The Oxford History of World Cinema

By Geoffrey Nowell-Smith | Go to book overview

the Canadian Rockies. Unit B film-makers at the National Film Board -- Kroitor, Koenig, and Terence MacartneyFilgate -- were seeking a more direct cinema, one less stilted and more real. They started the television series The Candid Eye of half-hour shorts, including The Days before Christmas ( 1958), Emergency Ward ( William Greaves, 1958), and The Back-Breaking Leaf ( 1959) -- the latter about migrant tobacco workers. French-speaking film-makers Michel Brault and Gilles Groulx collaborated on Les Raquetteurs ( 1958), which looks at daily life and everyday language in Quebec. The increased spontaneity of the camera work, which captured activities as they unfolded, often unexpectedly, pointed toward new kinds of documentary which a new generation of lightweight, sync-sound equipment was about to make possible.


Aitken, Ian ( 1990), Film and Reform: John Grierson and the Documentary Film Movement.

Barnouw, Eric ( 1974), Documentary.

Barsam, Richard ( 1992), Non-Fiction Film.

Alexander, William ( 1981), Film on the Left: American Documentary Film from 1931 to 1942.

Buchsbaum, Jonathan ( 1988), Cinema Engagf: Film in the Popular Front.

Graham, Cooper C. ( 1986), Leni Riefenstahl and Olympia.

Grierson, John ( 1966), Grierson on Documentary.

Jacobs, Lewis (ed.) ( 1979), The People's Films: A Political History of U.S. Government Motion Pictures.

Sklar, Robert and Musser, Charles (eds.) ( 1990), Resisting Images: Essays on Cinema and History.

Snyder, Robert L. ( 1968), Pare Lorentz and the Documentary Film.

Sussex, Elizabeth ( 1975), The Rise and Fall of British Documentary.

Socialism, Fascism, and Democracy


The cinema started life as a capitalist industry, and that is what, at most times and in most countries, it has tended to remain. But as a capitalist industry, run for profit on a large scale, it has been the subject of much moral, political, and economic concern on the part of government and society at large. It has been censored (particularly in times of moral panic), regulated (particularly in times of war), and assisted (particularly in times of crisis), by governmental and para-governmental agencies. In most countries, moreover, even in that paradigm of private enterprise the United States of America, it has contained large sectors that were operated not by profit-seeking capital but by artists and activists, or that were sponsored or managed by governments, either for the benefit of the art or for the control of its content. In general the entertainment sector was the most capitalist, with 'art' cinema being state-subsidized, and documentary and educational films the object of more active government intervention. In the Soviet Union and other socialist countries, however, state ownership and control became the norm, not only for documentary and minor genres but for the industry as a whole.

From a conventional western perspective, these various interventions into, and departures from, the working of a mainly capitalist industry can be seen as exceptions to a presumed norm, provoked by exceptional circumstances and for the most part marginal to the main development of the cinema. Such a perspective is broadly valid for the cinemas of pluralist, capitalist countries, in periods of relative normality. But for non-normal times -- for nations at war, for societies in the throes of revolution -- and for parts of the world where the western capitalist norm does not have the status of normality, its validity is not so selfevident. In particular the idea of a self-contained and mainly self-regulating industry, which fringes upon the world of politics and into which governments are forced to intervene, needs to be put into question. For many situations, a perspective has to be adopted for which politics is not incidental but central, and the tension between social and political systems, cultures and world-views, is seen as a major determinant of the form cinema could take.

In its early years-up to the end of the First World War-- the cinema conformed broadly to the 'normal' perspective. It entered the world of reportage as early as the Spanish-American War of 1898; it found its way into the world of moral concern with films such as George Loane Tucker 's Traffic in Souls ( 1913); its monopoly practices began to be scrutinized by the courts in the course of the battles waged by Thomas Edison against his competitors throughout the first decade of the century; and, during the World War, governments intervened to regulate news reporting from the front and to encourage patriotic film-making at home. But whereas, by rights, the Armistice of 1918 should have signalled the end of a state of exception and a return to a previously experienced normality, in fact it ushered in a condition of crisis which has affected the cinema ever since. Crisis and conflict became the norm, even if their effects were not always and everywhere apparent.


The first sign of the new state of affairs came with the establishment in Hungary in April 1919 of the short-lived


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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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