The Oxford History of World Cinema

By Geoffrey Nowell-Smith | Go to book overview

Stanislavsky's method used on stage. This acting technique soon evolved into a specific melancholy mood that is particularly pervasive in Yevgeny Bauer's films shot for the Khanzhonkov Company.

The First World War, which closed so many borders to film imports, was the golden age of the Russian film industry. Never before or since have Russian productions so dominated the Russian film market. During 1914-16 an introverted, slow manner was consciously cultivated. by Russian directors and formulated by the trade press as a national aesthetic credo. The style was crystallized at Yermoliev's studio, which developed typical characters -- the femme fatale, the victimized woman, the neurotic man -- and a typical mise-en-scène -- the motionless tableau with each character deep in thought. The tableau image became more important than the development of the plot.

'Psychological' mannerisms and slow action became obsolete in the radical change Russian film-making style was to undergo after 1917. In tune with the more general process of cultural reorientation taking place in Soviet Russia, the notion of a well-made plot (syuzhet) and rapid narrative became important in literature and film. The age of Lev Kuleshov with his accelerated editing and obsessive action was heralded by Engineer Prait's Project ( 1918) -- a film reflecting not so much changes in Russian society as filmmakers' reaction to the past decade of film production.


The best years of private production in Russia ( 1914-19) were marked by the increasing role of film fandom. Initially promoted as local counterparts of foreign stars ('our Psilander' Vladimir Maximov, or Vera Kholodnaya as 'Bertini of the North'), Russian names were soon found to be winning over the public. This led to fresh strategies in studio competition: some new studios emerged (like Kharitonov's) built entirely around enticing stars with established reputations. Alongside the trade journals, fan magazines started to appear. One titled Pegas, financed by Khanzhonkov and shaped like the 'thick' literary magazines, regularly offered aesthetic discussions of cinema as art and the contribution of individual film-makers. Thus the concept of a 'film director' with his or her individual career was formed. Pyotr Chardynin had the reputation of an 'actor's director'; after quitting Khanzhonkov's company for Kharitonov's in 1916 (with several major actors joining him), Chardynin directed an all-star boxoffice hit The Tale of my Dearest Love ( 1918), which saw a number of successful rereleases well into the Soviet era. Yakov Protazanov was acclaimed for The Queen of Spades ( 1916), whose elaborate costumes and set design imitated Alexander Benois's drawings; his reputation as 'high art director' was confirmed by the success of Father Sergius ( 1918). Though less known among the general public, the 'wizard' of animated insects Ladislas Starewitch was the film-maker most in demand by the studios. However, among Russian directors he was the only one who managed to preserve partial independence; he had a small studio of his own and a free hand in his choice of subjects. In the eyes of their Soviet successors their pre-revolutionary reputations turned directors into 'bourgeois specialists' (spetsy). With the notable exception of the protean Protazanov, not one of them was able to make a comparable career in the new Russia.


Ginzburg, Semion ( 1963), Kinematografiya dorevolyutsionnoy Rossii ('The cinema of pre-revolutionary Russia').

Hansen, Miriam ( 1992), "Deadly Scenarios: Narrative Perspective and Sexual Politics in Pre-revolutionary Russian Film".

Leyda, Jay ( 1960), Kino: A History of Russian and Soviet Film.

Likhachev, Boris ( 1926), Kino v Rossii.

Cherchi Paolo Usai, Codelli, Lorenzo, Montanaro, Carlo, and Rob David inson (eds.) ( 1989), Silent Witnesses: Russian Films, 1908- 1919.

Tsivian, Yuri ( 1989), "Some Preparatory Remarks on Russian Cinema".

The Soviet Union and the Russian émigrés



The Soviet cinema was officially born on 27 August 1919, when Lenin signed the Council of People's Commissars of the RSFSR Decree 'On the transfer of the photographic trade and industry to Narkompros [The People's Commissariat of Education]', nationalizing private film and photographic enterprises. But the struggle for power in film had already begun in 1917, when film workers banded together in three professional organizations: the OKO (a federation of distributors, exhibitors, and producers); the Union of Workers in Cinematographic Art (creative workers -- the 'film aristocracy'); and the Union of FilmTheatre Workers (the grass roots or proletariat, largely projectionists). The last of these, asserting workers' control over cinemas and film enterprises, soon came to determine the line taken by the Moscow and Petrograd


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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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