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History of film / cinema - Part 2 (2014)

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pat campbell

on 24 October 2018

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Transcript of History of film / cinema - Part 2 (2014)

The birth of modern photography
Louis Daguerre is attributed as the inventor of the first practical process of photography. In 1829, he formed a partnership with Joseph Nicephore Niepce to improve the process Niepce had developed.

In 1839 after the death of Niepce's and much experimentation, a more convenient and effective method of photography was developed by Daguerre which he called the "daguerreotype".
He, together with Niepce's son, sold the rights for the daguerreotype to the French government and published a booklet describing the process. The daguerreotype rapidly became popular such that by 1850, there were over seventy daguerreotype studios in New York City alone.

The process 'fixed' the images onto a sheet of silver-plated copper. The silver was then polished and coated it in iodine, creating a photo sensitive surface. The plate was then placed in a camera and exposed for a few minutes. Afterwards, the plate was bathed in a solution of silver chloride which created a lasting image, one that would not change if exposed to light.
D.W. Griffith, was an American director who mastered the feature length form which 'The Birth of a Nation' (1915) and 'Intolerance' (1916) demonstrate. These films were among the first of this scale, and they also further standardised the developing codes of editing and visual storytelling that remain the foundation of mainstream film grammar.

'Birth of a nation' was also noted because it gave rise to racial confrontation.
Poetic realism
Soviet Montage
French Impressionism
German Expressionism
Italian Neo-realism
Continuity editing
In Porter's next film 'The great train robbery', which is arguably the first 'western', he further experimented with edited techniques for rhythm and pace reasons as well as overlapping shots to communicate a sense of tension.

'The 'diagonal' movement of the characters across the screen, in-camera 'matting' to give the impression of the passing scene, the depth of framing to convey privileged information to the audience and the use of 'pans' and 'tilts' to follow the action all added to the fluidity and intensity of the narrative.' Parkinson, p.20
Film - Universal Language
Although Porter's films look really primitive today, he was responsible for establishing film as a credible communicative art form with its own language with a temporal and spatial freedom, which unlike written or spoken art forms, was universal.

One of the weaknesses in his films was that he used almost exclusively long or medium shots. The Englishman George Albert Smith who further developed the language of film by employing the close-up to 'personalise and objectify events' Parkinson, p.21. This type of shot had firstly been used in his film 'Grandma's reading Glass' (1900)
Development of film language
The 1905 film ' Rescued by Rover' by another Englishman Cecil Hepworth, is noted for its narrative structure and rhythm. He further developed Porter's ideas of continuity and ellipsis.


This film also articulates the contextual value of pace, cutting, traveling shots, plan sequence, screen geography and implied information.
He himself claimed to have introduced the following innovations that many directors still use today:

close up shot of a figure
distant views
sustained suspense
fade out
understated or restrained expression
improving the standard of film acting
Griffith himself seems to have undergone a transformation towards film. After seeing his first movie in 1905, he stated ' any man enjoying such a thing should be shot' Parkinson, p.23. Despite this he became heavily involved in film beginning as an actor in the 1907 film 'Rescued from an Eagles's nest' by Porter.

His initial involvement may have been just for his need to work. He progressed into the directing and production and his film output is around a staggering 450. He is acknowledged as having developed the film language by shaping the basic elements of film-making into the language and syntax that would serve cinema for over half a century'.ibid., p.23. He raised the perception of film from something of a gimmick, to a credible artistic and communicative media.

Erich Von Stoheim worked under Griffith as an extra and then assistant director remembered Griffith as having ' put the beauty and poetry into a cheap and tawdry sort of entertainment'. ibid., p.23 although Griffith was largely unaware of his transformation impact. It must be acknowledged that Griffith himself is not renowned as being an innovator but rather somebody who was able to refine, and develop existing cinematic techniques and combine these with conventions of Victorian art, literature and drama in effective narrative structures. He has been called the 'father of film technique'.,ibid., p.23 or the 'Shakespeare of the screen'. http://www3.northern.edu/wild/th100/flmhst.htm.
Film History

Link to the Parkinson book

Excellent film history site:

Hollywood a celebration of the American silent
Griffith and the language of film
It was evident from the earliest Griffith films that he was aware of the importance of fluidity, symmetry, composition and editing in telling a story on screen. He intuitively let the narrative content determine where the camera would be and when the cuts would happen. One of his hallmarks was the last minute rescue.

