the illusion of depth in the visual field.

The critic André Bazin hailed depth of focus as a revolutionary technique in the 1930s and 1940s, since, he argued, it draws spectators into a relation with the image closer to that which we enjoy with reality. Bazin claimed that such closeness invites a more active mental attitude on the part of the spectator, as "it is from his attention and his will that the meaning of the image in part derives" (Bazin, vol. 1, p. 36). Bazin also asserted that depth of focus reintroduces the fundamental ambiguity of meaning in reality: "[t]he uncertainty in which we find ourselves as to the spiritual key or the interpretation we should put on the film is built into the very design of the image" (vol. 1, p. 36). Bazin believed that the problem with Hollywood's tendency toward invisible editing is that classical continuity, which makes action appear to be smooth and continuous, relies on abstract mental logic or time rather than real time. Moreover, he asserted, photographic media actually add to or transform reality instead of acting as reality's substitute: so we should understand the force of neorealism to be in assisting the creation of reality (a "new" reality) rather than the perfect representation of it. Neorealism's divergence from the prevalent idea that filmmaking (and its attendant technologies) will and should move progressively toward "a total and complete representation of reality" is the movement's most radical—and most crucial—quality, according to Bazin (vol. 1, p. 20). In a revision to Zavattini's original summation of neorealism as "ninety minutes of the life of a man to whom nothing happens," Bazin describes De Sica's Bicycle Thieves in the following sentence: "a man is walking along the street and the onlooker is amazed at the beauty of the man walking" (Bazin, vol. 2, p. 67). In the film, we see that De Sica is not so much optimistic about the world as he is tender and sympathetic toward its inhabitants.

We should not forget that Europe was devastated both physically and psychically following World War II. In England, air raids had destroyed close to 25 percent of the country's film theaters, while Germany lost almost 60 percent of its film production infrastructure. The 1950s would also bring a competing technology in the form of television, as well as a sharp increase in leisure activities that drew audiences out of dark theaters and into national sport (athletic) centers—as well as outdoors—throughout Europe. Just as in the United States, European film concerns worked to develop new technologies that would regain movie spectators' attention. Innovations in wide-screen and improved color and sound were all intended to compete with American films and to attract larger audiences. Many European countries focused on "prestige" pictures, and several older directors who had fled Europe during the war returned to make films in their home countries during the 1950s (Renoir, Ophüls, Dreyer, Lang, etc.). British cinema during the 1950s consisted of such strains as literary adaptations ("prestige" films) by David Lean, international art house films by Carol Reed, and beautifully rendered extravaganzas by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.


In 1960 Karel Reisz's Saturday Night and Sunday Morning announced the beginning of yet another strain in British film, which would come to be known as "new cinema" or social realism. Directors associated with "new cinema" took their inspiration from Italian neorealists, the British Free Cinema movement of the 1950s, and from a brand-new movement brewing on the other side of the English Channel. Tony Richardson (A Taste of Honey, 1961; The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, 1962), John Schlesinger (A Kind of Loving, 1962; Billy Liar, 1963), and Lindsay Anderson (This Sporting Life, 1963) all made films in this mode during the early 1960s. The films usually took place in the Midlands of England, depicting the struggles—and speaking in the language—of working people. Unlike the saturated colors of Powell and Pressburger's films just a few years earlier, blacks and gray tones dominate the color palette of British social realist cinema.

Also on the eve of the 1960s, a more exuberant revolution was launched in French cinema: a group of young film-critics-turned-filmmakers, who would come to be known as the "new wave" (la nouvelle vague), made their first feature-length films (Claude Chabrol, François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Jacques Rivette, and Eric Rohmer all made first features between 1958 and 1962). This loose affiliation of directors emerged from their association writing for the film journal Cahiers du cinema in the 1950s. Many of their films, particularly those of Godard, have a more intellectualized or "thought-out" quality as a result. Some film scholars point to Chabrol's Le beau serge (1958) as the first new-wave film, since it contains many of the qualities later associated with the movement, but two films that premiered between 1959 and 1960 truly inaugurated the political authorship (politique des auteurs) of the new wave.

First, in 1959, François Truffaut's 400 Blows premiered. 400 Blows is the story of a young boy, Antoine Doinel, making his way through a difficult childhood. His working-class parents are too preoccupied with their own unhappiness to pay much attention to Antoine; the cramped shots of the small apartment the three share are sharply contrasted by the high crane shots and light music that give a sense of openness and possibility to Antoine the moment he steps outside into the street. The film ends with a freeze frame of the young teen as he runs away from reform school and toward the liminal space at the ocean's edge on a barren stretch of beach; we share his profound uncertainty as to where he will go next. Luckily for us and for him, Truffaut went on to make three more films centering on the life of Antoine, all played by the same actor (Jean-Pierre Léaud). We see Antoine through romance, marriage, a child, divorce—and throughout, Truffaut films his subject with a remarkable combination of honesty and compassion.

Jean-Luc Godard's first film, Breathless, appeared just one year after 400 Blows and was inspired by a script idea Truffaut gave to Godard about a petty thief who inadvertently kills a police officer and returns to Paris to collect money and to convince his American girlfriend to join him on the run. The resulting film is a dazzling feat of visual jazz: it follows its own unexpected rhythm, slowing down to endless takes when you least expect it, and then speeding up and cutting out action when it seems most essential (when the protagonist kills the policeman, for example). One of the techniques Godard used to shorten or create ellipses in the narrative action is called a "jump cut," a cut from one shot to another in which an action does not quite match up with the previous image, calling our attention to the constructed nature of film. It is much more widely used in films today due to Godard's considerable influence.

Other filmmakers of the new wave, including Jacques Rivette and Eric Rohmer, would also develop distinct signature, or authorial, styles over the years. With the exception of Truffaut, who died in 1984 at the age of fifty-two, all of the original French new-wave directors have continued to make films in to the twenty-first century. Other filmmakers who were more tangentially associated with the new wave, such as Alain Resnais (Night and Fog, 1955; Hiroshima mon amour, 1959; Last Year at Marienbad, 1961), Chris Marker (La Jetée [1962; The pier], Le joli mai [1963; The lovely month of May], Sans soleil [1982; Sunless]), and Agnès Varda (Cleo from 5 to 7, 1961; Far from Vietnam, 1967; Vagabond, 1985), have also continued to make films into the twenty-first century.

Italian film after neorealism also struck out in new political and aesthetic directions. An important figure of neorealism, Luchino Visconti, embodies the transformation: after inaugurating neorealism with his 1943 film Ossessione and creating one of its crowning achievements in 1948 with La terra trema (The earth trembles), Visconti turned to increasingly sumptuous and dissolute subjects, including a story set during the Austrian occupation of Italy in the mid-nineteenth century (Senso, 1954) and another nineteenth-century study of decadence and the loss of power, set in Sicily during the Risorgimento (unification) of Italy (The Leopard, 1963). In both films, Visconti explores the beauty of the decaying aristocratic class structure in which he was born while simultaneously damning it (Visconti was a committed, if complicated, Marxist).

Federico Fellini likewise began his career firmly rooted in the idealism and aesthetics of neorealism, where he began as a screenwriter on Rossellini's Rome, Open City (1945), and Paisà (1946). His first directorial efforts, The Young and the Passionate (1953) and La strada (1954), strongly reflect his neorealist background. But by 1959, when he found huge commercial and critical success with La dolce vita, Fellini had already moved toward the world of the magical and the absurd. In (1963), his eighth-and-a-half film, Fellini weaves together an epic tapestry of one man's life, Guido, as he struggles to make a big-budget film. Through a series of flashbacks, fantasies, and dreams, we are transported into Guido's interior world, culminating in a long celluloid parade of every character in his life (and the film) at the end.

Michelangelo Antonioni, on the other hand, moved from neorealist tendencies in Il grido (1957; The cry) to a much more minimalist, abstract, architectural form of filmmaking. More than any other European director in the postwar period, Antonioni learned to exploit the newer widescreen techniques for the purposes of art rather than mere spectacle, and the resulting films are breathtaking in their vastness and evocation of existential emptiness (L'avventura [1961; The adventure], La notte [1961; The night], L'eclisse [1962; Eclipse], Il deserto rosso [1964; The red desert].

Pier Paolo Pasolini was no less philosophical than Antonioni, but his filmmaking was much more visceral and radically politicized: Pasolini was a well-known writer before he ever became a director, and his first two films, Accattone! (1960) and Mamma Roma (1962), are based in the Roman slums he had previously depicted in novels. A committed Marxist, Pasolini used the film medium to attack the authority of the Catholic Church and the state with increasing vehemence during the 1960s and early 1970s (La ricotta, 1963; The Gospel According to Matthew, 1964; Hawks and Sparrows, 1966; Salò or the Hundred and Twenty Days of Sodom, 1975). In 1975, shortly before the release of his brutal and highly controversial film Salò, Pasolini was murdered, cutting short one of the most luminous and provocative cinematic oeuvres of the twentieth century.

Bernardo Bertolucci worked as an assistant director on Pasolini's first film, Accattone! and has often referred to Pasolini, along with Jean-Luc Godard, as a cinematic father figure. Bertolucci's second feature, Before the Revolution (1964), is the story of Fabrizio, who is trying to decide whether to commit to his radical political beliefs or to retreat to the familiar comfort of his bourgeois milieu. Over and over again, Bertolucci presents us with characters who must choose between a tough moral-political stance and the ease of conformity, as exemplified in his most famous and most recent films, respectively—The Conformist (1970) and The Dreamers (2003).

With the exception of Luis Buñuel (who spent relatively little time making films in Spain over his fifty-year career), Spanish cinema was not well known outside of Spain until the 1960s. Until then, films were generated by monopolistic entities, directors from the national film school IIEC (Instituto de Investigaciones y Experiencias Cinematográficas), and the Spanish government's newsreel service. In 1962 a new director general of cinema was named, who reorganized the national film school (and gave it a new acronym, EOC) and created greater opportunities for governmental subsidization of new film productions. The result was a string of formidable feature pictures in the 1960s made by directors such as Luis Garcia Berlanga, Carlos Saura, Miguel Picazo, and Basilio Martín Patino. However, true "opening" of Spanish cinema would not occur until the "soft dictatorship" period in the two years preceding Franco's death in 1975.

1970S TO THE 2000S

Unlike in France and Italy (but perhaps more like in Spain), cinema in the new West German state sputtered in fits and starts during the 1960s, and even with support from a group organized at the Oberhausen Film Festival in 1962—that called for a "new" German cinema and successfully petitioned the West German government to fund young filmmakers—German cinema would not capture the world's attention until the early 1970s.

In the 1970s, though, German film collectives made up for lost time: members of the Author's Film Publishing Group included Rainer Werner Fassbinder (The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, 1972; Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, 1974; The Marriage of Maria Braun, 1979), Alexander Kluge, and Wim Wenders, while Werner Herzog (Aguirre: The Wrath of God, 1972; Stroszek, 1977; Nosferatu, 1979) received funds to make his first film from the Young German Film Board that came out of the Oberhausen initiative in the mid-1960s. The husband-wife team of Volker Schlöndorff (The Sudden Wealth of the Poor People of Kombach, 1974; Coup de grâce, 1976; The Tin Drum, 1979) and Margarethe von Trotta (Summer Lightning/A Free Woman, 1972; The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, 1975) also contributed some of the most important films of the period. The tone of the New German Cinema is somewhat pessimistic, expressing disenchantment with Germany's past and uncertainty about its future. It also represents a generation very much "infiltrated" by American culture since the occupation, maintaining an uneasy relationship with America's cultural imperialism. The New German "character" is embodied by the protagonist in Wim Wenders's Kings of the Road (1976): a young film projector mechanic named Bruno wanders along the East German border maintaining old, broken-down projectors in old, broken-down movie theaters. Bruno is laconic, his face impenetrable; long minutes tick by with no words at all. He meets another young man, nicknamed "Kamikaze" for a failed suicide attempt that brings about the first encounter between them, and they decide to travel together, American road-movie style. Yet the film contains an ambivalent relationship to America throughout: the commercialization of film is wrecking small-town German movie theaters, while American rock and roll and constant homage to American films and filmmakers by way of visual quotations provide energy and momentum to the film.

Just two years later, Helke Sander's Redupers, The All-Around Reduced Personality (1978) would blend fiction and documentary to tell the story of Edda (played by Sander herself), a single mother and photographer who joins a women's photography collective in West Berlin. The collective has just received a grant to document West Berlin from a feminist perspective, but instead of seeing differences between West and East through her camera, Edda/Helke only sees parallels. She does not fit in anywhere and wanders the city not unlike Wenders's Bruno, and the film refuses to grant its protagonist—or the audience—answers about the future.

The 1970s proved to be a catalyzing decade across Europe for artistic innovation in film. In post-Franco Spain, Carlos Saura, Juan Bardem, and Luis Berlanga continued to make politically oriented films of various kinds (symbolic, satire, thriller), and Victor Bice directed the internationally lauded masterpiece Spirit of the Beehive (1973), in which a traveling projectionist shows Frankenstein in a small town, activating the imagination of two young girls. By the end of the 1970s, the director Pilar Miró would test the boundaries of censorship in post-Franco Spain with his film The Cuenca Crime (1979), for which Miró was charged with defamation. When Miró was exonerated and the film was finally released, it broke all domestic box office records.

It was also during the 1970s that Pedro Almodóvar began making films with a Super-8 camera and screening them in Madrid's underground clubs. With an exuberant feel for the perversions and manias that drive us, Almodóvar has become Spain's most consistently successful and provocative filmmaker. Though his films are populated with surprisingly lovable drug-addicted nuns, prostitutes, and transvestites, Almodóvar has been showered with nominations and awards from all over the world since his breakout film Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown in 1987. He has been nominated for a number of Academy Awards, Césars (France's Oscar), BAFTAs (the U.K.'s Oscar), and European Film Awards. He has also won Oscars for All About My Mother (1999) and Talk to Her (2002), and multiple European awards and prizes.

Before Almodóvar, relatively few directors in the sound era found that they could cross national borders as easily as those in the silent era; many of those who did have been mentioned over the course of this essay. This was in part a problem of language, as previously discussed. The filmmakers who had international success gained it primarily through festivals and the international art house circuit. Yet Almodóvar and other filmmakers at the turn of the twenty-first century face a major paradigm shift at the level of both markets and audiences to a global economy and culture. The importance of this shift to the present and future of cinema should not be underestimated.

For very strong national film cultures such as France, globalization provides more possible venues for coproduction and distribution. Yet the infrastructure that remains in place maintains distinct national features that exist nowhere else in the world. France still produces over two hundred films a year, a remarkable number for a country of its size; France also has more major female film directors than any other country in the world (Chantal Akerman, Catherine Breillat, Claire Denis, Diane Kurys, Colline Serreau, Agnès Varda, to name just a few). The French government also continues to subsidize and regulate the contemporary film industry through a tax on every movie ticket sold. Other countries in Europe have struggled more to find a place in global film culture: with the exception of Tom Twyker (Run Lola Run, 1998; Winter Sleepers, 1997; Heaven, 2002), Germany has not regained the prominence—domestically or globally—that it enjoyed during the 1970s.

Since the 1990s, there has also been a marked increase in "crossover" directors: filmmakers who seem to work easily in more than one country or language. The brilliant Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski, for instance, began his career at the Łódź Film Academy and initially made documentaries and shorter works meant for Polish television (Camera Buff, 1979; The Decalogue, 1988). In the 1990s Kieslowski made four films in France, the last three of which formed a trilogy called Three Colors (1993–1994). The trilogy is a meditation on the "postmodern condition," on parallel lives and chance intersections. In Kieslowski's films, characters take tiny, awkward steps toward connection in another wise alienating world. His actors are often shot as small figures against a vast background.

At the beginning of a new century, European cinema has become more complex—and more vital—than ever. In the British director Stephen Frears's Dirty Pretty Things (2003), the main characters are Nigerian and Turkish immigrants, played by a British-Nigerian and a French actor, respectively (Chiwetel Ejiofor and Audrey Tautou). The cast also includes actors from Croatia, Spain, and China; the two primary languages spoken in the film are English and Somali.Dirty Pretty Things is a thriller about, among other things, the global trafficking of human organs, and the daily struggle of immigrants to survive in West London. How do we classify such a film? Is it British? Is it international, as its distribution credits would suggest? Is it "global," based on its cast and content?

The story of European cinema in the twentieth century would tell us that it is all three, and more: European cinema is both transformed by culture and transformative in its proliferation and mass appeal. Released in 2001, the British film Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was seen by 59,032,893 spectators in Europe alone. It calls to mind the description of Jean Renoir's 1939 film The Rules of the Game: astonishing for its ability to cast a spell over us all.

See alsoAlmodóvar, Pedro; Bardot, Brigitte; Buñuel, Luis; Chaplin, Charlie; Cocteau, Jean; De Sica, Vittorio; Dietrich, Marlene; Fellini, Federico; Film (Documentary); French New Wave; Godard, Jean-Luc; Kracauer, Siegfried; Lang, Fritz; Ophüls, Marcel; Pabst, Georg Wilhelm; Pasolini, Pier Paolo; Propaganda; Riefensthal, Leni; Rossellini, Roberto; Tarkovsky, Andrei; Wajda, Andrzej; Wenders, Wim.


Andrew, Dudley. Mists of Regret: Culture and Sensibility in Classic French Film. Princeton, N.J., 1995.

Bazin, André. What Is Cinema? Translated by Hugh Gray. 2 vols. Berkeley, Calif., 2005.

Benjamin, Walter. "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction." In Illuminations, edited by Hannah Arendt and translated by Harry Zohn, 217–251. New York, 1968.

Bondanella, Peter. Italian Cinema:From Neorealism to the Present. 3rd ed. New York, 2001.

Bordwell, David, and Thompson Kristin. Film History: An Introduction. 2nd ed. Boston, 2003.

Cook, David A. A History of Narrative Film. 4th ed. New York, 2004.

Elsaesser, Thomas. European Cinema: Face to Face with Hollywood. Amsterdam, 2005.

Fowler, Catherine, ed. The European Cinema Reader. London, 2002.

Gallagher, Tag. The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini. New York, 1998.

