The Oxford History of World Cinema

By Geoffrey Nowell-Smith | Go to book overview


Armes, Roy ( 1985), French Cinema.

Bandy, Mary Lea (ed.) ( 1983), Rediscovering French Film.

Hayward, Susan ( 1993), French National Cinema.

-- and Vincendeau, Ginette (eds.) ( 1990), French Film, Texts and Contexts.

Truffaut, François ( 1954), 'A Certain tendency of French cinema'.

Williams, Alan ( 1992). Republic of Images: A History of French Filmmaking.

Italy from Fascism to Neo-Realism



The first sound film made in Italy was La canzone dell'amore ('The love song', 1930) by Gennaro Righelli, taken from a short story by Pirandello entitled, ironically enough, 'In silenzio' ('In silence'). Italian cinema in 1930 was in a parlous state. Of the 1,750 films produced between 1919 and 1930, it would be difficult, even with hindsight, to pick out one which achieved even minimal international success. When pushed, cinema historians usually point to a couple of silent films of 1929, by two of the most important directors of the following decade: Sole ('Sun'), Alessandro Blasetti's first film; and Rotaie ('Rails') by Mario Camerini , 'which was released in a sound version in 1931.

Mussolini's Fascist movement had come to power in October 1922 and by 1925 had established a totalitarian state. In 1926 it intervened for the first time in the field of cinema, taking over the Istituto Nazionale LUCE -- acronym for 'L'Unione Cinematografica Educativa', the National Institute of the Union of Cinematography and Education -- formed in 1924. The regime thus created for itself a monopoly of cinematic information: LUCE produced documentaries and also newsreels, and projection of the latter was made compulsory.

The first Italian sound films were produced at the Itala and Cines studios in Rome, which had been purchased by Stefano Pittaluga, following his acquisition in 1926 of the Turinese company Fert. All the eight films produced in 1930 were the work of Cines-Pittaluga. Pittaluga was an energetic and intelligent entrepreneur, surrounded by peers who were often hasty, incompetent, and amateurish. But he died suddenly in the spring of 1931, at the age of 44, leaving behind him a powerful circuit of interests: a production company, acting studios, technical laboratories, a distribution organization, and a vast chain of outlets all over Italy.

His empire was split into two parts: one for the distribution and exhibition of films, which went into state ownership, forming the basis of ENIC; the other for production and the running of studios. The latter was put into the hands of a banker, Ludovico Toeplitz, who in 1932 appointed the writer and essayist Emilio Cecchi as head of production. In 1935 the Cines studio on Via Vejo in Rome was gutted by a fire and had to be demolished. Cines thus collapsed for the second time, although it was later to be re-formed twice, in 1942 and 1949. With the exception of the official sanctioning of censorship in law in 1923, which was honed and 'perfected' in a series of modifications up to 1929, the Istituto LUCE, and some protectionist measures, the active impact of the Fascist regime on cinema was late in coming, although it perhaps indirectly encouraged the centripetal pull of Rome on the industry. In the first twenty years of silent cinema, the film industry, or rather the film craft, had been spread out between Turin, Milan, Rome, and Naples. Whilst the early history of North American cinema is characterized by the shift from New York to Los Angeles, from east to west, in Italy cinema gravitated towards the centre of political and bureaucratic power.

The first legislative support for the industry came from Law 918 ( 18 June 1931), which assigned 10 per cent of boxoffice takings to 'aid all sectors of the film industry and, in particular, to reward those with a proven ability to cater for the tastes of the public'. As in other fields, the Fascist regime and the industry were in full agreement: profit above all.

On a more cultural note, the eighteenth Venice 'Biennale' exhibition of figurative arts began on 6 August 1932, and included the world's first film festival, officially designated as the 'First International Exhibition of Cinematic Art'.The idea was born in Venice, but already in 1934 its organization had been taken over by the authorities in Rome.

In 1933 it became obligatory to show one Italian film for every three foreign films. The year 1934 saw the creation of the Direzione Generale per la Cinematografia, headed by Luigi Freddi, which was given the task of overseeing and co-ordinating production activity. In 1935 the film school Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia was set up under the aegis of the Ministry of Popular Culture, with Luigi


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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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