Screening Modernism: European Art Cinema, 1950-1980

By András Bálint Kovács | Go to book overview

7
Styles of Modernism

I will distinguish four main styles representing the most important trends that influenced art filmmakers during the late modern period. Not all these tendencies were equally strong or influential in all periods during late modern cinema. As is often the case with matters of art historical categories, one can find only a few emblematic, clear cases of a given paradigm; most of the time we must suffice with mixed or transitory cases. Some of the general forms are not late modern inventions. Minimalism, for example, appeared already in the early modern period.

Some of the forms to be discusses may characterize classical films too, like theatrical stylization. What makes the styles genuine ingredients of modernism is their specific manner of depicting the main aesthetic formal principles: abstraction, subjectivity, and reflexivity.


Minimalist Styles

Minimalism is a systematic reduction of expressive elements in a given form. Minimalism achieves semantic richness by introducing the rule of systematic variation of motives instead of enhancing the expressive power of the motives by multiplying emotional effects of a similar kind. It involves reduction of redundancy as well as eliminating random diversity. Minimalism was characterized during the 1950s in the films of Dreyer, Bresson, Ozu, and Antonioni. But from 1959, stylistic austerity and reductionism became fashionable, and minimalism became the strongest and most influential trend of modern cinema. Even long after modernism's decline in the 1990s some auteurs like Jim Jarmusch, Béla Tarr, Aki Kaurismäki,

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