Anne M. Kern


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The latter half of the twentieth century witnessed a swift decline in the popularity and significance of cinemagoing in the West, associated with suburbanization and the rise of competitor media like rock and roll and television. From the 1990s, cinema release was repositioned as a cornerstone of multimedia-themed product lines, including alternative forms of distribution and exhibition (in-flight entertainment, video, broadcast, DVD, and Webstreaming) and spin-offs such as sound-track albums, novelizations, comic books, franchised toys, board and computer games, and fast-food branding. Moribund profit centers like celebrity gossip magazines were revivified, and new ones like product placement inaugurated. Integration of print, TV, theme parks, and Internet companies into massive corporations allowed for an increasing cross-marketing of products in cycles of which film was only one instance. In this transition from mass spectacle to integrated media product, it might have been difficult to retain respect for cinema as "the seventh art." Nonetheless, during this period and into the early twenty-first century, there has been vigorous interest in the medium of film.

The Language of Cinema

As a broad generalization, the development of cinema studies since 1970 has been shaped by a debate between the search for a medium-specific "language" of cinema and inquiries into the ways cinema reflects, reproduces, or otherwise expresses

The Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, directed by Peter Jackson, New Line/Wingnut, New Zealand/USA, 2001, 178 mins.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, directed by Peter Jackson, New Line/Wingnut, New Zealand/USA, 2002, 179 mins.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, directed by Peter Jackson, New Line/Wingnut, New Zealand/USA, 2003, 201 mins.

Based on the best-selling novel of the twentieth century, the first major blockbuster of the twenty-first could base its innovations on a significant preexisting fan base. The trilogy format, already opened up as a possibility by the highly successful 1999 release of The Matrix, differed from the better established "franchise" model of comic-book superhero and horror cycles in the 1980s and 1990s by promising to tell a complete narrative, rather than an open-ended series of discrete tales. Though large, the production budget was comparable to similarly ambitious block-buster films of the period. The risk of spending such budgets on fantasy, a genre notoriously difficult to sell to mass audiences, was spread across the fame of the original "property," J. R. R. Tolkien's novel, the use of overseas labor, and an innovative marketing campaign.

The Lord of the Rings, though frequently marketed as a triumph of the New Zealand film industry, is an example of a "runaway" productionthat is, a Hollywood project filmed in a foreign territory to benefit not only from location scenery but from tax breaks offered by national governments to entice high-spending studio productions, cheaper labor costs than the highly unionized U.S. industry, and flexible working arrangements often unavailable in the United States. Unusually for a big-budget production, the film employed relatively unknown actors at cheaper rates, concentrating spending instead on props, stunts, locations, and digital effects. Without a star, the film then needed to be sold on its look and its story. (The 1977 block-buster Star Wars is a comparable example.)

During the 1990s, a low-budget student film achieved significant box-office success through judicious use of word-of-mouth advertising on the then-new Worldwide Web. The marketing of The Lord of the Rings, while also using the familiar channels for preselling blockbusters, used carefully leaked and later carefully timed releases of teasers, interviews, backstage footage, trailers, stills, and production details to fan sites, even inviting fan Webmasters to attend significant film festivals and to report on them. In contrast to the Disney Company, which had set lawyers onto fans running Harry Potter sites, New Line, the AOLTime-Warner branch company responsible for the film, used the fans as a medium for publicity before, during, and after the release of the films.

The trilogy extended and systematized a number of developments in the blockbuster film that may now be referred to as event movies. The theatrical release of the film is the trigger for a raft of related products including books, toys, computer games, soundtrack albums, and, very significantly, DVD release. Unusually, The Lord of the Rings could not benefit from the lucrative market in "product placement" (the sale of screen time within the film to automobile, computer, hotel and food companies, among others). Instead it capitalized on the very authenticity of a fantastic world without commercial products. The international touring exhibition of props from the films helped build this aura of authenticity. The planning and filming of substantial extra scenes so that the theatrical release of the film could be supplemented with up to an hour of extra storytime on the extended DVD release allowed an innovative release pattern for the films stretching over a five-to six-year period. This in turn required a loyal fan base, whose interest could be maintained over the extended period of the release strategy.

The films' budget also required that the movies, like The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), should be especially palatable to East Asian audiences. Action sequences quoting both Hong Kong fight films and Japanese anime graphic style have become key components in large-budget films destined for a cosmopolitan marketplace. Cinema theory now needs to undertake explorations of such global cultural phenomena, their relationship with both the United States and the country of production, and the future status of cultural specificity in the global circulation of audiovisual materials.

the cultures it derives from or seeks to change. Initial work of the later 1960s emphasized the linguistic structures that appeared to govern cinema. In the later 1970s, two backlashes came in the form first of a film-specific criticism antipathetic to the idea that "bourgeois" forms like the novel and the feature film shared similar structures, and second, of a move away from "theory" toward more traditional forms of humanistic and sociological scholarship. The 1980s witnessed a powerful burst of interest in the cultural dimensions of cinema as an expression of macro-and microculturesAfrican-American, queer, and third cinema theories privileging the role of cinema as communicator of distinct and differentiated cultural values. In the 1990s, additional emphases were placed on ostensibly marginalized techniques like sound and animation, while the struggle over theory was renewed in the arrival of new theoretical paradigms, notably from phenomenology and the philosophy of desire.

Earlier criticism (commonly referred to as "classical film theory") often celebrated cinema's capacity for realism (see Andrew, 1976). After 1968 the French journal Cahiers du cinéma, in common with much of French culture, was rapidly and radically politicized and began to critique the illusion of reality in cinema. In the person of Christian Metz, the new criticism articulated an influential mix of Marxism, psychoanalysis, and semiotics, the "science of signs." In the 1970s, critics associated with the U.K. journal Screen began to translate much of this work, and to develop an indigenous theoretical practice, today often referred to as Screen theory. The addition of a powerful strand of feminist criticism was the most significant new development, especially as presented in Laura Mulvey's 1975 essay "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" and in the work of Stephen Heath, while Paul Willemen added political commitment and polemic. Rejecting the realist proposals of André Bazin and Siegfried Kracauer, the Screen critics proposed that cinema acted as an ideological apparatus, a term borrowed in part from the French Communist Party's leading philosopher of the day, Louis Althusser. Rather than transmitting ideological messages, as earlier political critics had assumed, cinema's technical apparatus of camera and projector lenses and screens recreated a model in which the audience member was constructed as the subject of ideology. Interpellated (or "hailed") by the apparatus and positioned by it, the cinematic subject became a willing participant in the construction of illusion. (It is interesting to note that the two leading political theorists of working-class collusion in their own oppression, Louis Althusser and Antonio Gramsci, were both translated by editors of Screen. )

In Mulvey's version, this process recapitulated the mirror phase of early childhood development proposed by the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. For Lacan, the child's first recognition of itself in the mirror was both a traumatic discovery of separation from the maternal body and the first identification with an ideal version of itselfmore distinct, more capable than it feels itself to be. This dialectic between the loss and idealization of the self Mulvey holds to be the origin of identification with human figures on screen, a fundamental identification that is then articulated with the differing representations of men and women (the one typically looking, the other typically being looked at) to produce the effect of gendered subjectivity in the cinema apparatus. Screen critics prized especially the works

Princess Mononoke

Princess Mononoke, directed by Hayao Miyazake, Tokuma Shoten/Nippon Television Network/Dentsu/Studio Ghibli/Miramax, Japan, 1999 (U.S. version), 128 mins.

Hayao Miyazake's Mononoke-hime (1997; released in the United States in 1999 as Princess Mononoke ), the sixth feature film for his Studio Ghibli, built on the success of his child-oriented anime, extending back more than a decade. The Japanese animation industry, powered in part by its close relations with the export of television shows for children and the toys and games crazes of the 1980s, had turned in the late 1980s to themes more suited to young adults. The international success of Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira in 1988 and Mamoru Oshii and Masamune Shirow's Ghost in the Shell of 1995 had paved the way for higher production values, the assimilation of digital technologies into traditional hand-painted cel animation, and increasingly convoluted narrative lines.

Immensely successful in Japan, where it was only outgrossed by Titanic, the film raises special challenges for the theory of cinema. The animation form has traditionally been seen as childish and has received proportionately little critical attention, while Japanese product aimed at television sales had acquired a reputation for shoddy technique, often due to the practice of farming large proportions of the handcraft out to overseas animation factories, notably in Thailand. Miyazake's film is extremely well crafted throughout, essential if the film was to succeed on the big screen. Several innovations helped, including the use of specially-written software to make three-dimensional digital animation look more like traditional cartoons.

Princess Mononoke 's themes of struggle between environmental and mechanistic forces at a formative moment in Japanese history seem not only to have chimed with audiences, but to have echoed in the cartoon form the dialectics of technology and nature. Evoking the environmental ethics of first peoples, the film seeks to reconcile technological progress with a mystical understanding of the forest as stronghold of nature. The very unnaturalness of the medium, including the necessity to invent sounds for the various cartoon creatures that inhabit the film, give the movie a greater depth and deeper conflicts than the wishful ending would suggest. And the success of the film challenges cinema theory to address two of its major weaknesses: the first being the audio component of audiovisual media and its articulation with the visual; the second, the distance between photographic and graphic depiction.

Digital theorist Lev Manovich observes that the rise of digital cinema makes contemporary audiences aware that cinematography is a brief excursion in the history of animated pictures. From such specialized formal analyses, cinema studies can hope to derive new paradigms for understanding relations between recording, inventing, representing, and communicating in an increasingly global media society.

of the avant-garde, deploying the semiotic theory of signs to advance the theory that avant-garde cinema freed signifiers (the materials of light and shade for example) from their bondage to the signified (to the illusory representation of an always already ideological reality). At the same time, they sought out more popular films that exemplified the contradictory and dialectical tendencies within the dominant ideology, such as the 1950s melodramas of Douglas Sirk with their clash of wealthy lifestyles and emotional catastrophe. Technical work in film semiotics continues with the work of Warren Buckland, and Screen theory has retained its position since the 1970s, especially among feminist critics like Kaja Silverman, but it has never been uncontroversial.

The Specificity of Cinema

The most influential critic of the Screen agenda has been David Bordwell. Accusing the Screen critics of blindness to the specificity of film, Bordwell and his co-author Kristin Thompson developed a "neoformalist" analysis. Combining inspiration from Russian formalism with cognitive psychology, they proposed a rigorous film scholarship grounded in archive work and extensive as well as intensive film viewing. They also argued for what appeared to be a more commonsense approach to audience activity. Using cognitive theories, Bordwell argued that audiences were actively engaged in constructing meaning, guessing what will happen next, forming hypotheses and mental maps, and piecing together the action of the plot from the fragments of edited film narration. Criticized for their normative and apolitical account of the cinema experience, and despite the sometimes strident protestations of their later work, Thompson and Bordwell have been influential in establishing close analysis of filmic technique and high levels of historical scholarship as necessary prerequisites of film study.

New historicism (rather confusingly referred to as "revisionist" in some accounts) has been especially effective in the renewal of film studies, focusing attention on the specificity of film's evolution as technology, industry, and culture. In the 1980s and 1990s scholars such as Barry Salt, Tom Gunning, Roberta Pearson, Janet Staiger, Miriam Hansen, Kevin Brownlow, and Robert Allen and Douglas Gomery on U.S. cinema; Michael Chanan, Pam Cook, Andrew Higson, John Hill, and Robert Murphy on the United Kingdom; Thomas Elsaesser on Germany; Richard Abel on France; Yuri Tsivian on Russia; and others have radically rewritten the glib accounts of journalistic film history. The new cinema historicism diminishes the importance of individuals and denies the apparent linear progress from silent to sound, monochrome to color. Instead the new historicists emphasize the importance of institutional forces and economic trends in the innovation and dissemination of technologies and techniques, seeking reasons why certain promising technologies are delayed or abandoned, assessing the reactions of audiences and exhibitors to emerging technologies, focusing on the institutional histories of studios and government agencies, and tracing links between cinema and cognate industries. In the process some key beliefs of even recent film criticism have been undermined, as when Rick Altman argued, on evidence from D. W. Griffith's involvement with the stage, that melodrama was a formative component of classical Hollywood, thus critiquing both the belief that U.S. cinema was realist in essence and that melodrama was an effective antidote to its dominance.

Since the 1990s film historians have turned to oral history and documentary accounts of audience activity in the cinema. A major element of television studies throughout its life, audience studies have had a weaker position in film studies, perhaps because of the relative difficulty and social impropriety of staring at audience members in the dark. Early accounts from the 1930s by participants in the British Mass Observation project, even Hugo Münsterberg's pioneering psychological study of 1916, failed to establish a strong tradition of reception studies. Distinguishing themselves from market

The Rules of the Game

La Règle du jeu, directed by Jean Renoir, Nouvelle Editions Françaises, France, 1939, 110 mins.

Hated or ignored on its release in 1939, Jean Renoir's La Règle du jeu is one of the most consistently admired of all films. An ensemble cast in an upstairs-downstairs country weekend enact the rituals of a dying civilization on the brink of war. With its deep staging and deep-focus cinematography, its long takes, and a fluid camera that seems to track the actors (rather than construct the action for the camera), the film became a touchstone of realist criticism.

In a widely read essay, "S/Z and Rules of the Game " (in the film journal Jump Cut, nos. 1213, winter 19761977, pp. 4551), Julia Lesage argued that in fact the film was constructed through the types of code identified by Roland Barthes and that its realism was merely the effect of cinematic and narrative technique. This formalist analysis would also inspire readings by, among others, Kristin Thompson, for whom the film is an elaborately constructed artifice. That Renoir appears in the film as the character Octave, caught between the aristocrats and the servants, inspired a number of auteur critics to single out the film as an account of the artist's role in society and in cinema. In his 1990s His toire du cinéma, the cinéaste Jean-Luc Godard returns many times to The Rules of the Game as if to an exemplary combination of formal innovation and political commitment.

Phenomenological and psychoanalytic critics have focused on the role of illusion in the film, the series of mistaken identities that propel the plot, and the ethos of "keeping up appearances" that leads to the final tragedy. Still baffling for textual analysts is the charm and the comedy that have kept the film popular not only with critics but with film buffs for more than sixty years. Compellingly humanist in outlookRenoir's direction rarely if ever seems to dislike his charactersthe film's narrative nonetheless enacts a damning satire on a rigidly stratified society that prides itself on the appearances through which it lies to itself. This paradox of a realist cinema portraying an unreal society maintains the film's interest long after that society has faded away.

research by their interest in emotional, inventive, ironic, and resistant attitudes, and in the extremities of fan culture, such studies of necessity emphasize the depth rather than the breadth of their findings, giving more attention to highly specific audiences than to the standard aggregate measure of film audience, box-office returns. At least one international project attempted to do both deep and broad research, investigating cross-cultural meanings of fantasy though an Internet-based survey of responses to the twenty-first century blockbuster The Lord of the Rings. Both historical and contemporary reception studies focus on the cultural construction of audiences, the determinations of race, class, gender, and other formations on the ways audiences read and react to movies, disputing both the Screen concept of an apparatus that determines response, and Bordwell's idea of the audience's work of textual reconstruction.

Cultures and Economies of Cinema

Cross-cultural dimensions of cinema, initially discussed mostly in terms of the textual properties and ideological concerns of national cinemas, are now the object of much work in reception, political economy, and postcolonial research. Summed up in Ella Shohat and Robert Stam's 1994 title "Unthinking Eurocentrism," cross-cultural studies result in several kinds of work that dispute the normative tendency of neoformalism and the blindness to cultural difference of the apparatus theory espoused by the Screen critics. Some scholars have been at pains to emphasize the creativity or political significance of previously marginalized cinemas and directors. Others apply rigorous theoretical critique to such art house favorites as the Chinese fifth-generation filmmakers. Still more radical was the movement in filmmaking and film theory known as third cinema, after an influential 1976 essay by Cuban cinéastes Fernando Solanas and Octavio Gettino, which argued that the first and second cinemasmass entertainment and bourgeois psychodramas, respectivelyhad failed the revolution and that a third cinema based in popular forms and addressing popular struggles was the best way forward. This spirit was echoed across the world, in the films of Haile Gerima in Ethiopa, Sembene Ousmane in Senegal, and Anand Patwardhan in India, and in the critical writings of Teshome Gabriel, Trinh Minh-Ha, and others (for example, Jim Pines, Paul Willemen, Coco Fusco, and John Downing). Since a central tenet of third cinema was that cultural specificity was integral to a cinema that was genuinely popular in the sense of belonging to and acting with the people, the term acted as an umbrella for a wide range of practice. Another early Cuban proponent, Julio Garcia Espinoza, called for an imperfect cinema; in Brazil, Glauber Rocha called for a cinema of hunger. For some proponents, the third cinema demanded a break with the technical wealth as well as the techniques of the first and second cinemas, while for others the resultant formally challenging films were merely reversions to the self-important antics of art house cinema and of no interest or use to the oppressed. This debate became especially vibrant in North America and in Europe where a new and intensely articulate generation of filmmakers and critics from African-and Hispanic-American, black British, and British-Asian backgrounds began to give voice to their artistic and political demands.

A second effect of this global consciousness has been a reappraisal of the old Marxist political economy espoused by Screen theory, updating the analysis to take account of globalization on the film business, its working practices, and its use of international free trade agreements to maintain and develop monopolistic corporate cartels. Janet Wasko, Andrew Higson, and Richard Maltby, among others, have addressed the impact of information technologies and the increasing integration of entertainment industries in guiding the development of new industrial practices as well as strategic policy on global media flows, intellectual property rights legislation, and the potential impacts of North American dominance of film distribution on the cultural lives of smaller nations. Increasingly, studies of auteurs are articulating the creative process with the industrial, and the best of them are also informed by theoretical paradigms that explain the dependence of creation in film on industrial and technical processes over which an individual director has little control.

Such studies of the development of film industries merge with analytical concerns in the study of cinema's relationships with modernity. A number of scholars, among them Anne Friedberg and Friedrich Kittler, trace cinema's roots back to related developments of the late nineteenth century such as department stores, electric streetlights, railways, and advertising, and argue forward to the digital era that cinema has always integrated with a range of other media into a broad process of modernization. In this context the study of entertainment has developed rapidly, with increasing awareness of the cross-media appeal of stardom, movie soundtracks, and animation. Film sound has benefited especially from the work of Michel Chion, Rick Altman, and Philip Brophy, who listen not only to music but to sound effects, to the construction of off-screen space, thematic constructions of gender and race, and the shifting hierarchy of recorded sound and recorded image. Like stardom, which is governed by a dialectical relation between on-screen presence and real absence, the study of film sound reveals complex interactions of space and time, sometimes reinforcing and sometimes undermining the coherence of a film's imaginary world. The sense of modernity as a complex process of homogenization and fragmentation is also common to studies of popular genres like horror, action movies, and science fiction, genres that frequently evoke both utopian and dystopian alternatives to dominant conceptions of embodiment, agency, and the necessity of current social arrangements.

