The Oxford History of World Cinema

By Geoffrey Nowell-Smith | Go to book overview

Vera), a hard-hitting, realistic exposé of working-class life in the Soviet Union and the failed promises of Communism for its youth. Vera herself, a tough, wise-cracking, yet touchingly vulnerable teenager, outstandingly played by the newcomer Natalia Negoda, is the most memorable and strongest female character in all of recent cinema. (The film was scripted by Pichul's wife Maria Khmelik.) Fifty million Soviets saw the film, most of them lured by the first sex scene in Soviet cinema.

However, many of these contemporary social melodramas did not abandon Socialist Realism, but simply turned it on its head. They were still formulaic 'message' films trying to tell people how or how not to live, and are full of new clichés: dirty, communal apartments instead of shiny, clean ones, social outcasts instead of heroes of labour, and a requisite unhappy ending instead of a happy one.

Since 1991, film-makers have moved into a post-per- estroika phase. After much self-exploration, and stylistic and thematic experimentation in film, directors are attempting to make more commercially viable films. Light comedies and modest, feelgood films are making a comeback, after a flood of depressing dark films, pejoratively labelled chernukha (black), bytovukha (grungy, everyday life), and pornukha (porno). Vyacheslav Krishtofovich's Adam's Rib(Rebro Adama, 1991) typifies this new type of film. It is a warm story, both humorous and touching, of how three generations of women cope and survive in these difficult times. The director relies on excellent acting (the film stars the incomparable Inna Churikova) to help create real characters the audience can identify with. Yuri Mamin 's A Window to Paris(Okno v Parizh, 1993) is a slapstick tale of the improbable adventures of some simple Russians who find a miraculous window to Paris in their run-down apartment house in St Petersburg.

The mostly young 'new wave' film-makers reject all vestiges of Socialist Realism, or of socially redeeming cinema with an educational or ideological message. They are a diverse group: some embrace western cinema, the classics of Hollywood as well as of Europe, the French New Wave, for example, and the newer post-modern cinema of Peter Greenaway and David Lynch. The guiding force of this group is Sergei Soloviev, an established film-maker, teacher, the director of his own studio (first at Mosfilm, now independent). He is the mentor of the talented Rashid Nugmanov , whose 1988 film The Needle (Igla) began the Kazakh 'new wave' and will surely become a post-modern cult classic, along with Soloviev's own Assa ( 1988). Other directors are creating their own 'retro' films, ironic and often nostalgic remakes of films from the Thaw or even earlier Stalinist periods. Still others are trying to abandon dialogue altogether in their rediscovery of silent, black and white film.

It is impossible to describe in brief the variety and vitality of the cinema since the beginning of glasnost, despite regular complaints from critics that there are no any good films. The abolition of censorship was clearly beneficial, although at first it did confound older directors who were used to fighting for their ideas. While financing and production are shaky in this period of transition to capitalism, films are being made and film-makers are slowly adapting to a new western cost-consciousness. The unsolved problem remains distribution-how to get at least a few of the best films to the screen. In the mean time there is not a little nostalgia for the days of Goskino and the state-subsidized, state-run film industry.


Anninsky, Lev ( 1991), Shestidesyatniki i my ('The generation of the sixties and me').

Horton, Andrew, and Brashinsky, Michael ( 1992), The Zero Hour: Glasnost and Soviet Cinema in Transition.

Lawton, Anna ( 1992), Kinoglasnost: Soviet Cinema in our Time.

Liehm, Mira, and Liehm, Antonin J. ( 1977), The Most Important Art: Soviet and Eastern European Film after 1945.

Shlapentokh, Dmitry, and Shlapentokh, Vladimir ( 1993), Soviet Cinematography 1918-1991.

Zorkaya, Neya ( 1991), The Illustrated History of Soviet Cinema.

---- ( 1993), Konets stoletiya: predvaritelnye itogi ('The end of the century: tentative conclusions').

Cinema in the Soviet Republics


For the studios of the southern republics, as in the rest of the USSR, the Thaw that followed Stalin's death signified a double rebirth. First, there was a noticeable return to film-making after the 'era of few films 'when only Stalinist masterpieces could be produced. It had been a particularly dark period for these small studios: of just less than 290 full-length films produced in the USSR between 1945 and 1955, the five central Asian republics only produced nineteen and the three Trans-Caucasian republics only produced twenty-two, twelve of which were from the relatively favoured republic of Georgia. This renewal of production assumed particular importance in two republics:


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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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