Preface to the Third Edition

The third edition of A History of Narrative Film is different from the second in a number of ways. It updates the scholarship and filmographical material on virtually every period, cinema, and filmmaker discussed in the second. There are new sections on ethnic cinema ("race movies" and Yiddish cinema), Scandinavian or Nordic cinema, New Spanish cinema, the cinemas of the former Soviet republics—Baltic (Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia), Transcaucasian (Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan), and Central Asian (Ubekistan, Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, Tadjikistan, and Turkmenistan)—post-Soviet cinema in Russia and Eastern Europe, and the cinemas of the Middle East (Iran and Israel) and the Pacific Rim. The terminal points of film history are reconsidered to reflect new thinking about the "cinema of attractions" on the one hand and computer generated imagery (CGI) on the other. There has also been a reorganization of chapter contents, so that New German Cinema now appears at the end of Chapter 15 ("European Renaissance: West"), Eastern Europe and the former USSR each have their own chapters (Chapter 16, "European Renaissance: East," and Chapter 17, "The Former Soviet Union, 1945‐ Present), Chapter 18 becomes "Wind from the East: Japan, India, and China," Chapter 19 is "Third World Cinema," and Chapter 20 is "Hollywood, 1965—Present." Finally, there is a revised and updated Selective Bibliography for this edition which proceeds chapter by chapter, with a large section on "Theory and Aesthetics" at the end.

For all of this new material and restructuring, however, the interpretive core of A History of Narrative Film and the principles informing it remain unchanged. There is a prevailing opinion in some quarters today that the essence of the postmodern condition is its chaos of images and that "meaning" is something manufactured by academic critics to justify their paychecks. If this were true, the teaching of film history could only be approached by quantification—as the study of intersecting vectors, subject to analysis of varients in the manner of a social science—and, indeed, in some quarters, that is the way film history is now being taught. But the film history represented by this volume does not conform to that approach, because it assumes the primacy of human agency among the myriad economic, technological, and social determinants that have made motion pictures the quintessential art form of our century. As the twentieth century closes and we mark the one-hundredth anniversary of cinema's birth in the closing years of the nineteenth, we should remember that what we celebrate has been overwhelmingly a narrative form concerned with individual and collective human destiny. Whether the product of the classical Hollywood paradigm or Zen Buddhist aesthetics, motion pictures have existed for a century mainly as a remarkably effective way for people to tell stories about people. And, unless human nature itself is somehow altered, nothing is likely to happen in the twenty-first century to change that signal fact.

-xix-

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