Technologies of Cinema

The arrival of digital technologies in cinema has provoked debate over the degree of continuity between this process of modernization in the predigital cinema and the potential postmodernity of digital film. Critics like Lev Manovich believe in the continuity of the two, and in cinema's powerful determination of such key factors of digital media as the use of screens. Others derive from digital media new paradigms for reviewing the historical data, rediscovering such typically digital techniques as motion capture in the pre-cinematic chronophotography of Étienne-Jules Marey, or digital compositing of layers in the trompe-l'oeil sets of Georges Méliès' early fantasy films. Scholars of special effects, such as Vivian Sobchack, Scott Bukatman, and Timothy Murray, have begun to analyze the diminishing dependence of cinema on what can be enacted in front of a camera, tracing, in Michelle Pearson's work, a transition from spectacle for its own sake to a more embedded expectation of near-photographic illusion seamlessly wedded to cinematographic imagery, as in James Cameron's Titanic (1997), a case argued by Angela Ndalianis, for whom spectacle is, if anything, a more significant element of contemporary entertainment than at any time since the Baroque.

At certain points, this discussion of the transition from photo-mechanical to electronic cinema replicates the long-running debate between culturalist and medium-specific accounts of film. If such vast currents as modernity or globalization run through the transition to digital, then there will be continuity. But if the deep-seated alterations to cinematic technique take precedence, then the experience of cinema, and to some extent of cultural activity at large, can be expected to change equally. This hypothesis has been tested especially by a generation of phenomenological critics like Vivian Sobchack and Laura U. Marks, for whom the object of inquiry is the physical embodiment of the spectator and the ways this relates to the richness of the felt experience of cinema. This type of work, instigated by Dudley Andrew, is extended in Marks's work into a consideration of the emulation of touching in certain modes of cinema practice. The theme of embodiment also runs through the rapid rise of interest in Gilles Deleuze's two-volume analysis of cinema, remarkable for its espousal of a philosophy of desire grounded in Henri Bergson (rather than the ubiquitous Heideggerianism, in themes of loss, lack, and the fading of reality, of poststructural criticism) and for its meticulous readings of individual films. Deleuze envisages a shift from the "movement-image" pre-1945 toward a "direct time image" in postwar cinema. Informed by the semiotic pragmatism of Charles Sanders Peirce, Deleuze deploys an idiosyncratic vocabulary to argue for cinema's gradual liberation from a mechanistic dependence on the image of the human body toward a more metaphysical engagement with the pure dimensionality of time and its flows.

Challenges of Cinema

The tumultuous history of cinema studies since the mid twentieth century has concentrated several core debates in the history of ideas. Should the study of film deploy traditional hermeneutic and humanistic techniques, or should it abandon them for a more rigorous analysis grounded in linguistics? Or was such grappling with continental theory an alibi for a failure to address the realities of political economy, actual rather than textually determined readers, and the operations of oppression and exploitation disguised or denied by filmic representations? Or was cinema in any case an entirely symbolic activity, a simulacrum with no relation to any reality, physical or social? In institutions where cinema has been taught, there have been the additional claims that the analysis of film is mere carping, all too often negative and destructive, and of no use to those who wish to move into filmmaking as a career. Such claims have led to the rise of major literatures in script analysis and structure, in the technical aspects of filmmaking, and in elements of creative industries literature devoted to film financing, marketing, and policy, many of which have been subsumed into the canon of cinema studies teaching.

Looking to cinema's specific contributions to the history of ideas, among the most significant has been its meticulous attention to the specificities of cultural difference and the contemporaneous splitting and differentiation of subjectivity, in the admission of transcultural cinemas and in queer cinema, for example. At its best, the affirmation of camp, for example in Richard Dyer's work on queer cinema, is valuable not only for film studies but for better understanding of the rich emotional life of the culture.

Indeed, if anything distinguishes the cinema theory among media studies, it is its readiness to engage with the emotional life. Alongside the cool analysis of finance, technique, and box office, it is difficult to sidestep the intense emotive power of film, from haunting abstraction to political passion, and in physiological reactions of tears, shrieks, and laughter. While some advances have been made in the study of the erotic (by Linda Williams) and the horrific (by Barbara Creed), both comedy and tearjerkers have resisted analysis and remain in many ways the most difficult emotional technologies to account for, partially because they are among the least esteemed in intellectual circles.

There is too the contradictory fascination of cinema captured in the phrase the dream factory. Flagship of the consciousness industries, cinema figures as both escape and utopia, flight from oppression or flight toward its alternative. It is both a device for replenishing the exhausted with meaningless entertainment and a technology for demanding the impossible. Its illusions may be seen as lies and ideology, or as evocations of emotional and spiritual satisfactions denied and destroyed by consumerism. Its darkness, serried ranks of seating, and clockwork rhythms of projection can appear as both a continuation of factory discipline into leisure time and as an expression of solidarity, community, and sociability.

Meanwhile, despite (and, in some resistant political sense, perhaps because of) the dominance of Hollywood on world screens, cinema has proved remarkably successful at translating cultural difference across the world: one thinks of the mix of kung fu, spaghetti western, and U.S. gangster in Perry Henzell's Jamaican The Harder They Come (1973). The films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, John Woo, Akira Kurosawa, and Satyajit Ray have reached far more people than equivalent literary or even musical creations. Nonetheless, there remain huge difficulties in securing distribution for non-Hollywood films, a challenge that film studies shows signs of addressing in the early twenty-first century, along with the issues of cross-cultural transmission, emotion, and identification, and the utopian as well as the industrial capabilities of the medium.

See also Media, History of ; Third Cinema ; Visual Culture .


Andrew, J. Dudley. Concepts in Film Theory. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1984.

. The Major Film Theories: An Introduction. London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1976.

Gledhill, Christine, and Linda Williams, eds. Reinventing Film Studies. London: Arnold, 2000.

Metz, Christian. Film Language: A Semiotics of the Cinema. Translated by Michael Taylor. New York: Oxford University Press, 1974.

. The Imaginary Signifier: Psychoanalysis and Cinema. Translated by Celia Britton et al. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982.

. Language and Cinema. Translated by Donna Jean Umiker-Seboek. The Hague: Mouton, 1974.

Miller, Toby, and Robert Stam, eds. A Companion to Film Theory. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 1999.

Mulvey, Laura. "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema." Screen 16, no. 3 (autumn 1975): 618. Reprinted in her Visual and Other Pleasures. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989.

Nichols, Bill, ed. Movies and Methods. 2 vols. Berkeley: University of California Press, 19761985.

Shohat, Ella. and Robert Stam. Unthinking Eurocentrism: Multi-culturalism and the Media. London and New York: Routledge, 1994.

Solanas, Fernando, and Octavio Getino. "Towards a Third Cinema." In Movies and Methods, Vol. 1, edited by Bill Nichols. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976. Revised translation in 25 Years of Latin American Cinema, edited by Michael Chanan. London: BFI/Channel 4, 1984.

Stam, Robert, and Toby Miller, eds. Film and Theory: An Anthology. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2000.

Sean Cubitt


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CINEMA The development of India's film industry—one of the world's largest—is as old, as varied, and as exciting as the history of the medium itself. The Lumière moving pictures that took Paris by storm at end of 1895 were enthralling Bombay audiences by the next July. Shooting for the first Indian feature film, Raja Harishchandra, started in 1912, coinciding with the appearance of full-length features in the United States. The first Indian "talkie" was shown in 1931, two years after the first British and French talkies made their bow.

The Early Years

At the turn of the twentieth century, when cinema dawned, India was poised for major social and political reform. Technological innovations, such as cars, planes, and gramophone records that took classical music to the masses, were transforming urban Indian society. Encouraged by the response to the first Indian films, the exhibitors moved the cinema shows to Novelty Theater and introduced a wide range of prices, appealing to both patrician and plebeian. The cheapest tickets cost four annas (a quarter of a rupee), creating the "four-anna class" audience that in decades to come would dictate the form and content of Indian commercial films.

Enterprising young Indians began to film local events (ranging from wrestling matches and extracts from plays to the return of Wrangler Paranjpye from Cambridge) with cameras imported from London. With the rise of film magnates in India like Jamshedji Framji Madan and Abdulally Esoofally, films from all over the world were jostling for a slice of the Indian market. But these stagy dramas and comics were not to the tastes of the Indian multitude. The time was ripe for a truly indigenous filmmaker.

In 1910 a depressed Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, whose partners had withdrawn financial support from his fine-art printing business seated himself in the America-Indian cinema showing The Life of Christ. This run-of-the-mill production of the silent era, however, had a magical effect on Phalke. As Phalke watched the film unfold, he had a clear vision of his goal: to re-create the world of the rich mythic lore and epic tales of India, peopled with gods, demons, and humans. A Sanskrit scholar, architect, painter, photographer, and amateur magician, Phalke was certainly equipped to do so.

Phalke was his own scriptwriter, cameraman, director and even projectionist and distributor. Raja Harishchandra, the story of a king renowned for telling the truth, took six grueling months to complete and was released commercially in May 1913. With subtitles in Hindi and English and 3,000 feet long, the film ran for an unprecedented twenty-three days, or six times the normal run of an Indian film. When Phalke finished Lanka Dahan (The burning of Lanka), his box office collections had to be hauled away in bullock carts with police escorts. Many hardheaded businessmen now stepped into the picture, churning out films in the roofless studios (or "factories") of the early years. Calcutta theater owner J. F. Madan built a chain of cinemas that covered India, Burma, and Ceylon and produced ten films a year.

After World War I, the British colonial regime appointed an Indian Cinematograph Committee of Enquiry, headed by an Indian member, Dewan Bahadur T. Rangachariar. But as many Indians feared, the British authorities were concerned mostly about expression of nationalist sentiments, banning films such as Bhakta Vidur (1921) and R. S. D. Choudhury's Wrath (1930) in which actors appeared as Mahatma Gandhi. World War II saw the tightening of censorship as never before. Even oblique references to Gandhi or other leaders brought instant censorship and reprisals.

But the silent film industry that Rangachariar so meticulously studied was itself poised for a revolutionary change. The day the committee was appointed—October 6, 1927—was also the day the world's first talkie, The Jazz Singer, premiered in New York.

The first foreign talkie in India was released by Madan Pictures in Calcutta in 1928. The first Indian talkie was made a few years later: Alam Ara, an Arabian Nights–style drama, produced by Bombay's Imperial Film Company and directed by Ardeshir Irani. Released on 14 March 1931, the first Indian talkie, with ten songs, featured Zubeida, Master Vithal, and W. M. Khan. On opening night, black-market vendors sold tickets for its premiere at twenty times their actual price.

In Bombay, sound literally changed the complexion of the film industry. Most female stars of the silent era were "Anglo-Indians," who could not handle Hindi. Even the silent era's "star of stars," Sulochana (Ruby Meyers), whose salary reportedly exceeded that of the Bombay governor, was toppled from her throne. More liberal attitudes made upper caste actresses available to the once-taboo film industry. In a 1932 version of the Harishchandra story, the female lead was played by a Brahman, Durga Khote.

For dialogue, Indian filmmakers turned to popular playwrights, such as Agha Hashr Kashmiri, who wrote ornate dialogue and flowery verses. But as filmmakers realized that a different craft was evolving, they looked to novels for original material, a practice that seems to have originated in Bengal.

Dialogue has always had a special hold over Indian audiences. Actor-director Sohrab Modi's spirited speech as a Rajput warrior in Pukar (1939) had viewers showering coins on the screen. In 1975 over half a million records of the dialogue of the "curry-western" Sholay were sold. But film songs were to become even more popular than dialogue—to the extent of acquiring more importance than the films themselves.

Songs above All

A typically Indian result of the coming of sound was the central importance that music and songs acquired in film. By the mid-1930s, movie music was big business. Indra Sabha (1932) had nearly seventy songs. In Devi Devyani, beautiful Gohar, then in her early twenties, was cast against nearly seventy-year-old Bhagwandas, a famous singer. While the predominance of songs is seen as a continuation of the essentially musical nature of Indian theater, others suggest that songs and music were a means to overcome a linguistic splintering of the Indian audience. The merry mixing of Indian and western traditions, classical and folk, was condemned by some as "hybrid" but the very vitality of film music and its desire to experiment broadened the basis of Indian music.

In film dance too, choreographers combined Western styles with distorted mudras of Indian classical dance forms. Two serious attempts to put Indian dance on film were Uday Shankar's Kalpana (Imagination, 1948) and V. Shantaram's Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje (Jangle of anklets, 1955), one of the early Technicolor films in India.

The first two decades of talkies were dominated by "singing stars" like Saigal, Pankaj Mullick, Kanan Devi, Noorjehan, and Suraiyya. But good singing was no guarantee of good acting. "Playback" (or ghost) singing came to the rescue. The most successful playback singer was Lata Mangeshkar (the "Nightingale of India"), whose 30,000 solo, duet, and chorus-backed songs recorded in twenty Indian languages between 1948 and 1987 were noted in the Guinness Book of Records.

The Emergence of Studios

From the 1920s to the 1940s, film technicians and performers in India were on the payroll of a studio, making up one large joint family under its roof. The port cities of Bombay, Madras, and Calcutta had become the major centers of commerce and industry—including film production. Major studios developed a personality of their own but by the 1930s, three had attained a prestige that set them above the rest. New Theatres in Calcutta was started by B. N. Sircar, who collected a group of talented men around him. They captured the all-India market with Devdas (1935), based on the well-known novel, directed by P. C. "Prince" Barua, who also played the (eponymous) lead role. Many Indian language versions followed.

Himansu Rai and his wife Devika Rani, who made silent films with German backing, followed with an Anglo-Indian coproduction, Karma. In 1934 the couple set up Bombay Talkies. Its products were carefully tailored to meet the tastes of its varied audiences, mixing glamour, music, and melodrama with a certain amount of political and social consciousness.

Prabhat Studios in Pune had no elitist pretensions. V. Shantaram directed a majority of its films, notably Duniya na Mane, about an elderly widower who marries a young woman, then regrets it. But Prabhat's most successful film was Sant Tukaram (Saint Tukaram), directed by Shantaram's copartners Damle and Fatehlal. Made in Marathi, it was a great success throughout India.

Inflation, unleashed by World War II, pulled out the supports of the studio system, already tottering from internal jealousies. Successful directors and actors sought to breakaway and amass personal fortunes. Fly-by-night producers with money made on shady wartime deals lured stars away to work in individual films. Leadership of the industry passed from established producers into the hands of leading stars, exacting financiers and calculating distributors/exhibitors. The masala film—which wrapped all salable ingredients together, comedy, melodrama, song, dance, romance—became the widely accepted recipe for success.

As it became economically unfeasible to shoot in the north, studios equipped for sound started coming up in the south. In 1936 Madras United Artists Corporation and Modern Theaters were both founded, soon followed by Vauhini, Gemini, AVM, and others. But till the late 1940s, most Indian cinema was blissfully unconcerned with Madras, capital of the mammoth south Indian film industry. In 1948, however, S. S. Vasan's spectacular Chandralekha, with its unforgettable drum-dance sequence, became a stunning success all over India.

At the time, almost half of all Indian theaters were in the four southern Dravidian states (Andhra, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu) and almost 50 percent of all films made were in the Dravidian languages. Most of these films were from Tamil Nadu, where films wielded a power in the social, cultural, and political spheres unequalled in India. The credit for realizing the enormous potential of the medium goes to the DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) Party, which advocated a revival of Dravidian culture.

The 1947 partition of Bengal into India's West Bengal and East Pakistan threw the Calcutta film industry, which had always demonstrated political awareness, into turmoil—and politics continued to influence subsequent films. Nemai Ghosh's Chinnamul (The uprooted, 1951), on the refugee influx into partitioned India, was one such powerful drama. Activist Ritwik Ghatak, of the leftist Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA) who acted in Uprooted went on to make Nagarik (Citizen) in 1952, an exhortation to the working class to keep up its struggle.

French director Jean Renoir had visited Calcutta in 1949 to scout locations for his forthcoming film River. One of his guides there was Satyajit Ray, a young graphic artist and aspiring filmmaker—who would go on to show a generation of Indian filmmakers that it was possible to be successful outside of India's film bazaar.

Satyajit Ray and Bengali Filmmaking

Metaphorically and literally Satyajit Ray towered over Indian cinema. His Pather Panchali (Song of the road, 1955) ran to packed houses in Bengal and won the Best Human Document award at Cannes. He showed aspiring filmmakers that it was possible to make a different kind of cinema with amateur actors, without make up, shoot mainly on location and interpret Indian reality in non-melodramatic style.

Rooted firmly in the literary and artistic tradition of the Bengal Renaissance, Ray had studied at Rabindranath Tagore's Shantiniketan (Abode of Peace) University. He went on to prove himself a master storyteller and observer of the human predicament in classics such as the Apu Trilogy (1955, 1956, 1959), Jalsaghar (The music room, 1958), Charulata (1964), Devi (The goddess, 1960), and Aranyer Din Ratri (Days and nights in the forest, 1969).

Another Bengali genius, Ritwik Ghatak, was a passionate practician of epic cinema, investing melodrama with tragic depth as he probed the personal and collective impact of Bengal's partition. From this pain were born his masterpieces: Meghe Dhaka Tara (Cloud-capped star, 1960), Komal Gandhar (E-flat, 1961), and Subarnarekha, (1962). Mrinal Sen graduated from his initial agit-prop essays to sensitive explorations of middle-class guilt in well-crafted films such as Ek Din Pratidin (And quiet flows the dawn, 1979), Akaler Sandhaney (In search of famine, 1980), and Kharij (The case is closed, 1982).

Uttam Kumar, who played a film star in Ray's Nayak (The hero, 1966), was long Bengal's beloved matinee hero, starring with the inimitable Suchitra Sen. Bilingual filmmakers based in Bombay, like Bimal Roy and Shakti Samanta, lured the two to act in Hindi films. Later popular Bengali stars who made it good in Hindi cinema were Sharmila Tagore and Mithun Chakravorty.

The Golden Age of Hindi Cinema

In the 1950s and 1960s, the dominance of Hindi cinema was unparalleled commercially and critically. V. Shantaram's 1957 film, Do Aankhen Bara Haath (Two eyes, twelve hands), about a benevolent jailor who tries to reform six condemned prisoners, won a Silver Bear at Berlin. Journalist-filmmaker K. A. Abbas was one of the few socially committed filmmakers of the day, his brilliant Dharti Ke Lal (Red earth) focused on the 1943 Bengal famine. When Nitin Bose and then Bimal Roy moved from Calcutta's New Theatres to Bombay, they brought their social awareness into Hindi films. Bose's Gunga Jumna (1961), about the conflict between two brothers, is among the all-time hits of Indian cinema.

