The Oxford History of World Cinema

By Geoffrey Nowell-Smith | Go to book overview

of Deputies. Finally, there was Renoir's adaptation of Tire au flanc ('Laze about', 1928), financed by Braunberger, which transformed a vaudeville comedy of army barracks life into an exuberant social satire, pitting a blithely assured but ineffectual bourgeois master against his bighearted, bumbling servant, played with grotesque audacity by Michel Simon.

By the end of the decade, the French cinema industry seemed to evidence less and less interest in producing what Delluc would have called specifically French films. Whereas the historical film was frequently reconstructing past eras elsewhere, the modern studio spectacular was constructing an international no man's land of conspicuous consumption for the nouveau riche. Only the 'realist' film and the comedy presented the French somewhat tels qu'ils sont -- if not as they might have wanted to see themselves -- the one by focusing on the marginal, the other by invoking mockery. With the development of the sound film, both genres would contribute even more to restoring a sense of 'Frenchness' to the French cinema. Yet would that 'Frenchness'be any less imbued with nostalgia than was the charming repertoire of signs, gestures, and songs that Maurice Chevalier was about to make so popular in the USA?


Abel, Richard ( 1984), French Cinema: The First Wave, 1915-1929.

--- ( 1988), French Film Theory and Criticism: A History/Anthology, 1907- 1929.

--- ( 1993), The Cinf Goes to Town: French Cinema, 1896-1914.

Bordwell, David ( 1980), French Impressionist Cinema: Film Culture, Film Theory and Film Style.

Chirat, Raymond, and Icart, Roger (eds.) ( 1984), Catalogue des films français de long métrage: films de fiction, 1919-1929.

--- and Le Eric Roy (eds.) ( 1994), Le Cinéma français, 1911-1920.

Clair, René ( 1972), Cinema Yesterday and Today.

Delluc, Louis ( 1919), Cinéma et cie.

Epstein, Jean ( 1921), Bonjour cinéma.

Guibbert, Pierre (ed.) ( 1985), Les Premiers Ans du cinéma français.

Hugues, Philippe d', and Martin, Michel ( 1986), Le cinéma français: le muet.

Mitry, Jean ( 1967), Histoire du cinéma, i: 1895-1914.

--- ( 1969), Histoire du cinéma, ii: 1915-1923.

--- ( 1973), Histoire du cinéma, iii: 1923-1930.

Moussinac, Léon ( 1929), Panoramique du cinéma.

Sadoul, Georges ( 1951), Histoire générale du cinéma, iii: Le cinéma devient un art, 1909-1920 (l'avant-guerre).

--- ( 1974), Histoire générale du cinéma, iv: Le cinéma devient un art, 1909-1920 (La Première Guerre Mondiale).

--- ( 1975a), Histoire générale du cinéma, v: L'Art muet (1919-1929).

--- ( 1975b), Histoire générale du cinéma, vi: L'Art muet (1919-1929).

Italy: Spectacle and Melodrama


Film production in Italy began relatively late in comparison with other European nations. The first fiction film -- La presa di Roma, 20 settembre 1870 (The capture of Rome, 20 September 1870'), by Filoteo Alberini-appeared in 1905, by which time France, Germany, Britain, and Denmark already had in place well developed production infrastructures. After 1905, however, the rate of production increased dramatically in Italy, so that for the four years preceding the First World War it took its place as one of the major powers in world cinema. In the period 1905-31 almost 10,000 films -- of which roughly 1,500 have survived-were distributed by more than 500 production companies. And whilst it is true that the majority of these companies had very brief life-spans, and that almost all entrepreneurial power was concentrated in the hands of perhaps a dozen firms, the figures nevertheless give a clear indication of the boom in this field in a country which, though densely populated (almost 33 million in 1901), lagged behind the rest of Europe in terms of economic development.

The history of early film production in Italy can be divided into two periods: a decade of expansion ( 1903-14) during which up to two-thirds of the total number of films in the silent era were made, followed by fifteen years of gradual decline after the sudden collapse in output, in common with the whole of Europe, during the war. In 1912 an average of three films a day were released (1,127 in total, admittedly many of them short); in 1931 only two feature films in the entire year.


