The Romantic Period, 1959–1961
In the three chapters that follow I will give an outline of modernist art cinema's development between 1959 and around 1975 in Europe. I will concentrate on the aesthetic history of the modern forms, their development, and their mutual influences. I divide this history into three periods. The first one, which I name “the romantic period,” is the shortest, covering the years 1958 until around 1961. This is the era of the appearance of the first essential modernist films that started the main trends. This was also the period of modernism's disputing its relationship with the classical forms. The second period, covering the years 1962 through 1966, will be termed “established modernism.” This is when modernism turns into a vast international movement and becomes a kind of norm in European art cinema. This is also the period when modern art cinema becomes highly self-reflective. The third period starting in 1967, the longest, is “political modernism.” This last period could be divided into two periods: the first, preparing and bearing the influence of the political countercinema movement (1967–1970), and the second, which can be regarded as the period of dissolution of modernism and the transition into postmodern (1971–ca. 1978). These two subperiods are both characterized by modern cinema's search for new inspiration, particularly in social and historical reality, and in different cultural mythologies.
The general view of film historiography about this period is that starting from the late 1950s the phenomenon known as “modern film,” “the new cinema,” or “the new waves,” gradually conquered every important filmmaking country in Europe. A new generation of filmmakers created the “new cinemas”; in other words, they brought a new approach to filmmaking into the art cinema of each of these countries.