Mehboob Khan, who ran away from home to become an actor, emerged as one of Bombay's most distinguished producer/directors. His most popular film, Mother India (1957), created an enduring icon of the mother as a symbol of national identity in his protagonist Radha (played by Nargis, who won India's first international acting prize at Karlovy Vary). Bimal Roy made films about social evils. Do Bigha Zamin (Two acres of land, 1953) depicting the poignancy of the peasants' losing battles against avaricious landlords won prizes at Cannes and Karlovy Vary. Memorable in the leading role was one of the great actors of Indian cinema, Balraj Sahni, an IPTA member. In Roy's 1955 version of Devdas, he cast the reigning tragedy king, Dilip Kumar, as Saratchandra's self-destructive hero.

Raj Kapoor's career coincided with the birth of a new nation state. The early Raj Kapoor, with his romanticized idealism, sought to be the bardic voice of the Nehruvian dream. When he made Awaara (The vagabond, 1955), introducing in homage to Charlie Chaplin the lovable Indian "Tramp," his tremendous appeal at home and abroad seemed endless. His songs are still sung in Russia. Kapoor and Nargis shared an electrifying screen chemistry, epitomizing romance for an entire generation of Indians.

Guru Dutt was Indian cinema's tragic poet. He had a superb understanding of the camera and a fine ear for melody. His master films, including Pyaasa (Thirsty, 1957), which delved into the despair of a poet unrecognized in his lifetime, and his autobiographical Kaagaz Ke Phool (Paper flowers, 1959), have attracted a cult following.

If there is a truly Indian "genre," it is the mythological. Mythology has been a source material for Indian films right from Phalke's Harishchandra. In later years, one of the most successful "mythos" was Jai Santoshi Maa (Hail to Goddess Santoshi Maa, 1975). Cheaply made and featuring an erstwhile heroine of mainstream cinema, the film was bountifully blessed at the box office. The lives of saints was also a recurring theme in films.

Another typically Indian film genre was the costume drama of refined manners and poetical language—a seeking to evoke a golden glow of nostalgia for the Mughal court. Among the most popular were Guru Dutt's Chaudvin ka Chand (Full moon, 1960), Kamal Amrohi's Pakeezah (The pure one, 1971), and K. Asif's Mughal-e-Azam (The great Mughal, 1960).

New Heroes

The Swinging Sixties brought about a sea change. Icon of the times was Raj Kapoor's younger brother, the exuberant Shammi, who broke the mold of the traditional gentlemanly hero and won for himself the title of "Rebel Star." Reworking his earlier soulful/romantic image in the style of James Dean and Elvis Presley, sporting T-shirts and leather jackets, dancing uninhibitedly to highly hummable numbers, Shammi Kapoor led Hindi cinema's first concerted attempt to woo the Westernized teenage audience. His 1961 color film Junglee, set in picturesque Kashmir, elevated him to cult status; his exulting cry of "Yahoo" (part of the theme song) captured the imagination of a whole new generation.

Shammi Kapoor's successor was rather his opposite. He hardly conformed to India's prevailing ideal of robust Punjabi good looks, crinkled his eyes and shook his head vulnerably in what were to become trademark gestures. Yet Rajesh Khanna was dubbed India's first superstar as one sentimental romance after another swept the box office. The gallant smile with which he faced death guaranteed a collective lump in the audience's throat (Anand, 1970; Namak Haram, 1973). Coincidentally enough, the rising star who was soon to unseat Khanna was the second lead in both of these films—the lanky, brooding Amitabh Bachchan, blessed with the most seductive baritone of them all.

Bachchan became India's longest ruling star, starting with a series of author-backed roles that cast him as an angry young man. Prakash Mehra's Zanjeer (Chains, 1973) and Yash Chopra's Deewar (The wall, 1975) were great box office successes. But the curry western Sholay (Burning embers, 1975) by director Ramesh Sippy was the biggest hit, chosen in a recent British Film Institute poll as the "best Indian film."

Versions of the vigilante hero, as the upright cop fighting a corrupt system or the avenging outsider free from establishment rules, sprang up everywhere. The films reflected India's turbulent 1970s, when the Nehruvian dream of an egalitarian, secular India collapsed, followed in June 1975 by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's imposition of a "National Emergency" and the suspension of civil rights, after she was found guilty by Allahabad's High court of electoral malpractice. After the "Emergency," Amitabh Bachchan kept the film industry buoyant, delivering hit after hit, spun out by the "Masala moghul" Manmohan Desai (Amar, Akbar, Anthony, 1977), or articulating the anger of youth in Kala Patthar (Coal, 1979).

The Southern Connection

The highly politicized Tamil Nadu cinema created real-life rivals. M. G. Ramachandran's swashbuckling "Robin Hood" image won him a large fan following, which propelled him to the post of chief minister of the state. Stage thespian Sivaji Ganesan (who later joined the opposing Congress Party) wowed masses and critics alike with his matchless oratorical skills. Writers great and small, including future Chief Minister Karunanidhi, vied to pen breathless passages of prose for this new star.

The directors who rescued Tamil movies from excessive theatricality were K. Balachander and Bharatiraaja. Balachander added a psychological edge to bold themes, creating new stars such as Kamal Haasan (one of India's best actors and dancers, who went on to become a successful writer/director/producer in the 1980s and 1990s), Rajanikant (his mannerisms have a cult following, with new converts in Japan), and the talented Sridevi, whose child-woman image made her an all-India star.

Traffic between Bombay cinema and that of Madras climaxed with Mani Ratnam's Nayakan (1987), based on the life of a Bombay organized crime boss, and his 1992 Roja, a love story in the time of terrorism in Kashmir.

Andhra Pradesh's Telugu cinema was long dominated by the rivalry between the "godly" N. T. Rama Rao (or NTR) and the more down-to-earth A. Nageshwar Rao. NTR breathed declamatory fire into the Sanskritized phrases of the epic mythologicals, playing the Hindu god Krishna no fewer than seventeen times. Thanks to his godly screen presence and faithful fan following, he led a Dravidian political party, espousing Telugu identity, and became chief minister of Andhra Pradesh.

Telugu and Tamil films reveled in family melodramas, in which modernity (in the form of an educated son or daughter-in-law) threatened the idealized traditional family. That "Madras Formula" was soon applied with equal success to teary Hindi films. Telugu directors Bapu and K. Vishwanath succeeded in Bombay as well. Vishwanath's celebrated ode to Carnatic music in his Sankarabharanam (Shiva's raga, 1979) was imitated by northern directors.

Malayalam and Kannada cinema were latecomers. Like Bengal, Kerala is a stronghold of Marxism, and it boasts the highest literacy in the country. Given its thriving film culture too, it was no surprise that many acclaimed directors of art (or "parallel cinema" as it was known) came from Kerala.

A New Wave Touches Indian Shores

Ray had shown the way, and international film festivals opened the doors to worldwide developments. The government of India was alive to the needs for funding non-formula filmmakers, and the Film Finance Corporation or FFC (which was reincarnated as the National Film Development Corporation two decades later) was inaugurated in 1960. In 1961 the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) rose from the ruins, as it were, of the Prabhat Studios. A National Film Archive followed in 1964. FFC produced Bhuvan Shome (1969), an engagingly subversive work, directed by Mrinal Sen. The film marked the arrival of a "New Wave" of filmmaking on Indian shores.

Quite independent of institutional support, a southern theater group made Samskara (Funeral rites, 1970) in Kannada, an indictment of Brahman hypocrisy and meaningless ritual. The Kannada cinema now became the hub of "new cinema" developments. Eminent playwright and Rhodes scholar Girish Karnad and theater genius cum music composer B. V. Karanth made memorable films together and on their own. Soon, Girish Kasaravalli, a young pharmacist who chose to train at FTII, surged to the forefront with an accomplished first work, Ghatashraddha (The rite, 1978), which explored the anachronistic world of Brahmanical rituals, with sensitivity and integrity.

From Kerala, an early graduate of the FTII, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, is today India's most distinguished filmmaker, acclaimed nationally and internationally. On his shoulders rests the mantle of Ray. Adoor has created demanding masterpieces that explore the human condition with detachment and delicacy. Elipattayam (The rat trap), focusing on Kerala's decaying feudal society, is as disturbing today as it was in 1982, when the British Film Institute Award cited it as "the most original and imaginative film" of the year. Other filmmakers from Kerala include cartoonist turned filmmaker Aravindan, Shaji N. Karun, director of Piravi (Birth, 1988), perhaps the mostly widely seen Indian film on the international festival circuit.

In Bombay, two of Ritwik Ghatak's devoted students, Kumar Shahani and Mani Kaul struck out in defense of "pure cinema," eschewing the strong narrative and emotional drama of the conventional cinema. Far less esoteric but equally experimental was FTII's Ketan Mehta whose debut film Bhavni Bhavai transposed the folk idiom to the screen.

The New Wave created its own icons to challenge mainstream melodramatics: the luminous Smita Patil, who died tragically young; the perfectionist Shabana Azmi, who combined brilliant acting with activism; the mercurial Naseeruddin Shah and the solid-yet-sensitive Om Puri, both immensely talented, both graduates of the National School of Drama and the FTII.

The director who created and projected these icons worldwide was Shyam Benegal. His early films, starting with Ankur (The seedling, 1974), are searchingly humane explorations of the conflict between feudal traditions and modernity, filtered through women placed at the heart of each drama. Benegal is a rarity in that his films do not compromise his integrity and yet pay for themselves. Benegal's cinematographer Govind Nihalani graduated to become one of India's most politically conscious directors with the hard-hitting Ardh Satya (Half truth, 1983), a study of the brutalization of an idealistic young policeman (Om Puri). Nihalani continues his explorations of violence, individual and societal; his latest big-budget Dev (2004) brings together the two most famous "cops" of mainstream and offbeat cinema: Amitabh Bachchan and Om Puri.

Political engagement is also the hallmark of another distinguished director, Saeed Mirza. His famed quartet (including Why Does Albert Pinto Get Angry?) voices the plight of the marginalized minorities. His Naseem (1994) cast poet Kaifi Azmi as the despairing Muslim patriarch who remains in India at partition because of his profound belief in India's secular ideals, only to find himself and his family threatened by the demolition of the Babri Masjid by Hindu fundamentalists in 1992.

A trailblazer in this regard was M. S. Sathyu, whose 1973 Garm Hava (Hot wind) dared to look at the plight of Muslims in North India after partition. The film was a critical success—accepted at Cannes, recipient of a National Award—but did not succeed financially. Another powerful partition film was Nihalani's Tamas (Darkness), which appeared as a television serial.

The New Wave threw up new filmmaking centers with no cinematic tradition to speak of. Assam's Jahnu Barua (Halodia Choraye Baodhan Khai, 1987; Hkhagoroloi Bohu Door, 1995) carved a niche for himself, exploring the many facets of his seemingly idyllic land torn apart by ethnic strife. Barua has brought Assam into national focus, underlining the feeling of isolation. From Manipur, Aribam Syam Sarma's seemingly simple films (Imagi Ningthem, Ishanou, Sanabi) conceal many layers, with strong heroines who reflect the prevailing matrilineal system. One of Indian cinema's enduring mysteries is what happened to Nirad Mohapatra after his brilliant Maya Miriga (Illusion, 1983) a bittersweet unfolding of the disintegration of a traditional family in an Orissa township.

The vigor of the New Wave drew into its fold professionals from the sister arts, like the Pune-based theater director (and pediatrician) Jabbar Patel, who gave shape to a new Marathi cinema with his political and social dramas, Saamna (1975), Sinhasan (1979), and Umbartha (1981), starring Smita Patil as a women's rights activist. Fellow Maharashtrian and theater enthusiast Amol Palekar first became famous as the "boy next door" in Basu Chatterjee's light-hearted romances but went on to make serious films tackling unusual themes.

Talented artists from all over the country made their mark in cinema: photojournalist and theater director Gautam Ghose adopted a semidocumentary approach in many hard-hitting political films like Dakhal, Patang, and Dekha. A memorable scene in his Paar (The Crossing, 1984) has the heroic couple (Shabana Azmi and Naseeruddin Shah) herding swine across the swirling waters of the river to earn their fare back to their village. Academic poet Buddhadeb Dasgupta combined a lyrical sensibility with politically conscious humanism in films like Neem Annapurna, Bagh Bahadur, and Uttara, which won him the Best Director award in Venice in 2000.

The New Wave's liberating influence brought women filmmakers to the fore. In Bangalore, Prema Karanth's Phaniyamma (Kannada, 1982) was a moving portrayal of a child widow; Bombay-based Sai Paranjpye (Sparsh, Chashme Buddoor, Katha, and Disha) constantly sought to conquer new territory, from sensitive love stories and comedy to a journalistic look at Bombay's hopeful migrants. Noted theater director and actor Vijaya Mehta extended her formidable talents to films (Smriti Chitre, Rao Saheb, Pestonjee), and, in Calcutta, Aparna Sen grew from mainstream star to accomplished director. Her first, and India's first English film, 36 Chowringhee Lane (1981), was a poignant study of the loneliness of an Anglo-Indian teacher. The latest, Mr. and Mrs. Iyer (2003), is a brief and tender encounter between strangers caught amidst intercommunal violence.

The Wave Recedes

Around the 1980s, India's New Wave cinema seemed to run out of steam. Over the years, the progressive agenda of the filmmakers lost its niche audience. FFC and National Film Development Corporation tried without success to set up an alternative distribution system. Many New Wave films survived on the oxygen of the festival circuit and screenings on national television. Independent cinema nevertheless lives on, with new talents joining the established. In Calcutta, the prolific Rituparno Ghosh has established himself as a sensitive director of women-centric dramas; in Kerala, Murali Nair's black satires and surreal humour have won accolades worldwide (Camera d'Or for Marana Simhasanam at Cannes). In mainstream cinema, too, a next generation arose, technically savvy and daring enough to take risks (Farhan Akhtar, Madhur Bhandarkar). Ramgopal Varma, yesterday's whiz kid from Hyderabad whose 1995 Satya (a noir thriller on the Bombay underworld) catapulted him to the top, is currently backing experiments by newer entrants.

In the 1990s, globalization raised the demon of cultural dilution and contamination. The conservative Right echoed the fears of Hindu fundamentalists, who saw the exposure to Western entertainment as detrimental to the "purity" of Indian culture. Mainstream cinema, attuned to these conservative forces, responded with two brands of patriotism: hard and soft. Soft patriotism reinforced the traditional virtues of filial obedience. Bright, glossy films increasingly courted the rich Indian diaspora settled in the West, which looked to India for its cultural identity and value system—values that were often regressive when it came to women's rights.

Hard patriotism was packaged in films like Border and Gadar (Chaos), which had a ready audience in a country hit by terrorism and militancy. The message was: how can you love your country without hating your neighbour? In the mainstream cinema, there was no place for introspection, political or social, to probe the roots of violence. Rare exceptions were Gulzar's Maachis (Matches), which explored how young men turned to terrorism under police brutalities in Punjab, and Kamala Haasan's Hey Ram! (in Tamil and Hindi), which tried to probe the roots of religious hatred at the time of partition.

Indian cinema is now looking beyond national borders. The urban success of Dev Benegal's English August (based on a first novel by a bureaucrat), the international success of Shekhar Kapoor's Bandit Queen on a notorious woman dacoit, and Aamir Khan-Ashutosh Gowariker's Lagaan, a film that married two of India's great passions, cricket and movies, all fueled Indian filmmakers' ambitions to capture world audiences. Meanwhile, the mushrooming of multiplexes in Indian cities has achieved what years of muddled strategies could not: creating niche audiences for small films that are made in a mix of languages. It seems that the all-India, all-in-one film has become even more of a mirage, like the Rāmāyaṇa's elusive golden deer.

Rani Day BurraMaithili Rao

See alsoFilmīgīt ; Film Industry ; Lata Mangeshkar ; Ray, Satyajit


Barnouw, Eric, and S. Krishnaswamy. Indian Film. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980.

Bhaskaran, S. Theodore. The Eye of the Serpent: An Introduction to Tamil Cinema. Madras: East West Books, 1996.

Dasgupta, Chidanand. The Painted Face: Studies in Indian Popular Cinema. New Delhi: Roli Books, 1991.

Dwyer, Rachel. All You Want Is Money, All You Need Is Love: Sex and Romance in Modern India. London: Cassell, 2000.

Dwyer, Rachel, and Christopher Pinney, eds. Pleasure and the Nation: The History, Politics, and Consumption of Public Culture in India. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Garga, B. D. So Many Cinemas: The Motion Picture in India. Mumbai: Eminence Designs, 1996.

Joshi, Lalit Mohan, ed. Bollywood: Popular Indian Cinema. London: Dakinibooks, 2000.

Kazmi, Fareed. The Politics of India's Conventional Cinema: Imaging a Universe, Subverting a Multiverse. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications, 1999.

Prasad, M. Madhava. Ideology of the Hindi Film: A Historical Construction. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Ramachandran, T. M., ed. Seventy Years of Indian Cinema: 1913–1983. Bombay: Cinema India International, 1985. Sastry, K. N. T., ed. Telugu Cinema. Hyderabad: Cinema

Group, 1986. Vasudev, Aruna. The New Indian Cinema. New Delhi: Macmillan, 1986.


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Motion pictures are one of the most pervasive contemporary technologies, and, since their invention, have been continuously engaged with ethical issues. From the beginning, movies have been accused of corrupting children and adults by communicating godless, overtly sexual, and perverted values. The result has been extensive attempts to control movie content. Even commentators who are against censorship have argued that, independent of any particular content, movies have a morally significant influence. Finally as a new technological medium, films have explored the ethical challenges of new technologies.


In January 1894 inventor Thomas Edison filmed his assistant, Fred Ott, sneezing. Early proponents of the new medium soon began shooting the first fiction films, consisting of only a few scenes. The Great Train Robbery (1903) was a milestone, using montage and the point of view of the camera to excite and frighten the audience. By 1907 there were 1 million daily viewers of nickelodeons in the United States. In 1910 the nation had 10,000 movie theaters. Hull House reformer Jane Addams said that "what they [children] saw on the screen was directly and immediately transformed into action." Reverend Wilbur Crafts saw the early cinema as "offering trips to hell for a nickel" (Black 1994, pp. 6, 10). The Jazz Singer (1927) popularized the new technology of synchronized sound, allowing actors to speak and sing and writers to create more complex, morally nuanced, and provocative stories.

