The Oxford History of World Cinema

By Geoffrey Nowell-Smith | Go to book overview

as China's Gone with the Wind, the film can still provoke floods of tears from older Chinese audiences when shown today. The film opens with an ideal couple and their son. However, they are separated by the war when the husband retreats with the Kuomintang to the interior. There he is gradually corrupted and becomes the lover of a rich society woman. His faithful wife suffers through the war in Shanghai, waiting patiently for his return, but he comes back as a Kuomintang carpet-bagger, and the film climaxes when his wife discovers that he is the husband of the woman for whom she is working as a maid. He disowns her and she drowns herself in the Yangtze.

Disillusion with the Kuomintang and their hangers-on is even more pronounced in the films that depict post-war conditions. Films like Myriads of Lights, Crows and Sparrows, and San Mao (adapted from a newspaper cartoon about an orphan) were all enjoyable and humorous, but none attempted to hide the appalling social contradictions of these years and the resentment those who had suffered in Shanghai felt towards their compatriots who had managed to profit from the war. Stylistically, these films featured more subtle ensemble playing from actors seasoned by many years of stage work. Although less obviously pastiched than the films of the 1930s, they too represent post-colonial appropriation for prerevolutionary ends, but this time drawing on the western spoken stage drama and its cinematic equivalents, rather than popular culture.

The second 'golden age' ended China's pre-1949 cinematic history on a fitting high note. In retrospect, it is remarkable that five years of film-making in the 1930s ( 1932-7) and three years in the 1940s ( 1946-9) should stand out so strongly in a total film-making history of forty years ( 1909-49). However, it would be wrong to suggest that these two 'golden ages' appeared out of the blue. Rather, they represented windows of opportunity when talent that had been long developing was able to make itself visible. Some would argue that such an opportunity was not to present itself again for another fortyfive years, until One and Eight and Yellow Earth (both 1984) heralded the arrival of another golden age of Chinese cinema.


Bergeron, Régis ( 1977), Le Cinéma chinois, i: 1905-1949.

Berry, Chris (ed.) ( 1991). Perspectives on Chinese Cinema.

Cheng Jihua et al. ( 1963), Zhongguo, dianying fazhanshi ('History of the development of Chinese cinema').

Clark, Paul ( 1987), Chinese Cinema: Culture and Politics since 1949.

Du Yunzhi ( 1972). Zhongguo Dianyingshi ('History of Chinese cinema').

Leyda, Jay ( 1972), Dianying: Electric Shadows.

Quiquemelle, Marie-Claire, and Jean-Loup Passek (eds.) ( 1985), Le Cinéma chinois.

Toroptsev, Sergei ( 1979), Ocherk istorii kitaiskogo kino 1896-1966 ('Essays on the history of Chinese cinema').

The Classical Cinema in Japan


The Great Kanto Earthquake of the first of September 1923 destroyed Tokyo and the culture it had supported. The Japanese chose not to rebuild the city as it had been and abandoned its old forms for a new appearance. The destruction caused by the earthquake also gave the decisive impetus for the development of new kinds of Japanese film. From 1924 to the early 1930s a number of classics of Japanese cinema were made at Nikkatsu, Shochiku, Teikine, Makino, and some small independent studios. Production and invention were stimulated as archaic forms were abandoned and film-makers embraced new European art cinemas.

Although the destruction caused by the earthquake was the decisive catalyst for these changes, they had been underway for several years before. As early as 1922, such films as Reiko no wakare ('On the verge of spiritual light', Kokkatsu/Kiyomatsu Hosoyama) and Yôjo no mai ('Dance of a sorceress', Shochiku/Yoshinobu Ikeda) had appeared in the New School genre. These were influenced by German Expressionism, partially employing the contorted stage settings featured in The Cabinet of Dr Caligari ( 1919) and From Morn to Midnight (Von Morgens bis Mitternacht, 1920). Formula rather than story had been the important factor in Japanese film-making since its inception, and so the German expressionist style could be incorporated very swiftly. Film-makers took the German imports as a 'film art' template; a new formula to reproduce. Kenji Mizo guchi imitated the form in his Chi to rei ('Blood and Spirit', Nikkatsu, 1923) completed just before the earthquake and one of the last to be made in Nikkatsu's famous Mukojima studio.

The earthquake did not destroy the Mukojima studio, but it made film-making in Tokyo very difficult. Nikkatsu closed the studio and moved its entire production section to Kyoto, where it would remain for the next ten years. Kyoto, the ancient capital, was traditionally the


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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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