Screening Modernism: European Art Cinema, 1950-1980

By András Bálint Kovács | Go to book overview

17
Established Modernism, 1962–1966

Western Europe around 1962

By 1962 modern cinema became a widely accepted movement throughout Europe. It had already passed its romantic “sturm und drang” period, and its innovations represented already a new norm for the second wave of young directors debuting in 1962–1963. This was the period in which a cool aesthetic self-reflection of filmmaking as the trendiest intellectual and artistic occupation appeared, and when modernism's self-reflexivity became increasingly important. And this was the period also when the first important achievements of modern Eastern European cinema appeared. By 1963 modernism conquered almost all segments of European art cinema.

As I pointed out in the previous chapter, there was a certain cohabitation between the classical and modernist norms between 1958 and 1963 even in the films of the “new directors.” Many great films of this period were hardly or not at all touched by the modernist momentum. The important feature films coming out of the Free Cinema movement in England—Room at the Top (Jack Clayton, 1959), Taste of Honey (Tony Richardson, 1961), Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (Karel Reisz, 1962), and This Sporting Life (Lindsay Anderson, 1963)—bore no significant stylistic influence of modernism. It was not until Richardson's third film made in 1962, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, that conscious recognition of the modernist turn by a British film registers.

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner is an important contribution to the confirmation and establishing of the modernist norm rather than bringing some kind of innovation to it. Modernism in Richardson's film mostly amounts to the tribute it pays to the French new wave, and most specifically, to Truffaut's The 400 Blows. It even could be interpreted as an English version or a continuation of Truffaut's film. Its story starts where Truffaut's

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