European Cinemas, European Societies, 1939-1990

European Cinemas, European Societies, 1939-1990

European Cinemas, European Societies, 1939-1990

European Cinemas, European Societies, 1939-1990

Synopsis

Through the Second World War and its aftermath, from economic boom to industrial decline, Europeans have faced similar changes in politics and their outlook on life. But even on the eve of the formation of a single European community, their cultural backgrounds are far from unified. InEuropean Cinemas, European SocietiesPierre Sorlin looks at the way the nations of Europe have expressed their cultural individuality in film. For instance, why do French films have such a distinctive style, different from the products of Hollywood, Germany, Italy and Britain? Sorlin also examines how the impact of a common evolution toward federalism can be detected in films.

Excerpt

We Europeans create and imagine the world through Holly-wood’s lenses. American productions overwhelm our screens, amounting to three quarters of the programmes in some countries and never dropping under 40 per cent.

The US preponderance is grounded on two equally strong bases—economic and aesthetic. In the New World movies have been considered as industrial objects almost from the first day of their existence; they have been manufactured rationally in factory-like studios where the division of labour has always given work its maximum efficiency. By direct absorption or thanks to their subsidiaries, distribution and exhibition, the film companies have created an integrated market which makes movies pay and which enables the producers to sell abroad at bargain rates pictures already amortized thanks to the domestic demand. Attempts were made in the Old World to build up big companies, as was the case with the Rank Organization, but the audiences’ response was never satisfying and the firms had either to give up or to diversify outside cinema—which Rank eventually did.

The importance of technical considerations must not be overrated; art was as much a factor of success for Hollywood as money. America has created a movie style which has to be labelled as ‘classical’. Classicism cannot be easily defined, but everybody knows empirically what a ‘classic’ is: good, sharp pictures, a sound-track which helps the spectator to follow the plot-line without ever encroaching upon her or his pleasure, audible dialogue, good actors and, more importantly, a well-defined story, with a situation revealed at the outset, developed logically, and unambiguously closed or solved at the . . .

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