Later technological developments have not been quite as earthshaking as the addition of sound. Cinema-scope, a wide-screen color format introduced in 1953, brought audiences back to the movie theater by creating an experience television could not rival. 3-D films, another 1950s attempt to draw viewers from television, quickly became associated with schlock horror and science fiction efforts and was a mere technological detour rather than a lasting development. The huge-screen IMAX 3-D movies may represent a technological apex, but the use of digital video instead of film has been more significant in reducing costs of entry for small filmmakers in both the United States and abroad. The digitization of Hollywood films for distribution and projection also reduces costs and makes moviegoing more consistent, eliminating such memorable experiences as the scratchy print and film that breaks during the crucial scene.

Film has long served as a means of advancing scientific understanding, particularly by capturing events that occur too quickly or slowly for the human eye to see (a cheetah running or the growth of a flower), and by archiving scientific information. It has also popularized science to the masses, via such media as IMAX films shown in museums.


Attempts to protect citizens by censoring the cinema began at the local level in the United States soon after the nationwide introduction of popular films; states and cities set up their own boards of censorship to determine what could be shown in local theaters. In Mutual Film Corp. v. Ohio Industrial Commission (1915), the Supreme Court denied First Amendment protection to movies, finding them to be "a business, pure and simple" and therefore not "part of the press" or "organs of public opinion" (Mutual Film Corp. v. Ohio Industrial Commission, p. 244).

In 1922 production companies launched a preemptive strike against increasingly pervasive state and local censorship by founding the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors Association of America, headed by William Harrison Hays, former postmaster general and chairman of the Republican National Committee. That spring, more than 100 movie censorship bills had been introduced in the legislatures of thirty-seven states. Hays served as a buffer between the producers and public opinion. The studios wanted to police themselves so as to avoid more rigorous censorship from outside. The first Hays code prohibited profanity, nudity, drug trafficking, and white slavery, and urged good taste in presenting criminal behavior, sexual relations, and violence.

Compliance with the code was initially voluntary, and Hays frequently threatened public embarrassment as a means of persuading producers to follow his views. Soon enough, the owners of movie theaters would not show films without the seal of approval of the office, making the system mandatory for studios that hoped for national distribution. It was not until the 1950s that films, such as The Moon Is Blue (1953) and The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), began to be nationally distributed without the seal of the Hays office.

Early in the sound era, Hollywood moved to secure the rights to several popular but controversial novels by respected authors such as Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and Sinclair Lewis, triggering an ethical debate as to whether movies are an art form, mirroring the world like novels, or have a special responsibility to function as "twentieth century morality plays" illustrating "proper behavior to the masses" (Black 1994, p. 39). The Hays office fought to prevent the studios from filming Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms (1929), released as a film of the same name in 1932, and Faulkner's Sanctuary (1931), filmed as The Story of Temple Drake (1933). Failing in these efforts, Hays's people successfully pushed the producers to tone the films down, delete controversial material, and add plot developments or commentary illustrating the negative consequences of antisocial behavior.

Until then movie censorship had been primarily a Protestant affair, but in 1930 the Catholic Church proposed its own movie code, which was adopted in large part by the Hays office (Walsh). The possibility of federal censorship of movies was looming. The Catholic-inspired revision of the code, taken literally, "forbade movies from ever questioning the veracity of contemporary moral and social standards" (Black 1994, p. 41). Producers including Jack Warner and Irving Thalberg rebelled. Movies, they said, are "one vast reflection of every image in the stream of contemporary life." As such, they should be able to present "any book, play or title which had gained wide attention" (Black 1994, p. 41). In 1934 the Hays office was once again reorganized, and code enforcement became much tougher.

The studios were often able to subvert the code by presenting glamorous gangsters and loose women, only to have them pay for their sins by dying at the end of the picture. The Nation magazine amusingly referred to this trend as "five reels of transgression, followed by one reel of retribution" (Black, p. 45). The Hayes office intervened in the making of popular gangster films such as Scarface (1932), ensuring that the protagonist would die cravenly, not bravely as he did the original script.


During the 1940s, Hollywood and the government entered into partnership for the first time. The Office of War Information asked all filmmakers to consider seven key questions regarding movies made during wartime. The first and most important was, Will this picture help win the war? (Basinger 1998). Hollywood responded enthusiastically with movies calculated to encourage and reinforce patriotic feelings, and engender contempt and hatred for the enemy—in effect, political advertising or propaganda.

An interesting feature of these movies is that they represent the first time Hollywood had both an opportunity and incentive to represent the diversity of American society. Most portrayed a squad or other military group "made up of a mixture of ethnic and geographic types, most commonly including an Italian, a Jew, a cynical complainer from Brooklyn, a sharpshooter from the mountains, a Midwesterner (nicknamed by his state, Iowa or Dakota), and a character who must be initiated in some way (a newcomer without battle experience) and/or who will provide a commentary on the action as it occurs (newspaperman, letter writer, author, or professor)" (Basinger 1998).

The Hays Office nevertheless continued to be an important force in Hollywood into the 1950s, a period during which congressional investigations into communism exerted significant influence over the content of American movies. The Hollywood Ten, directors and screenwriters who went to prison for refusing to name names, and many other writers, directors, and actors saw their careers ruined or, at best, put on hold for many years until the atmosphere changed. Many blacklisted writers continued to work under pen names or through fronts (Navasky 1991). Most Hollywood films stayed even more resolutely away from subject matter which could be construed as political; the 1950s was the era of the uncontroversial, extremely traditional, family-centered romance or comedy.

Hollywood, in a second, smaller collaboration with the government, also produced a number of overt propaganda films including I Married a Communist (1950), IWas a Communist for the FBI (1951), and My Son John (1952).

Ratings for Consumer Choice

One important development during the 1950s was the Supreme Court's reversal of the almost forty-year-old decision in Mutual Film Corp. v. Ohio Industrial Commission. In the case of Joseph Burstyn Corp. v. Williams (1952), the Court granted movies full First Amendment protection. Weakened by new legal protections against state and federal censorship and overwhelmed by the cultural and sexual revolutions of the 1960s, the Hays office was finally discontinued in 1966 and replaced by a new ratings system.

Under the new system, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) assigned an X, R, M or G to every movie. X meant the content of the film was highly sexual or violent; R indicated that the film should be restricted to viewers above a certain age; M advised that the film was appropriate only for mature audiences; and G signified that the film was approved for all audiences. Minors (under 17) could not attend X-rated films, and could only see R-rated ones if accompanied by an adult. In 2005 the revised rating system consists of NC-17 (over 17 years old only); R (under 17 years old only if accompanied by a parent or guardian); PG-13 (may not be appropriate for viewers under 13); PG (parental guidance suggested); and G (general audiences).

From the start, opponents contended that the ratings system was biased: Sexually explicit movies tended to get an X-rating, whereas extremely violent ones frequently received only an R, suggesting a cultural acceptance of violence and disapproval of sex. The ratings system has also been described as a mechanism of political control by the major studios that participate in it. "It's no coincidence that the films given Xs and NC-17s over the years have tended to come from independents, minorities, foreign filmmakers, and women—those outside the fold of the seven major studios who are members of the MPAA" (Keough 1999 Internet site).

Influence of the Medium

Since the demise of the Hays office, films have become far more explicit than they were, routinely showing nudity, simulated sex, and increasingly inventive forms of graphic violence (while earning nothing more restrictive than R ratings). F. Miguel Valenti notes that violence and sex sell tickets. An epigraph frequently quoted in film criticism, and usually attributed to Jean-Luc Godard, holds that all that is needed for a movie is a gun and a girl. The debate about whether movies promote violence, immoral or unsafe sexual behavior, or other undesirable acts continues. But some film industry representatives and many consumers deny that movies are a medium of moral expression.

In fact, all films communicate moral ideas, simply by telling stories: ideas about the propriety of certain kinds of social behavior, including sexual and romantic acts, truthfulness and lying, the acceptability of violence; and the mutual rights and responsibilities of various social groups, including wealthy and poor, or police and citizens. Revenge movies, including many Westerns, thrillers, and cop films, show that it is sometimes acceptable to take the law into one's own hands. Many films communicate the idea that those in law enforcement cannot fight crime effectively without disregarding the strictures of the U.S. Constitution.

Thrillers promote a jaundiced or even fearful view of the world. "[T]hey portray a world in which crime, deceit, avarice, intrigue and betrayal are the norm rather than the exception, a film noir world even grimmer than our grimmest perception of daily life" (Dickstein 1981, p. 49). These films may promote "mean world" syndrome, "the feeling instilled in viewers that they live in a dangerous environment" (Valenti 2000, p.
14). However the underlying moral structure renders these films entertaining to audiences. "It is the exposition of moral significance that keeps the audience watching, not the quantity and quality of pyrotechnics on the screen" (Hicks 1995, pp. 106–108).

Peter Bogdanovich, director of The Last Picture Show (1971), believes that movies have a profound influence on behavior: "The trouble with portraying any way of life on the screen is that there cannot fail to be an inherent glorification of it, no matter how seamy" (Valenti 2000, Introduction). By contrast, film critic Judith Crist believes that movies have too long a lead time to have much of an influence on American popular culture; because it takes three to five years to make one, "it simply can't be that movies set patterns. They reflect our society" (Thayer 1980, p. 49).

Films aimed at juvenile audiences are widely thought to have a special responsibility to communicate socially acceptable values. Analee R. Ward notes that writers and animators at The Walt Disney Company are aware of their role in forming children's values, but have blind spots. "The role of a female in The Lion King is largely that which is associated with love, either romantic or motherly" (Ward 2002, p. 127). She notes possible racism in the portrayal of the hyenas as jive-talking blacks, and homosexual stereotypes in the behavior and mannerisms of the villain, Scar.

Others argue that by giving in to self-censorship, filmmakers often make bland, uninteresting movies. Pediatrician Perri Klass observed that "[I]f children's entertainment is purged of the powerful, we risk homogeneity, predictability and boredom, and we deprive children of any real understanding of the cathartic and emotional potentials of narrative" (Ward 2002, p. 29). Carter Burwell, writing about adult movies, has similarly said that "[I]f people's buttons are pressed in completely predictable fashion, you're depriving them of the opportunities to have novel and perhaps enlightening experiences" (Valenti 2000, p. 36).

Some critics have noted that movies give a distorted view of historical events. Stephen Fjellman wrote, "What Disney does, perhaps, is kill the idea of history by presenting it as entertainment" (Ward 2002,
p. 117). Historian Mark Carnes said that films "make the past speak to us with ... complete crystal clarity, so that it speaks to our time. Of course, historians, when they go to the past, don't find that clarity. They find a muted voice in a different language echoing through vast expanse of time" (Public Broadcasting System 1995).

The most provocative criticism, however, is that independent of any particular content, motion pictures have distinctive social and cultural effects that call for ethical assessment. For instance, media analyst Marshall McLuhan's thesis that the medium is the message might suggest that because film deals with rich visuals and sounds disembedded from their full physical contexts, it cannot help but make any violence it depicts somewhat attractive. Moreover motion pictures would also seem to have a strong tendency to induce in those who sit in a dark room in front of a large screen the kind of dreamy rootlessness described in Walker Percy's novel The Moviegoer (1961). Remarkably, however, there has been little scientific research on the psychological impact of movie watching—certainly nothing like the degree of empirical research devoted to the psychological influence of television.

Movies Examining Science and Technology

From the silent days to the era of huge screens and Dolby sound, films tell stories about new technologies, often in a fantasy or science fiction context. Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927) portrayed a world in which evil rulers used technology to manipulate workers, and in which a woman was impersonated by an evil robot doppelganger. Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times (1936) examined the alienation caused by automation. These movies raised the central questions considered by later efforts: What happens when powerful technology evades human control, and what is human as opposed to other (Telotte 2001).

The apocalyptic genre (Shapiro 2002) which began in the 1950s with movies such as Godzilla (1954), Them (1954), and The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953) was based on the premise that there are some things man was not meant to know. Typically the threat in these movies was a mutant created by radiation from an atomic blast. The Alien films (originating in 1979) similarly show humans trying to manipulate forces (the rapacious aliens) that quickly evade their control, with deadly results. The Terminator series (originating in 1984) recapitulates a theme, first expressed in movies such as 2001 (1968), The Demon Seed (1977), Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970), Westworld (1973), and War Games (1983), in which computers become powerful enough to destroy humankind. More subtle thrillers such as Minority Report (2002) portray a future in which humans are punished for overreliance on technology, which never works exactly as planned (the pre-cogs' infallible view of the future can be manipulated).

For McLuhan the popularity of techno-horror and vampire movies reflects more than the simple dominance of science and technology in contemporary culture. Instead they are a collective unconscious articulation of the sense in electronic culture of feeling taken over by technology. "The Exorcist [1973] is an account of how it feels to live in the electric age, how it feels to be completely taken over by alien forces and hidden powers" (McLuhan 2004).

But perhaps it is Blade Runner (1982) that, though a flawed movie, asks the most interesting question: In a world of machines that can imitate human behavior, even to the point of being indistinguishable from people, how is human redefined? Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (1968), on which the movie was based, answered that the irreducible difference is that humans feel compassion, and machines do not. This powerful idea was drowned out in the movie's pyrotechnics, which transformed it into a more clichéd Hollywood story about eliminating the other.

The fact that so many of these films, which use cutting edge technologies to create their special effects, take an antitechnology stance may be partly due to the requirements of storytelling. A screenplay involves a threat to the protagonist that must be overcome. Though there have always been some films in which a misunderstood hero champions an initially disregarded technology (1930s and 1940s films about inventors and medical innovators; Lorenzo's Oil (1992) is a more recent example), audiences prefer stories with more at stake. Technology provides weapons for really frightening villains, or it may actually play the role of the evil adversary. Susan Sontag says that science fiction films are "fundamentally about disaster, which is one of the oldest subjects of art," but which involves an "extreme moral simplification" (Sontag 1986, pp. 213–215).

International Perspectives

The highly influential cinemas of other nations have faced similar ethical challenges. The French New Wave, which introduced a new kind of moral storytelling, set a youth ethic against the morality of an older generation portrayed as hidebound and hypocritical (Marie). New Wave films such as Breathless (1960) and The 400 Blows (1959) glorified rebels, outsiders, and gangsters. The New Wave continues to resound, almost fifty years later, in the films of contemporary American auteurs including Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino.

Whereas the films of all nations struggle with some degree of government censorship, Soviet cinema developed in an environment in which dissent could mean exile, imprisonment, or even death. Soviet film artists nonetheless evaded censorship by telling stories set in past centuries, sometimes based on the unassailable works of pre-Soviet masters such as Tolstoy and Chekhov, or through movies, such as Solaris (1974), based on a novel that is so heavily coded that it escaped the criticism of simpleminded censors. During the upbeat socialism of the Brezhnev era, Soviet films enjoyed a new freedom to portray humans as "inwardly torn by doubt, failing to accomplish anything in life other than the destruction of that which [they] held dear" (Gillespie 2003, p. 18). In the early-twenty-first century, Russian filmmakers, deprived of their former political and social context, are struggling to create a new identity based on shared cultural values and the country's "awesome historical legacy" (Gillespie 2003, p. 122).

Unfamiliar to most Americans and Europeans, India has developed its own powerful cinematic tradition of leisurely told romance and suspense stories interspersed with musical numbers. Colloquially known as Bollywood, the Indian film industry produces 800 films per year, which are shown in 13,000 cinemas and average 11 million viewers daily nationwide. Vijay Mishra notes that Bollywood cinema knits together a widely dispersed Indian diaspora in Western Europe and North America. Expatriate Indians, who through hard work have joined the comfortable middle classes of their adopted countries, inhabit "the desired space of wealth and luxury that gets endorsed, in a displaced form, by Indian cinema itself" (Mishra, p. 236). Bollywood has been "crucial in bringing the 'homeland' into the diaspora ... creating a culture of imaginary solidarity" reaching across India's numerous ethnic groups (Mishra,
p. 237).


Movies are simultaneously a reflection of human life and a distraction from it. As such, they are intimately involved with ethics, drawing from and influencing people's views. It is unlikely that any extensive history of the events, mood, or ethics of any modern era will be written without reference to movies of that period.


SEE ALSO Entertainment;Information Ethics;Popular Culture;Science, Technology, and Literature;Special Effects;Technocomics;Violence.


Black, Gregory. (1994). Hollywood Censored: Morality Codes, Catholics and the Movies. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

Dickstein, Morris. (1981). "The Morality of Thrillers." American Film July–August: 49–52, 67–69

Gillespie, David. (2003). Russian Cinema. Harlow, England: Longman.

Hicks, Neill D. (1995). "'Fill Your Hand, You Son of a Bitch': The Underlying Morality of Action Adventure Films." Creative Screenwriting 2(4): 106–108.

Joseph Burstyn Corp. v. Williams, 393 U.S. 495 (1952).

Keough, Peter. (1999) "An Immodest Proposal: It's Time to Give the Ratings System an X-it." Boston Phoenix, August
30. Also available from

Marie, Michel. (2002). The French New Wave: An Artistic School. Oxford: Blackwell.

McLuhan, Marshall. (2004). "Man and Media." In Understanding Me: Lectures and Interviews, eds. Stephanie McLuhan and David Staines. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Mishra, Vijay. (2002). Bollywood Cinema: Temples of Desire. New York: Routledge.

Mitchell, Charles P. (2001). A Guide to Apocalyptic Cinema. London: Greenwood Press.

Mutual Film Corp. v. Ohio Industrial Commission, 236 U.S. 230 (1915).

Navasky, Victor S. (1991). Naming Names. New York: Penguin Books.

Shapiro, Jerome F. (2002). Atomic Bomb Cinema: The Apocalyptic Imagination on Film. London: Routledge.

Sontag, Susan (1986). Against Interpretation. New York: Doubleday.

Telotte, J. P. (2001). The Science Fiction Film. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

Thayer, Lee, ed. (1980). Ethics, Morality and the Media: Reflections on American Culture. New York: Hastings House.

Valenti, F. Miguel. (2000). More Than a Movie: Ethics in Entertainment. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Walsh, Frank. (1996). Sin and Censorship: The Catholic Church and the Motion Picture Industry. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Ward, Analee R. (2002). Mouse Morality: The Rhetoric of Disney Animated Film. Austin: University of Texas Press.


