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).
PAOLO CHERCHI USAI
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