The Oxford History of World Cinema

The Oxford History of World Cinema

The Oxford History of World Cinema

The Oxford History of World Cinema

Synopsis

From its humble beginnings as a novelty in a handful of cities, cinema has risen to become a billion-dollar industry and the most spectacular and original contemporary art form. In The Oxford History of World Cinema, an international team of film historians traces the history of this enduringly popular entertainment medium. Covering all aspects of its development, stars, studios, and cultural impact, the book celebrates and chronicles over one hundred years of diverse achievement from westerns to the New Wave, from animation to the avant-garde, and from Hollywood to Hong Kong. The Oxford History of World Cinema tells the story of the major inventions and developments in the cinema business, its institutions, genres, and personnel, and they outline the evolution of national cinemas round the world--the varied and distinctive film traditions that have developed alongside Hollywood. A unique aspect of the book are the special inset features on the film-makers and personalities--Garbo and Godard, Keaton and Kurosawa, Bugs Bunny and Bergman--who have had an enduring impact in popular memory and cinematic lore. With over 280 illustrations, a full bibliography, and an extensive index, this is the buff's ultimate guide to cinema worldwide.

Excerpt

The cinema, wrote the documentarist Paul Rotha in the 1930s, 'is the great unresolved equation between art and industry'. It was the first, and is arguably still the greatest, of the industrialized art forms which have dominated the cultural life of the twentieth century. From the humble beginnings in the fairground it has risen to become a billiondollar industry and the most spectacular and original contemporary art.

As an art form and as a technology, the cinema has been in existence for barely a hundred years. Primitive cinematic devices came into being and began to be exploited in the 1890s, almost simultaneously in the United States, France, Germany, and Great Britain. Within twenty years the cinema had spread to all parts of the globe; it had developed a sophisticated technology, and was on its way to becoming a major industry, providing the most popular form of entertainment to audiences in urban areas throughout the world, and attracting the attention of entrepreneurs, artists, scientists, and politicians. As well as for entertainment, the film medium has come to be used for purposes of education, propaganda, and scientific research. Originally formed from a fusion of elements including vaudeville, popular melodrama, and the illustrated lecture, it rapidly acquired artistic distinctiveness, which it is now beginning to lose as other forms of mass communication and entertainment have emerged alongside it to threaten its hegemony.

To compress this complex history into a single volume has been, needless to say, a daunting task. Some developments have to be presented as central, while others are relegated to the margins, or even left out entirely. Certain principles have guided me in this work. For a start, this is a history of the cinema, not of film. It does not deal with every use of the film medium but focuses on those which have concurred to turn the original invention of moving images on celluloid into the great institution known as the cinema, or 'the movies'. The boundaries of cinema in this sense are wider than just the films that the institution produces and puts into circulation. They include the audience, the industry, and the people who work in it-from stars to technicians to usherettes -- and the mechanisms of regulation and control which determine which films audiences are encouraged to see and which they are not. Meanwhile, outside the institution, but constantly pressing in on it, is history in the broader sense, the world of wars and revolution, of changes in culture, demography, and life-style, of geopolitics and the global economy.

No understanding of films is possible without understanding the cinema, and no understanding of the cinema is possible without recognizing that it -- more than any other art, and principally because of its enormous popularity-has constantly been at the mercy of forces beyond its control, while also having the power to influence history in its turn. Histories of literature and music can perhaps be written (though they should not be) simply as histories of authors and their works, without reference to printing and recording technologies and the industries which deploy them, or to the world in which artists and their audiences lived and live. With cinema this is impossible. Central to the project of this book is the need to . . .

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