Basinger, Jeanine. (1998). "Translating War: The Combat Film Genre and Saving Private Ryan." American Historical Association. Available from Published in Perspectives Online: The Newsmagazine of the American Historical Association, October 1998.

Motion Picture Association of America. "Voluntary Movie Rating System." Available from

"The Motion Picture Production Code of 1930." Available from

Public Broadcasting System. (1995). "Interview with David Gergen and Mark Carnes, December 26, 1995." Public Broadcasting System. Available from

"Red Scare Filmography." The All Powers Project.

Cinema and Psychoanalysis

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As contemporaries, cinema and psychoanalysis both reveal, in their own way, mankind's complex personality. The interior dramas that psychoanalysis brings to light can be experienced within the "other scene" of cinematic fiction. The similarity of certain terms and the occasional apparent resemblances between the two techniques encourage spontaneous comparisons: During psychoanalysis the subject is confronted with fantasized "representations" and can identity with "projected" characters. And we often speak of "dream screens."

Psychoanalysis as perceived by the cinema, especially by Hollywood, has not escaped a degree of confusion. For, while engaging in one sense with the "question of lay analysis," American psychoanalytic practice is related to psychiatry. Therefore, in American film productions as well as in critical analyses of those films, there has not always been a clear distinction between psychiatry and psychoanalytic practice. To bring the relation into sharper focus, I will not consider films that depict the world of psychiatry, such as Shock Corridor (Sam Fuller, 1963), Lilith (R. Rossen, 1964), or One Flew Over the Cuckoo 's Nest (Milos Forman, 1975). This article will avoid discussion of the serial killer films of the nineteen eighties (Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer by J. McNaughton, 1985, released in 1990, The Silence of the Lambs by Jonathan Demme, 1991, Seven by D. Fincher, 1995, and others).

The term "psychoanalysis" appeared for the first time in Sigmund Freud's Heredity and the Aetiology of the Neuroses (1896). Almost simultaneously, on December 28, 1895, the Lumière brothers, inventors of the cinematograph, organized the first paid movie in Paris. The show, twenty minutes long, contained the famous Arrivée du train en gare de La Ciotat and La Sortie de l 'usine Lumièreà Lyon.

It took the cinema more than twenty years to present psychoanalytic imagery, even in a rudimentary form. In 1919, R. Wiene filmed The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, in which a mad doctorat least that's what he claims to beuses hypnosis for evil purposes, just as the diabolical Dr. Mabuse in the film of the same name (Fritz Lang, 1922), released three years later, made use of his hypnotic powers for criminal purposes.

On the other hand it took psychoanalysis a number of years before it approached cinema. Münsterberg did write a 1916 essay, Le Cinéma: étude psychologique, but it was only in 1970 that, for the first time, film analysis made use of the tools of psychoanalysis (Les Cahiers du cinéma, no. 223). The authors dissected Young Abe Lincoln (John Ford, 1939) and analyzed the importance of the Law (personified by Henry Fonda as Lincoln) and the Oedipus complex it implied.

The history of the relation between psychoanalysis and cinema can be subdivided into three major periods. In its earliest manifestations (Caligari and Mabuse ), psychoanalysis became, during the thirties, a familiar figure to cinema, although it often assumed the form of caricatured archetypes, which revealed a complete misunderstanding of psychoanalytic reality. It was superficial and incompetent (Carefree, M. Sandrich, 1938, Bringing up Baby, Howard Hawks, 1938), disturbing and ambitious (Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Frank Capra, 1936), or provided effective, although simpleminded, advice (Blind Alley, King Vidor, 1939). It still had little to do with the behavior of ordinary people.

After the Second World War, the references to psychoanalysis (psychiatrists treating shell-shocked soldiers, for example)at least in terms of explanatory materialmade psychoanalysis seem more serious and sympathetic. Its cinematic representation followed this positive evolution. It was the seductive Peterson (Ingrid Bergman) who enabled Ballantyne (Gregory Peck) to remember the traumatic childhood scene that, having been repressed, had led him to believe he was guilty of murder (Spellbound, Alfred Hitchcock, 1945). It is Moss, the G.I. in Home of the Brave (S. Kramer, 1949), who, returning home after the war, is healed of the paralysis that resulted from his inferiority complex. Psychoanalysis, although not yet fully understood, is here better integrated in social life and becomes a "serious" reference.

More recently we have seen a return to a more critical position. Dressed to Kill (Brian de Palma, 1980) involves an analyst who is a serial killer of women. The grasping psychoanalyst in Passageà l 'acte (F. Girod, 1997), manipulated by his patient, becomes his assassin with few second thoughts. The psychoanalysts portrayed by Woody Allen are frequently among the funniest characters in his films. Psychoanalysis, neither caricature nor definitive "knowledge," becomes a subject for the cinema that can be treated objectively and even ridiculed.

Even though he allowed himself to be filmed by his close friends (Marie Bonaparte, Mark Brunswick, René Laforgue, Philip Lehrman, see Mijolla, A. de, 1994), Freud was never very interested in the cinema. Arguing that "he didn't feel that a plastic representation of our abstractions worthy of the name could be made," he disavowed his disciples, Karl Abraham and Hanns Sachs, for their collaboration on the script of The Mysteries of a Soul (G. W. Pabst, 1925). He also refused a considerable sum of money offered by Samuel Goldwyn to develop a script on "famous love affairs." This suspicion of the filmic representation of psychoanalysis continued after the death of its founder. It was primarily Freud's daughter who opposed any attempt to make a film about Freud. Fearing Anna Freud's hostility, John Huston abandoned the idea of using Marilyn Monroe to play the part of Cecily in Freud, the Secret Passion (1962).

Should we attribute to this suspicion the paucity of films about Freud? The few films that do represent Freud show him during the early years of psychoanalysis. The Seven-Percent Solution (H. Ross, 1976) is a comedy in which the founder of psychoanalysis attempts to cure Sherlock Holmes of his cocaine addiction, a wink at Freud's own experience. Sogni d 'oro (Nino Moretti, 1981) involves the making of a film entitled "Freud's Mother," in which the fictional relations of Sigmund and Amalia are treated comically. In a more serious vein, Nineteen-Nineteen (H. Brody, 1984) evokes Freud in flashback psychoanalyzing two celebrated patients, the Wolfman and the young woman described in "a case of female homosexuality" (1920a). John Huston's Freud (1962) is the only film that seriously and directly confronts the theoretical and practical questions of psychoanalysis through a "biographical" fiction.

Like Freud leaving the famous 1921 photographcigar in hand, without his glassesto come to life in Lovesick (M. Brickman, 1983), the image of the fictional psychoanalyst is often a stereotype or caricature: white beard, tiny pince-nez glasses, maybe a strong foreign accent. He becomes the old doctor Brulov in Spellbound (1945) or the disturbing Caligari (1919) or Mabuse (1922), who make use of their knowledge of hypnosis for evil purposes. Nor are they the only ones. The analyst in Nightmare Alley (E. Goulding, 1947) makes use of his patients' confidence to blackmail them.

Even though the psychoanalyst's image in cinema evolves after the Second World War, becoming more reassuring, it still retains an aura of strangeness. The two doctorseven if they are not, strictly speaking, psychoanalystswho appear in Seventh Heaven (B. Jacquot, 1997), are oddly different from the other characters in the film. The first, and most important, disappears as mysteriously as he appears.

In Hollywood films classical Freudian concepts are used: the neurosis of anxiety, the Oedipus complex, the repression of an infantile trauma. In most cases, the model used, at least implicitly, is based on the Studies on Hysteria ; the spectacular effects of the catharsis can be used for the purposes of dramatization. Bringing back a repressed memory is sufficient for healing. This occurs in Secret Beyond the Door (Fritz Lang, 1948), in Suddenly, Last Summer (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1959), The Snake Pit (Anatol Litvak, 1949), and even, although it is caricatured, in Marnie (Alfred Hitchcock, 1964). Dreams have obviously assumed their place as one of the deus ex machina of cinema, beginning with the dream sequence in Spellbound, designed by Salvador Dali. The analysis of a recurrent dream experienced by one of the characters is used to solve the "enigma" at the heart of the script. Nightmares occur in Pursued (Raoul Walsh, 1949), Lady in the Dark (M. Leisen, 1944), Secret Beyond the Door (1948), and The Three Faces of Eve (N. Johnson, 1957). Then there are the dreams of Freud himself, taken from the Interpretation of Dreams (1900a), which are used in Freud: The Secret Passion (1962). Unraveling these oneiric obsessions resolves the character's neurosis and the story (the film) comes to an end.

For the purposes of dramaturgy, psychoanalysis is used by cinema to cure patients and especially to reveal the neuroses of psychoanalysts, their entourage, and society. The Cobweb (Vincente Minelli, 1955) is the model for this type of exposition. In the film Richard Widmark, a psychoanalyst working in an institution, is impotent with his wife, with whom he disagrees.

Should we be surprised then that Hollywood's celluloid psychoanalysts, psychiatrists especially, rarely engage in any real psychoanalysisoften confused with hypnosisand that the framework of the psychoanalytic cure is rarely respected? In Spellbound, Dr. Petersen (Ingmar Bergman) is seated next to her patient, the so-called Dr. Edwards (Gregory Peck); the psychoanalyst in Sex and the Single Girl (R. Quine, 1964), played by Natalie Wood, does the same and, as in so many representations, writes down his remarks. In Lady in the Dark (1944), the analyst's seat is placed behind the couch but the patient is seated. This difficulty in displaying the psychoanalytic framethe analysand lying on a couch and the psychoanalyst seated behind him in another planehas been neatly resolved by H. Brody in Nineteen-Nineteen (1984). Here, two of Freud's former patients recall their respective psychoanalysis. When the therapy is shown on screen, the psychoanalyst (Freud), is not in the picture, only his voice is present (Mijolla, A. de, 1994).

Even today it seems that cinema continues to insist that psychoanalysis is hypnosis (the dramatic effects of which are evident on screen) or catharsis (which facilitates explanatory shortcuts). Nonetheless, its representation has become more subtle and it is now fully integrated in the film. In Seventh Heaven, psychoanalysis is not only part of the script but present on screen as well. White surfaces are used by the heroine to project her traumatic memories. Similarly, F. Girod makes psychoanalysis the background for Passageà l 'acte (1997). Psychoanalysis is given the comic treatment in nearly all of Woody Allen's films as well as a few others (A Couch in New York by Chantal Ackerman, 1997). Sometimes the approach is tragicomic, as in Another Woman (Allen, 1988), where a woman begins to question her entire life after eavesdropping on a psychoanalyst at work through a vent in her apartment.

However, there is no need to see an analyst at work or present a formal psychoanalytic situation for psychoanalysis to be presented on screen. A number of films promote a latent psychoanalytic statement without being explicit. This is the case, for example, with the melodramas of Douglas Sirk, who presents neurotic characters (Written on the Wind, 1956), with many of Ingmar Bergman's films (The Silence, 1963, Persona, 1966, Cries and Whispers, 1973, Autumn Sonata, 1978), with Michael Powell's Peeping Tom (1960), and any of Tex Avery's productions, which use comedy to present neurosis.

It is often in films where the elements of psychoanalysis are presented but not spelled out that psychoanalytic concepts appear with the greatest subtlety and relevance. What would Un chien andalou (Luis Buñuel, 1928), that sprawling ninety-minute dream, have been like if the script had provided a psychoanalytic explanation? Probably a poor film, slow and overbearing.

It was only natural that psychoanalysis should take an interest in film, one of many cultural constructs, as Freud did, for example, with drama, beginning with Hamlet. Nonetheless, the theory of cinema did not make use of the tools of psychoanalysis until the early seventies. With reference to the work of Lacan, Christian Metz provided a careful spectatorial analysis, trying to determine "what contribution Freudian psychoanalysis could . . . provide in the study of the imaginary signifier." Other authors also became interested in the analogy between psychoanalysis and cinema: the importance of sight (Jean-Louis Baudry), the different meanings of the word "screen" (G. Rosolata), the place of the spectator in Persona (N. Brown), fetishism and film noir (M. Ernet).

However, theory shouldn't cause us to overlook the many studies of individual films and directors. Raymond Bellour (1975) provided a psychoanalytic analysis (the murder of the father, the castrating mother) of Hitchcock's North by Northwest (1959), a film said to be frivolous and entertaining. Minutely dissecting the sequence of the airplane attack, he reveals the importance of sight and its role in the film. Similarly, T. Kuntzel (1975) made use of the Freudian discovery of the presence of the unconscious in dreams to analyze The Most Dangerous Game (E. B. Shoedsack and I. Pichel, 1932). Patrick Lacoste (1990) examines The Mysteries of a Soul (1925) from a strictly psychoanalytical point of view and Sophie de Mijolla-Mellor (1994) analyzes the way the "anxiety of fiction" operates on the spectator of Hitchcock's films.

Throughout the nineteen-eighties American film theory looked at a number of films made between 1945 and 1960 from the point of view of psychoanalysis and feminism. In several analyses that could be described as "feminist psychoanalysis," Laura Mulvey, Janet Walker, and M. A. Doane attempted to show how the role of women in cinema reflected their role in society. The approach taken by E. Ann Kaplan, which was part of this movementone that was more sociological than psychoanalyticalemphasized issues of race in society, which the cinema reflected.

But making use of psychoanalytic concepts to examine films from a sociological perspective (feminist or antiracist) was bound to be unsatisfactory as long as these readings involved distortion and reduction; the film and its analysis became a pretext to defend, and in a way that was not always rigorous, questionable intellectual ideas. Psychoanalysis is often a pretext in the service of a discourse; once abandoned, it is seen to be an element inessential to the logical structure of the argument. Isn't this the reproach made to cinema whenever it represents psychoanalysis, a filmic representation that is generally incomplete and often a form of caricature?

If film often "fails at" representation of the psychoanalytic situation, it is no doubt because "the unconscious, like the being of philosophers, rarely makes itself visible" (J.-B. Pontalis). Moreover, "the rhythm of analysis is very different from that of film, and it is quite difficult to provide an accurate representation of the sensation" (Mijolla, 1994).

A film cannot be judged on the accuracy of its portrayal of psychoanalytic notionswithin certain limits, of coursebut on the relevance of the use of those notions for the dramatic presentation of its themes. "From this point of view[the use of language and the language of images as fundamental Freudian reference points] between psychoanalysis and cinemais formed a variant of the situation of the analyst as always being between two languages" (Lacoste, 1990).

More work needs to be done on the complex relationships that are created between psychoanalysis and cinema, beyond the application of psychoanalytic concepts to the art of film.

Pierre-Jean Bouyer and Sylvain Bouyer

See also: American Imago ; Cinema (criticism); France; Freud, the Secret Passion ; Secrets of a Soul ; Psyche, revue internationale de psychanalyse et des sciences de l 'homme (Psyche, an international review of psychoanalysis and human sciences); Robertson, James; Surrealism and psychoanalysis.


Bellour, Raymond. (1979). The analysis of film (Constance Penley, Ed.). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000.

Communications. (1975). "Psychanalyse et cinéma." 23.

Lacoste, Patrick. (1990). L 'etrange cas du Pr. M. Psychanalyse à l 'écran. Paris: Gallimard.

Metz, Christian. (1979). The imaginary signifier: Psychoanalysis and the cinema (C. Britton et al., Trans.). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Mijolla, Alain de. (1999). Freud and the psychoanalytic situation on the screen. In J. Bergstrom (Ed.), Endless night. Cinema and psychoanalysis: Parallel histories (p. 188-199). Los Angeles and London: University of California Press. (Original work published 1994)

Further Reading

Gabbard, Glen. (2001). The impact of psychoanalysis on the American cinema. Annual of Psychoanalysis, 29, 237-246.

Gabbard, Erin and Gabbard, Glen. (1989). Psychiatry and the cinema. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Greenberg, Harvey R. (1993). Screen memories: Hollywood cinema on the psychoanalytic couch. New York: Columbia University Press.


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A movie is a series of images recorded on strips of film that create the illusion of live action. The word “movies” is short for “moving pictures.” Movies are also known as films, cinema, and motion pictures.

The human brain perceives motion when pictures, taken in rapid sequence, are flashed at the rate of fifteen or more frames per second. A frame is a single exposure on a roll of motion-picture film. Sequential photographs were produced as early as 1860, but the true motion picture was still in the future.


In 1872, Eadweard Muybridge (1830–1904) was trying to prove that all four of a horse's hooves leave the ground when the animal gallops. He set

up twenty-four cameras to take sequential photographs of a galloping horse. Muybridge proved his theory and brought the illusion of motion into people's homes with his invention of the zoetrope. In a zoetrope, a strip of a series of photographs was attached to the inside of a rotating drum. The viewer looked through a series of slots that acted as shutters as the drum spun, and the illusion of a running horse was brought to life.

Before an actual motion picture could be produced, the exposure time required to take a photograph had to be dramatically reduced. When George Eastman (1854–1932) developed strips of flexible celluloid camera film with fast exposure times in 1889, a long series of pictures could be photographed in rapid sequence.

American inventor Thomas Edison (1847–1931) then produced the kinetoscope, a device that a staff member, William Kennedy Laurie Dickson (1860–1935), had invented. The kinetoscope advanced a strip of film frame by frame in rapid succession to produce the illusion of fluid motion. Just one person at a time could look into the kinetoscope. Only later would the images be projected onto a screen, as motion pictures are seen today.

Edison built a small motion picture studio in New Jersey , where his company created 50-foot (15-meter) film loops. They were viewed at kinetoscope parlors on individual projectors. The first motion picture showed one of Edison's assistants sneezing. Soon, they were filming variety shows.

Not realizing the potential of his invention, Edison had not taken out foreign patents on it. Soon, it was being copied elsewhere. In France, brothers Auguste Lumière (1862–1954) and Louis Lumière (1864–1948) were the first to combine the flashing shutter of a camera with the bright light of a projector to produce the Cinématographe in 1894. The Lumières projected their motion pictures onto a screen so that a seated audience could watch. The motion picture experience proved more popular than Edison's kinetoscope. Edison unveiled his competing projector in April 1896.

Advent of filmmaking

During the 1890s, French theater director and magician Georges Méliès (1861–1938) became the first true master of cinematic techniques. He filmed theater acts, but changed them to fit the motion-picture format, arranging objects and backgrounds for the camera. He invented special

effects, doing things such as stopping the camera, changing the scenery, and turning the camera back on. He discovered the fade in and fade out, wherein the scene gradually goes dark or comes up from darkness, and used them as a transition between scenes. Méliès used painted cutouts and backdrops in his studio to enhance the fantasy effect created by his trick photography.