The 1908 film ' The rescue of Dollie' also demonstrates Griffiths awareness of rhythm and 'consistency of screen geography' Parkinson, p.24.
Look at this film and observe the techniques Griffith decided upon. Describe and comment on those decisions.
Because of his prodigious output, Griffith explored the grammar of film and rhetoric. His composition demonstrates careful intent to use the whole frame. He often used deep focus coupled with long shots for dramatic purposes. Flashbacks were used as well as 'eyeline matches' and camera distances.
Griffith and the language of film
Perhaps his most important realisation was that:
'individual shots were cinematic phrases that could be edited together into meaningful sequences without a concrete dramatic logic to link them' . ibid.,p.24.

A good illustration of this is ' The lonely villa' 1909 which contains ? separate shots in just ? minutes which generates a sense of ? and ?.
Griffith and the language of film
Griffith had a huge influence on filmakers who followed him. Parkinson writes that :
'his depiction of parallel events and emotions in purely cinematic terms prefigured Eisentein's 'montage of attractions' and Murnaus 'subjective camera'...similarly his visual metaphors anticipated Soviet theories of associative or intellectual montage. ibid.,p.24
Griffith and the language of film
His 1909 film ' A corner in the wheat' demonstrates his increasing awareness of the importance of detail in each individual frame, which is referred to as its Mise-en-Scène (placing on stage).

Griffith and feature length film
Although he was not the first to produce feature length films, he was determined to utilise this form after having experienced the French film d'art, Queen Elisabeth (1912) and the Italian epic Quo Vadis?(1913)

The demise of Griffith
There were a number of reasons for his demise including his over costly and elaborate productions but also the fact that the emerging studio system put sever constraints on filmmakers in the 1920's.

The start of the 20th century was also a turbulent time with many companies and individuals scrambling to capitalise in the film gold rush. When the fallout between the various battles and patent litigation subsided, there were some recognisable names in a dominant position such as:

Fox (20th Century fox)
Paramount pictures
Warner Brothers
United Artists
Universal pictures
With the advent of World War 1 in Europe, these American companies further strengthened their domination of the film industry. One individual who was at the forefront of establishing highly efficient film production was Thomas Ince (1882 - 1924). He had started as an actor and progressed into direction. He is noted for his 'pace and pictorialism' . Parkinson, p.30


He was always keen to preserve a convincing narrative flow using simple edits resulting in
fast and clear action.
Early Hollywood
Ince introduced practices such as detailed shooting scripts, tight schedules and production notes to ensure that films were delivered on time and budget and he kept his eye on every aspect of the production. This resulted in several noteworthy films :

The Patriot (1916)
Anna Christie(1923)

Unfortunately for Ince, the studio system that he had helped to establish did not ultimately reward him and his career declined.
Slapstick and comedy
Mack Sennett (1880 - 1960)
followed on from Ince and is remembered for his output of slapstick films. He was a disciple of Griffith and his films display the editing style of his mentor coupled with
burlesque, pantomine, the commedia dell'arte, circus and the chase films of Zecca and Max Linder.'Parkinson, p.31

He maintained two rules in his films that movies moved and that no stunt should be longer than 100 seconds. Parkinson elaborates by saying that he was ' A master of location and improvisation, he made the camera the servant of the action, enhancing the comedy with trick photography, 'undercranking' and the inspirational timing of his editing.' ibid., p.32

He is remembered mostly for the actors that he used which became household names such as The keystone Cops, Fatty Arbuckle and Charlie Chaplin (1889 - 1977).
The genius of Chaplin
He was arguably the first movie superstar with his characteristic physical appearance and apparel
He rapidly progressed from acting to direction, writing and editing after only 12 films. Chaplin never forgot his humble beginnings in the poverty of London and this impacted on his comedy 'which was always very personal, combining nostalgia with a horror of social injustice'.ibid., p.32 Much of his humour was conceived and based on character(s) and their surroundings although he included references to the dark subjects of drug abuse, crime and prostitution. see 'Easy Street' and 'The immigrant' 1917.
His films are characterised by his genius as a clown and are all the more remarkable because he wrote, directed and acted in his films.

