The Oxford History of World Cinema

By Geoffrey Nowell-Smith | Go to book overview

and an imprudent and disorganized administration. A chain of bankrupt production and distribution companies was but one symptom of the problem.

On the 'high' level of art cinema, the trio ViscontiFellini-Antonioni replaced the 1940s trio Rossellini-De Sica-Visconti. After La terra trema ( 1948), more a sort of enchanting Marxist mystery play than the apotheosis of neo-realism seen in it by many critics (in retrospect, Bellissima was probably his most neo-realist film), Visconti moved on to Senso ( 1954), where his penchant for profaned Romanticism and collapse came to the fore. Together with The Leopard (Il gattopardo, 1962) and Ludwig ( 1972), Senso parades more than elsewhere Visconti's qualities as a master of sumptuous mise-en-scéne, who struggles to reconcile his taste for cultural decadence and his lay, progressive humanism with the scope of the novel and a vocation for melodrama. Rocco and his Brothers (Rocco e i suoi fratelli, 1960), on the other hand, narrates the destiny of a family when it emigrates from the deep south to the Milan of the boom years and the film represents a return to neorealism and a sort of ideal continuation of La terra trema. It was the 'national-popular' (to use the phrase of Antonio Gramsci) work which Visconti had set his sights on from early in his career.

The two most significant auteurs to emerge in the 1950s were Antonioni and Fellini. Michelangelo Antonioni had from his first film, Cronaca di un amore ('Chronicle of a love affair', 1950), set himself apart from neo-realism through his lucid and concentrated analysis of bourgeois psychology. From then, with an obstinacy which at times verged on monotony, he confronted the themes and problems, or better the neuroses, of a neo-capitalist society: couples, emotional crises, loneliness, difficulties of communication, existential alienation. His films are 'the blues' of bourgeois crises, in which thinly veiled autobiography serves as a record of the time. Their rejection of traditional plot structures, and insistence on the 'dead time', or stasis, of dramatic action, are designed to restore full causal significance to events and phenomena. His films of the period include Il grido ('The cry', 1957) and the trilogy made up of L'avventura ('The adventure', 1960), La notte ('The night', 1961), and The Eclipse (L'eclisse, 1962).

If Antonioni seemed, by inspiration and by temperament, European, Federico Fellini seemed conversely intensely provincial, caught between Rome and his native Romagna. After Lo sceicco bianco ('The white sheik', 1952) and I vitelloni ('The layabouts', 1953), whose grotesque and at times acutely satirical irony -- helped by the writer Ennio Flaiano's screenplay -- remained rooted in a precise social context, Fellini moved into an inner, visionary dreamworld -- a first-person cinema -- with La strada ('The road', 1954). From the spectacle of La strada it was then a small step to the self-display which begins with La dolce vita ('The good life', 1960), a film which marks a watershed in the history of Italian cinema.


Apré, Adriano, and Pistagnesi, Patrizia (eds.) ( 1979), The Fabulous Thirties.

Bondanella, Peter ( 1990), Italian Cinema: from neorealism to the present.

Brunetta, Gian Piero, Cent'anni di cinema italiano.

----, Storia del cinema italiano, Vol I: 1905-1945.

----, Storia del cinema italiano, Vol II: Dal 1945 agli anni ottanta.

Faldini, Franca, and Fofi, Goffredo ( 1979), L'avventurosa storia del cinema italiano raccontato dai suoi protagonisti, 1935-1959.

Leprohon, Pierre ( 1972), The Italian Cinema.

Marcus, Millicent ( 1986), Italian Film in the Light of Neorealism.

Britain at the End of Empire


The commercial exploitation of synchronized sound cinema came about in Britain almost entirely with American technology. Warner Bros.' Vitaphone wax discs, and then Fox's Movietone sound-on-film process, spoke and sang in Britain in the 1930s, with the German Tobis Company jostling for some of the action. This was yet one more sign of the American domination of the British film industry by the 1920s, the outcome of several combined advantages. America had the largest home audience of any national film industry, so producers were able to cover production costs at home, making practically all earnings abroad into profits. American distributors thus had the flexibility to undercut their competitors in foreign markets; even the strongest non-American circuits were unable to overcome the American business practices of price undercutting, block booking, and blind bidding. In 1927 between 80 and 90 per cent of feature films in circulation in Britain were American.

The popularity of American films with audiences made British exhibitors reluctant to book British-made films, further disabling the home industry. The situation became so dire that in November 1924, clubbed 'Black November', film output ceased entirely. As a result the Conservative government passed protectionist measures


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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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