Méliès's A Trip to the Moon (1902) became the first internationally successful motion picture. Méliès showed how much the new medium could do beyond showing real events passing in front of a camera. Following his example, others turned to telling stories with motion pictures, and movies quickly became more sophisticated.

In 1903, American director-photographer Edwin S. Porter (1870–1941) made The Great Train Robbery, the first motion picture to tell a complete story. A former cameraman for Edison, Porter incorporated a pattern of suspense in the film that later moviemakers used. He used a camera that moved with the action, rather than being fixed, and he included camera shots from a moving train. The age of the silent film had begun.

Exhibiting films

As the public began spending money to see films, motion-picture distribution networks sprang up. Middlemen bought films and rented them to theaters that did not want to buy them outright. In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania , the nickelodeon (a small viewing house) was born when a firm began charging patrons five cents to watch a series of short films. The idea was successful and soon spread throughout the country.

By 1908, the motion picture industry was large and rapidly changing. A group of filmmaking studios and distributors, along with Edison, formed the Motion Pictures Patent Company to regulate copyrights, patents, and royalties. The group tried to take over the industry, but only half of the nine thousand U.S. theaters were licensed by 1910. These theaters used films by independent filmmakers and distributors.

The Patent Company kept its actors anonymous to prevent them from becoming personally important and therefore able to command higher salaries. But the Independent Moving Picture Company lured

away actress Florence Lawrence (1886–1938) and began to promote her. This started what became known as the “star system,” in which the fame of actors rivalled the film's story.

Motion pictures became longer and more ambitious as new film companies such as Fox, Universal, Paramount, and MGM sprang up. As motion pictures became more popular, large theaters replaced the small nickelodeons

Silent movies

In the earliest days of motion pictures, color film had not yet been invented, so films were black and white. The 1920s were the golden age of silent films (or flickers), which flickered on the screen as a pianist, organist, or orchestra played to enhance the mood.

Because silent films had no synchronized sound for dialogue, onscreen intertitles (also known as dialogue cards or titles) were used to narrate story points, present key dialogue, and sometimes provide commentary. Intertitles often were graphic elements themselves, featuring illustrations or abstract decorations that commented on the action.

There were rumors that a marriage might be arranged between the flickers and the phonograph. Edison had been working on the problem since 1888 and had produced only the 1895 and 1913 Kinetophones, which were long-term failures. The problem of synchronizing sound and picture seemed insurmountable, and other early twentieth-century attempts, such as the Synchroscope, the Cinematophone, and the Cameraphone, also failed.

Films remained silent because the sound fidelity of available audio systems was not good. In addition, actors were selected for their ability to perform roles physically, not for their speaking voices. Stage actors tended to overproject their voices, a style that would spoil the intimate effect created by the close-in cameras. Producers had another reason to oppose sound: It would cost them most of their lucrative foreign market. The printed intertitles could easily be translated into any language, but a talking picture would have to be “dubbed” (have sound inserted), an expensive and difficult process.


A workable system to join sound and motion pictures proved complex and required a great deal of research money. A 1924 sound-on-a-disc system was at first rejected by the motion-picture studios as too expensive. But movie studio Warner Bros. decided to forge ahead and accepted the system, investing millions of dollars in theaters and sound equipment. The new system was named Vitaphone (meaning “life sound”).

With the advent of Vitaphone, the old, hand-cranked movie camera was abandoned because the human arm could not synchronize picture and sound accurately. But the early power-driven cameras had noisy motors whose sound was recorded along with the actors’ voices. Cameras with silent motors were eventually developed. Another problem was that traffic noises from outside the studio could be heard on film. Warner Bros., as well as other movie studios, moved from New York City to Hollywood, California, where they set up a studio lot that was easier to soundproof than its studio in New York.

Warner Bros. made the first sound movie, Don Juan (1926), in New York City before its move to Hollywood. It was not a feature-length motion picture, and the actors did not talk. The only sound was a synchronized musical score and sound effects.

In 1927, Warner Bros. produced a commercially successful blockbuster, The Jazz Singer, the first motion picture with synchronized dialogue and singing. Filmed in Hollywood for $500,000, a colossal sum of money at the time, the movie starred Al Jolson (1886–1950), a nationally known stage actor and singer who was eager to explore the new medium of sound pictures.

The movie made Warner Bros. one of the biggest forces in the motion-picture industry. Its success forced competing studios to adopt sound. A rival sound system developed by General Electric and the Radio Corporation of America put the soundtrack on the film itself, running it in a track next to the images. Because the pictures and their soundtrack were linked on the film, they could never get out of synchronization. This system was also easier to set up. After intense competition and many lawsuits over patent rights, this sound-on-film system beat the sound-on-a-disc system.

Film gains in popularity

By 1930, movie houses attracted 100 million viewers a week at a time when the total population of the United States was only 120 million and weekly church attendance was less than 60 million. By 1932, all movies were “talkies” (film with sound), and by the end of the decade all movies used technicolor, a trademarked method for making motion pictures in color.

World War II and the Paramount decision

U.S. involvement in World War II (1939–41) brought a proliferation of war movies that served as both patriotism and propaganda, including Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), starring James Cagney (1899–1986), and Casablanca (1942), with Humphrey Bogart (1899–1957). In 1941, RKO Pictures released Citizen Kane, often considered one of the greatest films of all time.

Between 1945 and 1948, the film industry produced more than four hundred movies a year. In 1948, however, the studios’ grip on all aspects of the film business, from production through exhibition, was ended by the U.S. Supreme Court decision in United States v. Paramount Pictures. The Court ruled that studios must sell their exhibition divisions, which showed movies to the public. This ended guaranteed exhibition of films that were produced by the major studios and allowed independent filmmakers to show their work to the public.

Competition from television

By 1950, broadcast television was rapidly becoming the dominant entertainment medium in the United States and its increasing popularity caused some movie theatres to go out of business. Distressed by the trend, studios and exhibitors dreamed up several new big-screen formats. This led to such epic films as The Ten Commandments (1956), Ben-Hur (1959), and Spartacus (1960).

European production

During the 1960s, “Hollywood” movies were still largely aimed at family audiences. Such films as Mary Poppins (1964), My Fair Lady (1964), and The Sound of Music (1965) were among the biggest moneymakers of the decade. The growth in independent producers and production companies and the increase in the power of individual actors also contributed to the decline of traditional Hollywood studio production.

There was also increasing awareness of foreign language cinema during this period. French New Wave directors such as François Truffaut (1932–1984) and Jean-Luc Godard (1930–) garnered attention as did Federico Fellini's (1920–1993) La Dolce Vita (1960) and the stark dramas of Sweden's Ingmar Bergman (1918–2007). In Britain, the popular James Bond series of films began in 1962.

By the late 1960s, Hollywood filmmakers were creating innovative and groundbreaking films that reflected the social revolution happening in America. Films like Stanley Kubrick's (1928–1999) Dr. Strangelove (1964) were produced in Hollywood as a reaction to the nuclear paranoia of the age felt during the Cuban missile crisis . Many consider Bonnie and Clyde to be the beginning of the so-called New Hollywood.

New Hollywood

During the 1970s, a new group of American filmmakers emerged, such as Martin Scorsese (1942–), Francis Ford Coppola (1939–), Steven Spielberg (1946–), and George Lucas (1944–). Their style of filmmak-ing gave directors far greater control over their projects than in earlier eras. This led to such critical and commercial successes as Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1976), Coppola's The Godfather (1972 and 1974) films, Spielberg's Jaws (1975) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), and Lucas's Star Wars (1977).

Rise of the blockbuster and home video

The phenomenal success in the 1970s of Jaws and Star Wars led to the rise of the modern “blockbuster.” Hollywood studios increasingly focused on producing a smaller number of very large budget films with massive marketing and promotional campaigns. This type of marketing permeated society as a whole. Movie T-shirts, school folders, and lunch-boxes made millions for studios and made movies a part of everyday life. Later the influence of marketing would become even more extreme as companies, such as Burger King, Ford Motor Company, and Pepsi, would pay studios for the placement of their products in movies, hoping that movie viewers will see their favorite characters using those products and they will want to use them too.

During the 1980s, audiences began watching movies on their home videocassette recorders (VCRs). Early in the decade, studios unsuccessfully tried legal action to ban home ownership of VCRs as a violation of copyrights. Eventually, the sale and rental of movies on home video became a source of additional revenue for the movie companies.

Rise of independent film and animation

The early 1990s saw the rise of commercially successful independent film in the United States. Although the decade was dominated by special-effects films such as Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) and Titanic (1997), independent films like Quentin Tarantino's (1963–) Reservoir Dogs (1992) had significant commercial success.

In 1979, Miramax Films was founded to distribute independent films deemed commercially unfeasible by the major studios. Miramax's position as one of the most successful independents of the 1990s caused it to be bought by Disney. Other major studios followed suit and began to create their own “independent” production companies to finance and produce nonmainstream fare. The same year marked the beginning of film and video distribution online.

Animated films aimed at family audiences regained their popularity in the 1990s, with Disney's Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), and The Lion King (1994). These three movies, together, made a total of $1.6 billion dollars worldwide. During 1995, the first feature length computer-animated feature, Toy Story, was produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Disney.

During the late 1990s, another cinematic transition began, from physical film stock to digital cinema technology. Meanwhile digital video discs (DVDs) became the new standard for consumer video, replacing VHS videotapes.

Documentaries and digital advances

The documentary film rose as a commercial genre for perhaps the first time with the success of films such as Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine (2002) and Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004); and the National Geographic Society-produced March of the Penguins (2005).

In the twenty-first century, computer generated images (CGIs) dominated the big screen, causing movies to become more expensive to make and ticket prices to skyrocket. CGI has also led to major advances in film-making and a much higher quality of special effect. The role of the movie star also continues to grow. Some stars make $20 million or more a picture, and many are more recognizable to the public than some of the most influential politicians in the country. Over 650 movies were released in the United States in 2007, grossing more than $9.6 billion at the box office.


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Children have always enjoyed good stories and adventures. They are entertained, they learn how to understand and gain insight into the life to which they one day will have to adjust, and in the most serious sense, stories and fairy tales help them to survive. Children have listened to the often very cruel tales of the Brothers Grimm; they have laughed, cried, and shuddered around the campfires; they have read books; and they have held their ears to their radio receivers. Today moving images are among their favorite storytellers, and generally, children have had an inquisitive, nonproblematical relationship to film as yet another useful, splendid source of entertainment, knowledge, and insight. However for many adultsparents, pedagogues, and the authoritiesthis is not the case. We might even go so far as to say that an important approach to understanding the subject "children and the movies" is paved with fear.

There is almost always widespread trepidation about anything new, and such trepidation very much affected film as well. Ever since the birth of film at the end of the nineteenth century there has been widespread concern as to the effects of this emotionally powerful medium on sleep and peace of mind, morals, and morality. Children were not the only ones in danger, either. Anybody might be corrupted by witnessing infidelity, murder, and common-or-garden-variety sinfulness displayed on the silver screen! So the agenda of adult discussions on the subject of children and film has often consisted of damage control. Initially this resulted in prohibition and later in censorship, particularly of films containing scenes showing explicit violence and sex. It is worth noting that early discussions of film censorship were not only about shielding children from powerful, violent experiences but very much about the existence of certain matters that were not for adult eyes either. The medium was so powerful, with its rather-too-close resemblance to real life, that it just had to be controlled.

Most countries in Europe introduced film censorship before World War I when film was a phenomenon barely two decades old. In Europe controls were usually administered by the state. Seldom left up to people with any knowledge of film, censorship was delegated to lawyers or people with influential political or religious connections. In more recent times teachers and psychologists have taken over the role of film censor to enable them to decide what is harmful to children. In the United States the film industry chose to submit to self-censorship in order to avoid state or local organs. The MPPDA (the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America) was set up in 1922 and its politically experienced leader, former postmaster general Will H. Hays, persuaded the industry to accept a production code. From 1934 onward it was mandatory and its attitude to crime, alcohol, drugs, religion, violence, and sex determined what might, or rather might not, be shown on film. It was a moral straitjacket that was loosened in the 1950s, but with only a few adjustments the Production Code applied until 1968.

People have talked from the beginning of the brutalizing effect of the film medium, a debate repeated in the 1950s when the deleterious effects of cartoon strips and comic books were on the agenda in the United States and Europe, and in the 1980s when it was argued that violent content of videotapes that corrupted youth. But no clear, unequivocal evidence has ever been found of a direct link between violent movies and violent actions in real life. However, a Danish study on the subject concluded that children whose social skills are underdeveloped can become aggressive by watching violence on the screen. The dramatic expansion of the television and video market in the 1990s has rendered censorship practically impossible and so there is now a widespread tendency to replace prohibition with consumer guidelines like those in use in the United States, where a ratings system has been in operation since 1968. Ratings systems typically apply categories such as General Audience or Parental Guidance and impose different age limits, varying from country to country. In general, however, film censorship has evolved from political and moral censorship for adults to exclusively considering suitability for children. Adult censorship is now only found in a small number of countries.

Irrespective of fear and censorship, children have always loved watching films. They have laughed till the tears ran down their cheeks at Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy, they have wept over Lassie and Bambi, they have shuddered and hidden their faces when the witch appeared in Walt Disney 's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and they have "whoopeed" and yelled when watching adventures and Westerns. A number of films not produced expressly for children have ended up being cherished by childrenas was the case with books by Jules Verne, James Fenimore Cooper, Captain Marryat, and Edgar Rice Burroughs, originally penned for adults, which ended up in the nursery. Children have always adopted their very own film treasures, for example, The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), The Crimson Pirate (1952), Star Wars (1977), and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).

The term children's films, that is, films specifically produced for audiences of children, really took shape after World War II. In Britain the production company Rank embarked on the production of children's films and by 1951 this led to the establishment of the Children's Film Foundation. Film as an art form for children was not in focus; what was discussed was what children's films must not contain. Films for children were meant to be edifying, pedagogically responsible productions, contributing to their upbringing and education. So they were not to depict war and violence (an attitude which should of course be regarded in the light of the recently concluded world war) and they were not to depict the consumption of alcohol. Marriage was sacrosanct and inviolable, respect had to be paid to the church and monarchy, and the authorities were always good and just, if occasionally strict. Sex was not discussed at all, because it was quite unthinkable.

Children's films from the Children's Film Foundation soon became watered down into cheaply produced films all much of a muchness, an hour in length in order to fit special children's matinees. They introduced the two most enduring genres of children's film: the children's detective story in which hale and hearty youngsters behave like little grownups, foiling and catching slightly stupid, absolutely harmless criminals. They have a wonderful time in an anonymous community completely detached from reality, with no divisions or genuine conflicts. The other genre is animal films, in which children cast their affections on hordes of mice, rats, moles, beautiful horses, birds with broken wings, lame deer, and bunnies, dogs, and cats. (Children's detective stories and animal stories are also popular genres in literature.) It is interesting to observe how tenacious these views of children's films remained throughout the second half of the twentieth century, even though a number of children's films did try to break out of these restrictive moral limits, often with little success in terms of reaching their target group. Before the Iron Curtain rusted away, many children's films were made in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union as an instrument for inculcating the correct ideological stance; but Czechoslovakia in particular managed to rise above time and place and created a powerful tradition of puppet films for children.

The trouble with so-called children's films is that pedagogical correctness and benevolence often weigh more than narrative pleasure and film as an art form. Nobody has ever really managed to decide whether they should be films that children appreciate, films both children and adults appreciate, or films that adults do not necessarily want to see but which they would very much like children to enjoy! The older children become, the more they explore on their own, and adults may think what they like of children's tastes in film and culture (if they ever find out what they are) but these tastes represent independent choices and are one of the ways in which children grow up. Films are quite simply an easy, accessible road to a glimpse behind various closed doors into the world that lies ahead.

As a consequence, the children's films that adults deem politically correct for children do not necessarily seem to be the films in circulation in the children's own, often clandestine, culture. Nevertheless, most good films for children have a number of characteristic features. They have a child in the leading role, and this child has a mission to fulfill. The mission may be tough but the child succeeds, because the message is that a child's actions do make a difference. Children's films, such as Albert Lamorisse's French classic The Red Balloon (1956) and Spirit: Stallion of the Cimmaron (2002) by Dream Works, share a faith in the triumph of good despite all the odds, and a belief that the world will go on. Young cinemagoers must not be left disillusioned or paralyzed into inaction. For the most part children's films (films targeted specifically to children) are now made in Scandinavian countries and in Canada where there are state subsidies, while commercial cinema operates with the concept of family films (films intended for all age groups), in many countries is usually synonymous with Disney products and their imitators.

See also: Children's Literature; Media, Childhood and.


Balzagette, Cary, and David Buckingham. 1995. In Front of the Children: Screen Entertainment and Young Audiences. London: British Film Institute.

Kinder, Marsha. 1991. Playing with Power in Movies, Television, and Video Games: From Muppet Babies to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Street, Douglas. 1983. Children's Novels and the Movies. New York: Ungar.

Ulrich Breuning


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From the early nineteenth century to the beginning of World War I the cinema emerged slowly, first as a new technology and then, after 1895, as a new industry to take its place among the various older forms of popular entertainment. As a technology, the cinema ultimately combined three distinct nineteenth-century lines of development. The first of these was the invention and refinement of photography, which had begun with the work of Joseph-Nicéphore Niépce (1765–1833) in France. Niépce probably had a camera and a working method of producing images as early as 1816, but it was Jacques-Louis-Mandé Daguerre (1789–1851) who finally refined the process and sold it, in 1839, to the French government for free public use. But this first viable system of photography was far from suitable for the cinema: the images were not reproducible and required very long exposure times. It would take most of the remainder of the century, and the work of many hands in Europe and the United States, before cameras could record reproducible images at exposures of less than a thirtieth of a second. The final ingredient necessary for cinema, flexible-roll celluloid, came only near the end of the century.

The second strand of technological development was the synthesis of motion from individual still images. Inspired by the research of the English scientists Peter Mark Roget (1779–1869) and Michael Faraday (1791–1867), the Belgian Joseph Plateau (1801–1883) invented the phénakistoscope, a rotating disk with narrow radial slots and a series of drawings on one side. The viewer held the rotating disk in front of a mirror and looked through the slots at the reflected drawings; the slots functioned as a primitive movie shutter. If expertly drawn, the images appeared to be in motion. Plateau's device was quickly followed by variations and improvements, most notably the Zoetrope, which replaced the flat, vertical disc with a horizontal cylinder. This line of development was to culminate in 1892 with the first public exhibition in Paris of Emile Reynaud's (1844–1918) Théâtre Optique, in which extended sequences of moving images were projected onto a screen. But this was not yet the cinema, for the images were drawn and painted, rather than photographed.