Compare a Sennett film with a Chaplin

Because of his fame and success he was able to command huge sums which allowed him a certain amount of artistic independence from the studios. He frequently moved between studios securing more beneficial financialo terms as a result.

Keystone - $150 a week
Essanay - $1250 a week
Mutual - $10,000 a week
First National - $1,000,000 a year
He was frequently accompanied in productions by Rollie Totheroh, Edna Purviance and Eric Campbell who were his cameraman, leading lady and adversary
In 1919 he, along with Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford
former United Pictures which released his most famous films such as 'A woman in Paris' 1923, 'The Gold Rush' 1925,
'City Lights' 1931 and 'Modern Times' 1936.
Parkinson believes that Chaplin lost his touch in thinking that his films were high brow. He states that ' Chaplin became more and more self conscious and fluency and spontaneity gave way to pretension and sentimentality'. ibid., p.34. He does however acknowledge Chaplins style for intimacy and dynamism between the camera and performer as well as seamless editing which 'never detracted from the action'.ibid.,p.34 However Parkinson suggests that Chaplins style wasn't totally removed from the stage with his use of 'flat lighting, carefully composed sets, long shots and sequence takes'.ibid.,p34
Buster Keaton 1895 - 1966
He was another comic genius and despite his theatrical background, managed to create a cinematic style in his films.

What do you understand by the term cinematic?
In 1919 he, like Chaplin had done before, formed his own production company which between 1920 - 23 produced 19 highly visual shorts. Among them are:
'One Week 1920', ' The playhouse', 'The boat' 1921, 'Cops' 1922 and 'The Balloonatic' 1923

Compare and contrast a Chaplin film with a Keaton.
How could you describe Keaton's work as being cinematic?
It is thought that Samuel Beckett wrote the outstanding play ' Waiting for Godot' with Keaton in mind.ibid.,p.37
Parkinson describes Keaton's film 'The Balloonactic' as having an elaborate structure, fluid editing, 'beautifully photographed, with meticulous attention to location and mise-en-scène.' ibid p.35. The scenarios that Keaton designed were often dangerous and pitted him against things such as trains, boats, a waterfall, cascading boulders and falling houses. These scenarios were only possible through the media of cinema.
Harold Lloyd
Harold Lloyd and Harry Langon both joined Sennett in 1924 and had a measure of success in the comedic film genre with films such as and 'Over the Fence','Safety last', Tramp, Tramp, Tramp and 'Long pants'.
Film Factories
The American film industry took off due to the impact of the first world war in Europe which saw the film industry collapse there. By the 1920s American films accounted for 82% of the global total. (Eyman, The Speed of Sound: Hollywood and the Talkie Revolution). The development of the studio and star system in Holywood was the formula for worldwide success, however it is argued that artistic considerations may have suffered at the hands of the financial moguls who drove the industry for profit.
'The comedies of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, the swashbuckling adventures of Douglas Fairbanks and the romances of Clara Bow, to cite just a few examples, made these performers’ faces well-known on every continent. The Western visual norm that would become classical continuity editing was developed and exported - although its adoption was slower in some non-Western countries without strong realist traditions in art and drama, such as Japan. ' http://www.filmbug.com/dictionary/moviehistory.php
Parkinson describes the American Film industry of this time as' the studios transmuted into film factories, art became increasingly subservient to industrial and business practices. Nothing was left to chance. Anticipating and pandering to public taste, the moguls devised a diet of prestige pictures and potboilers, all made to proven formulae and backed by mass publicity and advertising. Vital to the success of these marketing campaigns was the cornerstone of the entire studio set-up, the star system' ibid.,p.40
The star system
It was basically flawed though with the stars personal lives linked to their fictitious screen personae. Reality and fiction became blurred in the minds of many while others took to the excess of drink and drugs in order to cope with the pressures of fame. Scandal after scandal caused the setting up of a self -regulation group headed by Will H.Hays, who was asked to try to keep deleterious stories of cavorting actors and actresses from the press.

