The Oxford History of World Cinema

By Geoffrey Nowell-Smith | Go to book overview

film -- notably in the work of Gardin ( The Poet and the Tsar), Chardynin ( Behind the Monastery Wall), and Konstantin Eggert ( The Bear's Wedding (Medviezhya svadba), 1926). But by the end of the decade articles began to appear in the critical literature which censured both the innovators ('left-wing deviation') and the traditionalists ('right-wing deviation'). In the spring of 1928 an All Union Party conference on the cinema was called and the demand for 'a form which the millions can understand' was put forward as the main aesthetic criterion in evaluating a film. But the rejection of the commercial cinema, which furthermore was largely being created by film-makers of the old school, bore witness to the fact that more than formal questions were at stake. 'Purges' began in the cinema, and the images of the White Guard, the kulak, the spy, or the White émigré wrecker who had insinuated himself into Soviet Russia began to crop up in films with increasing frequency. Films like Protazanov's Yego prizyv ('His call', 1925), Zhelyabuzhsky's No Entry to the City, Johanson's Na dalyokom beregu ('On the far shore', 1927), and G. Stabova's Lesnoi cheloviek ('Forest man', 1928) bear disturbing witness to this new trend. The increasingly powerful role of RAPP in literature began to create a situation of ideological pressure of which the cinema too became a target.

Besides the change in the political climate, the arrival of sound played a significant part in the sequence of epochs in Soviet cinema. Already in 1928-9, before the new invention had been introduced in the Soviet cinema, Soviet film-makers began to discuss its likely implication. In 1928 Eisenstein, Pudovkin, and Alexandrov put forward the concept of audio-visual counterpoint in a statement

'The Future of the Sound Film'. The engineers Shorin (Leningrad) and Tager ( Moscow) were working at that time to create a sound-recording system for Soviet film studios. The introduction of sound into the cinema becomes in a certain sense state policy. Pudovkin's film Prostoi sluchai ('A simple case'), also known as Ochen'khorosho zhivyotsya ('Life is very good', 1932), and Kozintsev and Trauberg's Odna ('Alone', 1931), conceived as silent, were on orders from above 'adapted for sound', as a result of which they reached the screen after a one- to two-year delay. Probably those in charge saw in the talking picture one of the ways of bringing the cinema to the masses which the 1928 conference had urged. And although for several more years, because of the absence of sound projectors in country areas, silent films continued to be made alongside talkies (notably Mikhail Romm's Boule de suif and Alex ander Medvedkin 's Happiness (Shchastie), both of 1934), one can say that the silent film as an art form reached its zenith in Soviet cinema by 1929, in which year it ceased to progress, yielding place to its successor.


Christie, Ian, and Taylor, Richard (eds.) ( 1988), The Film Factory.

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

Piotrovsky, Adrian ( 1969), Teatr, Kino, Zhizn ('Theatre, cinema, life').

Istoriya sovietskogo kino v chetyryokh tomakh ('A history of the Soviet cinema in 4 volumes'), Vol. i: 1917-1931.

Lebedev, Nikolai ( 1965), Ocherk istorii kino SSSR. Nemoe kino (1918- 1934) ('An outline history of cinema in the USSR. Silent cinema').

Margolit, Yevgeny ( 1988), Sovietskoie kinoiskusstvo ('Soviet film art'). Moscow, 1988.

Yiddish Cinema in Europe


No panorama of early European cinema can be complete without mention of the unique phenomenon of the transnational Yiddish cinema, which flourished in eastern and central Europe throughout the silent period and into the 1930s. This Yiddish cinema derived from the extra-territorial tradition of European Jewish culture and literature rooted in the Yiddish language. Yiddish is a language of exceptional expressiveness, highly developed idiom, and rich vocabulary, which by the turn of the century had become the mother tongue of over 10 million Jews, living mostly in central and eastern Europe but also as part of the Jewish diaspora in the United States, Mexico, Argentina, and elsewhere in the New World.


Throughout eastern and central Europe Yiddish had a full-fledged literature, comparable with other European national literatures. Alongside élite works aspiring to the rank of canonical literature, more popular prose was also printed in instalments in cheap pamphlet form. Leading representatives of Yiddish literature at the turn of the century include Avrom Goldfadn, father of the Jewish theatre, Yankev Gordin, An-ski (Shloyme Zaynvil Rapoport), Yitskhok Leyb Perets, Sholem Ash, Yoysef Opatoshu (Yoysef Meyer Opatovski), and Sholem Aleykhem (Sholem Rabinowicz), and it was often to the works of


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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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