The essential addition of photography came through the third stream of technology that fed into the cinema: the analysis of animal locomotion. The English photographer Eadweard Muybridge (1830–1904) first used a series of cameras to study the movement of horses in his work in California during the 1870s. In 1881 he toured Europe with his striking images, and in response the Parisian ètienne-Jules Marey (1830–1904) was moved to adopt photography to his own researches. By 1888 Marey had developed the first true movie camera; however, the French scientist had little interest in synthesizing the motion he had analyzed. He showed his device to Thomas Alva Edison (1847–1931), who was touring Europe in 1889, and it was the American who saw commercial potential in the apparatus. He added a series of perforations at the edges of the images and changed the film base from paper to celluloid, making Marey's "chronophotographs" viewable in apparent motion. In 1891 Edison unveiled his Kinetoscope; whether this was finally "the cinema" depends on how one defines the word, for Edison's machine was a peep-show device, incapable of projecting the images onto a screen. This final step was taken by many mechanics and tinkerers at roughly the same time, but the most striking commercial success came to Louis Lumière's (1864–1948) Cinématographe, which opened commercially in Paris in 1895 and quickly became the entertainment sensation of the century's end. Lumie're had further improved on Edison's adaptation of Marey's technology, perfecting an easily portable machine that served as camera, projector, and contact printer.

The Cinématographe entered a crowded field of European popular entertainments. Most enterprises were family-run and solidly entrenched in the lower fringes of the middle class. There were circuses, theater troupes, magicians, wonders-of-science exhibitions, and other attractions. In the large cities these could be in permanent locations, but in most of Europe, which was still largely rural, they were traveling affairs that went from town to town in well-established circuits. The cinema was largely to replace this whole economic sector, but it started its commercial development as one attraction among many.

The most important film producer was the Lumière company. Its operators quickly began to crisscross Europe and the world, showing half-hour selections of the company's films (and making more). Each film, or "view," lasted a little less than one minute, and showed one action or interesting environment: boats leaving a harbor, workers tearing down a wall, a busy city street, or the famous Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory (1895).

At first Lumière refused to sell its films and equipment to other exhibitors, but competing machines and production companies sprang up almost everywhere the company's operators took their traveling show. By far the most successful early competitor was the Frenchman Georges Mélie's (1861–1938), proprietor of a magic theater in Paris. His Trip to the Moon (1902) was probably the most widely seen work of the cinema's first decade, and he all but single-handedly created the medium's second major genre (after the "view"), the "trick film," based on humorous, magical, and often grotesque transformations (of flowers into women, or moon people into puffs of smoke, and so on). At the same time in England, other producers began to elaborate these and other genres. The English dabbled extensively in film comedy, of which they were the first true masters, but they also pioneered the action melodrama, of which Cecil Hepworth's (1874–1953) Rescued by Rover (1905) is a remarkable early example. Rover and films like it were probably the high point of the contributions of the English entrepreneurs, who

were soon eclipsed by the medium's first large-scale capitalist enterprises.

This new stage of development had begun in France in the late 1890s, when two small businesses began to evolve into modern giants: Pathé Frères (1896) and the Gaumont company (1895). They became the first examples of the "studio system" that would dominate world film production until the middle of the twentieth century. Organizationally, they had three important characteristics: (1) they were vertically integrated, combining production, distribution, and exhibition; (2) they employed large numbers of specialized contract workers—directors, scriptwriters, and so on; and (3) they had access to capital through the financial markets (stocks and bonds). Soon the French "majors" were ready to act assertively in the marketplace. Pathé Frères, for example, cut the prices of its films by one-third in England in 1906, effectively "dumping" product onto that market and impeding further development of a domestic cinema industry.

By this time some of the early genres, such as the Lumière "views" and the "trick film," were in eclipse, but others were developing to replace them. The most important of these in France was the film d'art, or "art film," essentially filmed theater with famous actors—either direct adaptations of plays or play-like original scenarios such as The Assassination of the Duc de Guise (1908). These films were made with larger budgets and longer running times, and they appealed to socially upscale audiences. This represented a qualitatively new development, making obsolete virtually the entire fairground exhibition circuit; it arose in part because of competition from an unexpected source: Italian production companies such as Cines and Itala Films.

That Italy could develop the only European industry to provide serious competition to the French had several causes: (1) labor and capital costs were much lower there; (2) the Italian market had all but skipped the "fairground" stage of exhibition, with little popular or entrepreneurial interest in cinema before roughly 1906; and (3) beginning at that time, a wave of popular interest and entrepreneurial zeal sparked the greatest film exhibition boom in all of Europe. Unlike France, which remained dominated by its two "majors," Italy had a profusion of mid- to large-sized firms (one critic estimated eighty, in 1914); these were able to attract talent, technicians, and capital from France, England, and elsewhere. For this new industry, a new genre was the flagship product in the battle for the international film market: extra-vagantly produced historical spectacles, such as The Last Days of Pompeii (1908, directed by Luigi Maggi for Ambrosio Company). Largely from this generic line—and from its competition with the French film d'art—there emerged, by the early 1910s, the modern (though still silent) "feature film," telling a coherent, character-based story in more than an hour—sometimes much more, as in the remarkable Cabiria (1914, produced and directed by Giovanni Pastrone [1883–1959] with a text by Gabriele D'Annunzio [1863–1938]). Many of the earlier genres survived as "short subject" accompaniments to the features. Programs such as these were ill suited to traveling fairground shows, which by 1914 had been decimated by competition from movie theaters in cities and towns. The world power of the new medium was France, with Italy in close second place; other European countries had weak domestic industries with minority shares of their own markets—except for Russia, which had managed to develop a relatively healthy, although not export-oriented, cinema industry. All of this would change, of course, and change dramatically, with World War I.

See alsoLumière, Auguste and Louis; Mélieès, Georges; Popular and Elite Culture.


Primary Sources

British Film Institute and Film Preservation Associates, eds. The Movies Begin: A Treasury of Early Cinema, 1894–1913. New York, 1994 (5 videocassettes) and 2002 (5 DVDs).

Pastrone, Giovanni. Cabiria. New York, 1990 (video-cassette) and 2000 (DVD).

Secondary Sources

Abel, Richard. The Ciné Goes to Town: French Cinema 1896–1914. Updated and expanded edition, Berkeley, Calif., 1998.

Chanan, Michael. The Dream that Kicks: The Prehistory and Early Years of Cinema in Britain. London and Boston, 1980.

Leprohon, Pierre. The Italian Cinema. New York, 1972.

Leyda, Jay. Kino: A History of the Russian and Soviet Film. New York, 1973.

Pratt, George C. Spellbound in Darkness: A History of the Silent Film. Revised edition. Greenwich, Conn., 1973.

Williams, Alan. Republic of Images: A History of French Filmmaking. Cambridge, Mass., 1992.

Alan Williams


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In 1997 astronomer Jim Scotti discovered the asteroid 1997 XF11. Initial calculations predicted that the asteroid would make an extremely close approach to Earth in 2028. A collision would result in a global catastrophe, killing hundreds of millions of people. More accurate calculations of the orbit of the asteroid, however, determined that its probability of colliding with Earth is zero. Nonetheless, Hollywood films such as Deep Impact and Armageddon, both released in 1998, illustrated the global crisis that a comet or asteroid heading toward Earth would generate. Together with the alarming news about 1997 XF11, these movies heightened public awareness of the threat from an asteroid impact. As a result, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) doubled its funding to $3 million a year for searching for near-Earth objects (NEOs). In addition, NASA initiated the Spaceguard Survey, intended to find 90 percent of all NEOs larger than 1 kilometer (0.62 mile) in diameter by 2008. Ultimately, the Torino scale, developed by astronomer Richard Binzel, was released in 1999 as a means of categorizing the likelihood of an asteroid or comet colliding with Earth.

Deep Impact and Armaggedon are two of over a hundred science fiction films about space that have generated interest in space exploration. For instance,2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) illustrated what space travel may have been like in the year 2001. In addition to its artistic use of visual and sound effects, that film introduced fascinating ideas for new technologies. The Star Wars trilogy and the Star Trek movie franchise also offered ideas for advanced technological devices. Other science fiction films, such as E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) and Contact (1997) in which humans make contact with intelligent extraterrestrial life have sparked the imagination and curiosity of viewers, generating excitement about exploring the depths of space.

A year before humans walked on the Moon,2001: A Space Odyssey opened in theaters. This movie has had such a great impact on society that a NASA spacecraft en route to Mars was named after it: the 2001 Mars Odyssey. Adapted from the novel by Arthur C. Clarke and directed by Stanley Kubrick,2001: A Space Odyssey foresaw a colonized Moon and a piloted mission to Jupiter in the year 2001. While the Moon has not yet been colonized, scientists are looking closely at Mars, where settlement may be easier because of the possible presence of water. Perhaps the enthusiasm generated by the piloted trip to Jupiter shown in the movie will be caused by the first human mission to Mars.

Settling Mars, however, will probably require a process known as terraforming. The atmosphere of Mars is composed of carbon dioxide, which may be converted to breathable air by this process. As an example, the movie Red Planet (2000) suggests one possible way of terraforming Marsusing algae to create a greenhouse effect that would allow life to thrive there. Some ideas for new technologies introduced by 2001: A Space Odyssey exist today. For example, videoconferencing as shown in the movie is feasible via the Internet along with an inexpensive video camera. However, an intelligent computer such as HAL 9000 is still science fiction, although advances in artificial intelligence have produced expert systems that help professionals make decisions.


George Lucas's Star Wars trilogy generated another wave of enthusiasm for space travel. The technology of Star Wars is highly advanced, although the ideas behind it have caused people to ponder their possibilities. The lightsaber, a powerful energy-based sword, is one example. Today researchers can use lasers to cut through some materials, but there is nothing like the lightsaber. Another interesting concept in those films is the hyperdrive, which can transport a starship at a speed faster than that of light. Scientists are just beginning to ask directed questions about the possibility of lightspeed travel. Similarly advanced is the idea of antigravity. Researchers have been able to simulate antigravity under extremely cold temperatures for small objects, but true antigravity is only a theoretical concept. Other technologies, such as the holocam, the proton torpedo, the blasters, and the electrobinoculars, are high-technology devices that with human ingenuity may become realities.

The Star Trek television series and movies offer a myriad of advanced technologies, the most prominent being the transporter and the holodeck. The transporter can convert every atom of an object into a stream of matter and send it to its destination to be reconstructed there. By taking advantage of the properties of quantum mechanics, scientists have been able to "teleport" a photon, or light particle, a promising achievement. The holodeck can produce a holographic environment that feels as real as reality. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have been able to make small holographic imaging devices with force-feedback, but holodeck-type rooms are technologies of the future. Like the high-technology devices in Star Wars, the tricorder, the warp drive, and the phaser in Star Trek remain to be explored.

Extraterrestrial Life

The discovery of extraterrestrial life would be one of the greatest achievements in human history. As a result, many movies that depict an alien encounter have generated enthusiasm for space exploration. Steven Spielberg's E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial touched many viewers' hearts through its depiction of the love of an alien, giving people a motivation to explore outer worlds. Similarly,Contact, based on scientist Carl Sagan's novel, motivated space exploration through the words of an advanced alien being. However, the central theme of Contact was the process of decoding a message that described how to build a machine with an unknown function. Contact illustrated how the message united people around the world for the common goal of building a machine that might reveal the purpose of humanity. Other films, such as Cocoon, The Abyss, and Mission to Mars, have given humans a motive to explore space: the possibility of an encounter with an alien civilization and the rewarding consequences it might have.

Science fiction movies express ideas that may become realities and provide reasons to examine the depths of space more closely.

see also Domed Cities (volume 4); Faster-Than-Light Travel(volume 4); First Contact(volume 4); Interstellar Travel(volume 4); Ion Propulsion (volume 4); Lunar Bases (volume 4); Lunar Outposts (volume 4); Mars Bases (volume 4); Science Fiction (volume 4); Star Trek (volume 4); Star Wars (volume 4); Teleportation (volume 4); Time Travel (volume 4); Vehicles (volume 4); Wormholes (volume 4).

Carlos J. Rosas-Anderson


Krauss, Lawrence M., and Stephen Hawking. The Physics of Star Trek. New York:Harper/Perennial Library, 1996.

Smith, Bill. Star Wars: The Essential Guide to Weapons and Technology. New York: DelRey, 1997.

Zubrin, Robert, with Richard Wagner. The Case for Mars: The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must. New York: Free Press, 1996.

Cinematic Orchestra

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Cinematic Orchestra

Jazz group

Cinematic Orchestra is regarded by many critics and fans as the brainchild of jazz composer, electronics aficionado, and producer Jason Swinscoe. Swinscoe brought together a group of musicians and vocalists to construct album tracks with a contemporary sound, but which also resonate with subtle references to film composers and jazz artists of the 1960s. The group's first album, Motion, prompted critical comparisons to the music of Herbie Hancock's classic album Headhunters, and to late 1960s' Miles Davis. However, Cinematic Orchestra has maintained its British identity by preferring soul influences to funk. The group often relies on the electric piano of co-composer John Ellis for a highly danceable yet cerebral form of dance jazz, recalling the early 1970s British progressive rock-jazz band Soft Machine and the contemporary Irish disc jockey, film soundtrack composer, and recording artist David Holmes.

In 1990 Swinscoe formed his first band, Crabladder, while enrolled as an art student at Cardiff College in Wales. Crabladder blended jazz and punk music forms, displaying Swinscoe's burgeoning interest in electronic sampling. When Crabladder disbanded in the mid-1990s, Swinscoe honed his sampling skills as a disc jockey at dance clubs and on pirate radio stations. His blending of 1960s' and 1970s' jazz with live jazz performances and electronic loops brought him to the attention of Quebec record label Ninja Tunes in 1997, and the label asked him to contribute to an anthology of electronic music. He contributed a recording for the 1997 anthology Ninja Cuts 3, and released remixes of recordings done originally by Ryuichi Sakamoto and Coldcut. Swinscoe's subsequent recordings with Cinematic Orchestra, according to All Music Guide critic Heather Phares, "built on this musical blueprint, letting a group of live musicians improvise over sampled percussion or basslines." Swinscoe collaborated on the extended play compact disc singles Channel One Suite and Diabolus with fellow Ninja Tunes artists Phil France on bass, Daniel Howard on drums, and saxophonist and keyboard player Tom Chant. The quartet formed the nexus of Cinematic Orchestra's debut album, Motion.

Motion derived from Swinscoe's solicitation of musical ideas from musicians to whom he had sent tape loops and recording samples. The group united in the studio to jam to the backing recording tracks. London's Independent Sunday critic Laurence Phelan took issue with the band's name: "To call this recording 'orchestral' is pushing it to tenuous extremes, but at least it's derived from live studio sessions." The use of samples and a turntable on the recording prompted Phelan to clarify, "Which is not to say it's an over-indulgent mess of styles (although it occasionally it is). But rather that it's a testament to the ever expanding parameters of dance music and a fascinating, listenable, sometimes danceable debut." Other critics hailed the album's release, and the group earned such accolades as an invitation to perform at the Director's Guild Lifetime Achievement Award Ceremony for Stanley Kubrick in 1999. Motion was also voted album of the year by listeners of Gilles Peterson's Radio One program. Minneapolis Star Tribune critic Rod Smith noted: "British electronica maestro Jason Swinscoe isn't afraid to tackle the big sounds," or to "chop them up and shuffle them around." According to Smith, "The album introduced a welcome blast of vigor and tonal color into a genre too long dominated by the turgid, half-baked minimalism of DJ Shadow and his legions of fully baked imitators."

In 2001 Cinematic Orchestra released Remixes 98-2000, an album of remixes of songs by other artists. The group also released its official follow-up to Motion, the ambitious and critically lauded album Every Day. This sophomore effort marked Swinscoe's full-fledged collaboration with Phil France. For the album, the pair used a string quartet and enlisted the aid of rhythm-and-blues legend Fontella Bass ("Don't Mess Up a Good Thing," "Rescue Me") for the album's opening track, "All That You Give." The song was inspired by Bass's former husband, the late trumpet player Lester Bowie of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Bass also sang on the album track "Evolution." The emotional catharsis stemming from singing a song about her deceased ex-husband caused Bass to cry. "Afterward, she said it was the first time she had let herself really grieve for him," Swinscoe told Smith. Every Day also featured British rap artist Roots Manuva on the song "All Things to All Men." The group began performing live to support their catalog, and received a standing ovation at the 2001 Montreux Jazz Festival.

In 2000 the group was invited to the Porto Film Festival in Portugal, where they performed live to a screening of Dziga Vertov's 1929 silent film Man with a Movie Camera. While the title song appeared on Every Day, Cinematic Orchestra also released the entirety of Swinscoe's score for the film in 2003. Toronto Life writer Mike Doherty wrote of the score: "It's captivating to watch Flowers play the kind of complex, rushing rhythms usually delivered by a sequencer but with spontaneity and visual flair. This orchestra has a beat." Asked by reporters what his plans are for the future, Swinscoe reportedly admitted that he is aiming for the cinematic heights, and hopes to work with major film directors in the future.

For the Record . . .

Members include Patrick Carpenter , turntables; Tom Chant , saxophone; John Ellis , keyboards; Luke Flowers , drums; Phil France , acoustic bass; Dan Howard , drums; Jason Swinscoe , composer and producer.

Group formed in United Kingdom, late 1990s; performed at Director's Guild Lifetime Achievement Award Ceremony for Stanley Kubrick, 1999; released debut album, Motion, 1999; recorded and released sophomore effort, Every Day, 2002; released 1999 composed film score, Man with a Movie Camera, 2003.

Addresses: Record company—Ninja Tune, 222 Dominion #20, Montreal, Quebec H3J2X1, website: Website—Cinematic Orchestra Official Website:

Selected discography

Motion, Ninja Tune, 1999.

Remixes 98-2000, Ninja Tune, 2001.

Every Day, Ninja Tune, 2002.

The Man with the Movie Camera, Ninja Tune, 2003.



Independent Sunday (London, England), October 3, 1999, p. 8; May 25, 2003, p. 15.

Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), June 27, 2003, p. 05E.

Toronto Life, June 2003, p. 52.


"Cinematic Orchestra," All Music Guide, (October 24, 2004).

Ninja Tune Website, (October 24, 2004).

—Bruce Walker

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