The director Cecil B. De Mille (1881-1959) cleverly got round the problem of showing violence and debauchery in more graphic detail than ever before by using biblical stories that showed this behavior punished at the end. The Jazz age had been preoccupied with sex and wealth so it was only natural that audiences yearned for this.
However these epic works were treated with derision by critics of serious cinema such as Paul Rotha, an Academy Award nominee for his own documentary directing, described De Mille as'a pseudo-artist with a flair for the spectacular and the tremendous' , possessing ' a shrewd sense of bad taste of the lower type of the general public, to which he panders and a fondness for the daring, vulgar and pretentious' Parkinson, p.43
Eric von stroheim
Parkinson offers and interesting juxtaposition between Hollywood and the rest of the world in the 1920s by saying that during this time Hollywood ' was content to act as a barometer of American social and political wellbeing rather than immerse itself in the Modernist rebellion that was sweeping all other art forms (and, indeed, cinema elsewhere). As a consequence, while Paramount was happy to encourage De Mille's facile brand of spicy morality, Universal reined in the understated naturalism and intelligence of Erich von Stroheim (1885-1957)'.ibid p.43
He didn't endear himself to the studio bosses because of the huge budgets he require for his huge films plus he seems to have been a formidable character. His films display an attention to detail and realism.
Indeed Parkinson describes the 1924 Von Stronheim film 'Greed' as 'one of cinema's finest achievements' ibid p.44
Critique part 1,2,3 & 4 of Greed
Unable to cope with the constraints placed on him by the studio system he stepped down from directing to resume an acting career even appearing in Wilder's Sunset Boulevard in 1950.
Documentary filmaking
Robert Flaherty (1884 - 1951) is recognised as being one of the pioneers of the documentary film genre. He seems to have been influenced by the narrative editing style of others and others and this is manifested in his filming style such as in 'Nanook of the North (1922).
How does Flaherty capture the 'spirit of Eskimo life'?
Robert Flaherty
He also became disillusioned with the constraints of the studio system and his work was criticised as 'being a poetic fantasy' ibid.,p.45, rather than a serious social / scientific study of a race of people such as Samoan life (Moana (1922). However documentary films have to combine the art of filmaking with an interesting topic in order to engage an audience and to keep them engaged.
Parkinson quotes the British filmaker John Grierson who said that the ' very purpose of the documentary film was to make creative use of actuality'.ibid.,p.45 Other examples of Flaherty's documentary type films are 'Man of Aran' 1934, 'The Elephant Boy (1937), 'The Land (1942)' and 'The Louisiana Story' (1948).

Despite the constraints of the Hollywood studio system, there were some excellent films produced in the 1920's such as Fred Niblo's epic 'Ben Hur' (1925), which cost $4 million to make and took three years to finish.
Western and gangster films began to appear in the 20's
such as 'The Iron Horse' by John Ford (1924) and 'Underworld' 1927 by Josef von Sternberg. Check out the interview of Sternberg on youtube.

Rex ingram
The film 'The four horsemen of the apocalypse' was the biggest selling film of 1921'

What do you think made it so successful?

Victor Sjöström
Parkinson writes that sjostrom's work is characterised by his use of natural landscape as well as stylised sets to create atmosphere and psychological states. He continues that his earliest work demonstrates his awareness of cinematography because of his use of deep-focus shots, poetic imagery and 'heightened perspectives achieved at placing objects at 90´ to the camera'.ibid.,p56
According to Parkinson, he also had a highly developed awareness of narrative structure. His earliest work ' Ingeborg Holm' (1913) utilises a mosaic structure. what do you think that is?
Later in 'Kiss of Death' 'he examined the central incident from several viewpoints by means of flashback' ibid.,p.56.
Mauritz Stiller
Parkinson notes the contribution of Stiller, although he only lived to the age of 45. 'He depicted the darker side of the soul by means of a symbolic fusion of mood an landscape. His detached style allowed him to judge images in purely filmic terms and his juxtaposition opf key elements within the Mise en scène in many ways anticipated Soviet associative montage.
Video article on Futurism
Alexander Dovshenko (1894 -1956)
Similar to Pudovkins human approach.Zvenigora (1928)‘notable for its use of extended metaphors and oblique or ‘Dutch’ angles
Since its release, Earth (1930) (critique) has remained Alexander Dovzhenko's most famous work. Its overwhelming visual beauty and complex editing convey a sensual celebration of life. A vital influence on the films of Andrei Tarkovsky, Earth is regarded as one of the greatest films ever made - featured on the list of ten greatest films at the Brussels World Fair and Time Out Magazine's 100 greatest films of the 20th Century. (youtube)
There were numerous other filmmakers from the Soviet Union at this time but the big three overshadowed them.
'Zvenigora was immediately recognized as a masterpiece by Sergei Eisenstein and V. I. Pudovkin. The most sensual and poetic of Soviet masters, Alexander Dovzhenko's unconventional vision and experimental style remained rooted in his love for his native Ukraine, its culture and its people. Zvenigora, his first major film, is his most joyous work.

