British Cinema of the 1950s: A Celebration

By Ian MacKillop; Neil Sinyard | Go to book overview
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Lindsay Anderson: Sequence
and the rise of auteurism in
1950s Britain

ERIK HEDLING

THE 1950S REPRESENTS an upheaval in European film history. The financial losses of the Europeans, as compared to the Americans on the popular market, caused drastic changes within the European film industries, leading up to the continental government-subsidised film industries of the present. Even if the historical reasons for the changes in European film policies were mainly socio-economic, they were at the time mostly discussed and dealt with in aesthetic terms, and we saw eventually the emergence of the European art cinema, a new kind of film, specifically aimed at the literate and professional middle classes.

One of the most important European contributions to the film history of the 1950s was, thus, undoubtedly the sudden rise of the auteur, the film director extraordinaire and the notion of the authored art film. Sweden had Ingmar Bergman, Italy had, for instance, Fellini, Rossellini, Visconti, and Antonioni, France had the Cahiers du Cinéma generation, towards the end of decade represented by the breakthrough of the nouvelle vague, with Truffaut, Godard, Rohmer and Chabrol. Traditionally, Britain has been said to have missed out on the development of auteurism and art cinema in the 1950s, instead clinging to its traditional industrial policies of trying to (albeit unsuccessfully) compete with the Americans on the popular market. (Peter Wollen's essay on 1980s British films as `The Last New Wave' is a good illustration of this attitude.) 1 Even if this was true for the film industry, it is not entirely so for film culture as a whole, since Britain was at least intellectually at the very core of the foundation of the European art cinema in the 1950s, even if the art films as such in the Bordwellian sense of personal vision, loose narrative structure, ambiguity and various levels of heightened realism were not really to emerge until the 1960s (perhaps with the exception

____________________
I was born in the mid-1950s and had my first overwhelming experience of the cinema watching Lindsay Anderson's If in 1969. My training in England and Sweden (Lund University) as an academic in film and literature eventually led to my writing my book Lindsay Anderson: Maverick Film- Maker (Cassell, 1998). Erik Hedling

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