Academic journal article German Quarterly

Austrian Cinema: A History

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Austrian Cinema: A History

Article excerpt

20th and 21st Century Literature and Culture Dassanowsky, Robert von. Austrian Cinema: A History. Jefferson: McFarland, 2005. 328 pp., 47 photographs. $65.00 hardcover.

At the 2005 Cannes Film Festival and at other prestigious competitions, Austrian director Michael Haneke's Caché received top awards. The film was subsequently nominated as the Austrian contender for the Oscar in the category of Best Foreign Film. The Academy, however, rejected the film from consideration because of its original French soundtrack. The protestation that the film-"ein zutiefst osterreichischer Film"-had after all been accepted as an Austrian production elsewhere, for example by the European Film Academy, did not change the verdict. For today's global film economy such a narrow interpretation of the idea of a national cinema is clearly inappropriate: as is the case for Haneke's Caché, most European films nowadays are co-productions that involve artists, staff, support facilities, and funding from different countries. The political transformations from the multicultural Habsburg Empire to the second Republic further complicate the notion of an Austrian identity expressed in its film history. Nonetheless, recent films by production companies such as Wega-Film, Coop 99, and Amour Fou suggest that they have a common ingredient that has to do with the conditions under which they are conceived and produced. In this sense, there indeed is an Austrian film culture and has been at various times in its history, from the heady years of Count Kolowrat's Sascha-Film, to the Wien-Film era, and the current Austrian New Wave. Robert von Dassanowsky's book gives a masterly tour of this cinematic terrain, from its beginnings to the present.

The prerequisite for having a film included in this volume is a significant contribution by "Austrian talent." The book therefore not only includes references to film directors, but also to actors and actresses, set and costume designers, editors and cinematographers in Austria as well as abroad. The seven chapters of the book give a clearly structured chronological account of the accomplishments of Austrian cinema, but also of the difficulties it encountered along the way. …

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