The tradition of visual spectacle has deep historical roots in Italy. Aspects of it which are particularly important to the prehistory of cinema include entertainments in travelling shows -- from the 'Mondo Niovo' of the late eighteenth century to the nineteenth century 'Megaletoscopio' -- and scientific curiosities (documented by A. Riccò in his 1876 study Esperienze cromostroboscopiche, 'Chromostroboscopic experiments'). It is in this context that the first appearance of the 'Cinématographe Lumière' in the Roman photographic atelier Le Lieure, on 13 March 1896, provoked an excited reaction and this new French invention spread to Naples, Turin, and gradually to several other cities. Markedly less success awaited the


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The Oxford History of World Cinema
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Contributors ix
  • Contents xi
  • Special Features xv
  • List of Colour Illustrations xvii
  • General Introduction xix
  • 1 - Silent Cinema 1895-1930 1
  • Origins and Survival 6
  • Early Cinema 13
  • Transitional Cinema 23
  • The Hollywood Studio System 43
  • The World-Wide Spread of Cinema 53
  • The First World War and the Crisis in Europe 62
  • Tricks and Animation 71
  • Comedy 78
  • Documentary 86
  • Cinema and the Avant-Garde 95
  • Serials 105
  • French Silent Cinema 112
  • Italy- Spectacle and Melodrama 123
  • British Cinema from Hepworth to Hitchcock 130
  • Germany- The Weimar Years 136
  • The Scandinavian Style 151
  • Pre-Revolutionary Russia 159
  • The Soviet Union and the Russian émigrés 162
  • Yiddish Cinema in Europe 174
  • Japan- Before the Great Kanto Earthquake 177
  • Music and the Silent Film 183
  • The Heyday of the Silents 192
  • 2 - Sound Cinema 1930-1960 205
  • The Introduction of Sound 211
  • Hollywood- The Triumph of the Studio System 220
  • Censorship and Self-Regulation 235
  • The Sound of Music 248
  • Technology and Innovation 259
  • Animation 267
  • Cinema and Genre 276
  • The Western 286
  • The Musical 294
  • Crime Movies 304
  • The Fantastic 312
  • Documentary 322
  • Socialism, Fascism, and Democracy 333
  • The Popular Art of French Cinema 344
  • Italy from Fascism to Neo-Realism 353
  • Britain at the End of Empire 361
  • Germany- Nazism and after 374
  • East Central Europe before the Second World War 383
  • Soviet Film under Stalin 389
  • Indian Cinema- Origins to Independence 398
  • China before 1949 409
  • The Classical Cinema in Japan 413
  • The Emergence of Australian Film 422
  • Cinema in Latin America 427
  • After the War 436
  • Transformation of the Hollywood System 443
  • Independents and Mavericks 451
  • 3 - The Modern Cinema 1960-1995 461
  • Television and the Film Industry 466
  • The New Hollywood 475
  • New Technologies 483
  • Sex and Sensation 490
  • The Black Presence in American Cinema 497
  • Exploitation and the Mainstream 509
  • Dreams and Nightmares in the Hollywood Blockbuster 516
  • Cinéma-Vérité and the New Documentary 527
  • Avant-Garde Film- The Second Wave 537
  • Animation in the Post-Industrial Era 551
  • Modern Film Music 558
  • Art Cinema 567
  • New Directions in French Cinema 576
  • Italy- Auteurs and after 586
  • Spain after Franco 596
  • British Cinema- The Search for Identity 604
  • The New German Cinema 614
  • East Germany- The Defa Story 627
  • Changing States in East Central Europe 632
  • Russia after the Thaw 640
  • Cinema in the Soviet Republics 651
  • Turkish Cinema 656
  • The Arab World 661
  • The Cinemas of Sub-Saharan Africa 667
  • Iranian Cinema 672
  • India- Filming the Nation 678
  • Indonesian Cinema 690
  • China after the Revolution 693
  • Popular Cinema in Hong Kong 704
  • Taiwanese New Cinema 711
  • The Modernization of Japanese Film 714
  • New Australian Cinema 722
  • New Zealand Cinema 731
  • Canadian Cinema/Cinéma Canadien 731
  • New Cinemas in Latin America 740
  • New Concepts of Cinema 750
  • The Resurgence of Cinema 759
  • Index 785
  • List of Picture Sources 823


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