This is intellectually Marxist, and yet montage is an incredibly exciting form of filmmaking. Now used by advertisers and Hollywood blockbusters, in the hands of Soviet filmmakers it was a revolutionary cinematic experience -- Socialist Review'
Taken from: http://www.mrbongo.com/products/zvenigora-1928
Link to excellent site on film history
He also used graphics techniques, such as: dissolve, fade, iris, mask for narrative purposes and other techniques such as split screen and soft focus were employed as and when they were required for visual impact.

Another aspect of Griffith's approach was his direction and awareness of the acting. Being aware that the camera 'could magnify even the slightest gesture or expression, he insisted on restraint and an adherence to a range of movements and mannerisms which clearly denoted certain movements, personality traits and psychological states.' ibid.,p.24 He introduced rehearsals.

Film became more widely accepted largely through the diversity of Griffith's including melodramas, thrillers, literary adaptions, religious allegories(The Devil,1908), histories(1776,1909), morality tales(The way of the world, 1910),rural romance(A Country Cupid, 1911), social commentaries (The Musketeers of pig alley, 1912), satires(The New York Hat, 1912) and westerns (The Battle of Elderbush Gulch, 1913).
He was keen to further separate the film world from the stage and strove to create an illusion of a naturalistic exterior by dispensing with painted backdrops and through the use of household props to create angles and deepen the frame.
He further developed Porters use of pans and tilts into recognisable forms of expression as well as the use of cross-cutting between tracking shots used in 'The Lonedale operator' 1911.

He developed the use of artificial lighting in 'The Drunkards Reformation' 1909 and soon afterward he employed, what is know as 'Rembrandt lighting' in the film 'Pippa Passes' which was also 1909 but a staggering 68 pictures later. This, he used for narrative and characterisation purposes.

A Corner In The Wheat - Full Movie
Cross Cutting

Nursing a viper 1909
Diagonal movement of characters across the screen
In-camera mattin
Pan & Tilt
What is the term used for the editing technique around 7.06
Possible example of cross-cutting between the shots at 8.04 - 8.06. What is it and why?

Famous shot at the end:

The Great Train Robbery - Full
Video article on D.W. Griffith
The History of Sound in the Movies
The controversial racist aspect in 'The Birth of a Nation'
From www.cliojournal.com, a short documentary by Ursula Cliff that examines race relations in the early twentieth century United States
Chaplin & Keaton documentary series:
Part 1
His first feature was 'Judith of Bethulia' 1913 and it cost an unprecedented $18,000. Parkinson, while acknowledging Griffiths attention to detail with the set design, costumes, acting and clear narrative, is critical of Griffith's notion that his over sentimentality and melodrama was 'High Art'. Ibid.,p.25. Although Parkinson acknowledges that in 'The birth of the nation' there is much to admire: the reconstruction of the period, the historical tableaux, the night photography, the use of tint and the unparalleled power an control of the editing, which linked 1544 separate shots into a cogent narrative', he does highlight the racial bigotry that infuses part of the film.

His next film was another huge production spanning 2500 years an no less than four narratives. Intolerance 1916. Audiences did not respond positively to this epic though, as well as its sermonizing. Griffiths career ended in failure and exile.
What is Film D'Art
Chaplin & Keaton documentary series:
Part 2
Chaplin & Keaton documentary series:
Part 3
Chaplin & Keaton documentary series:
Part 4
Laurel & Hardy ' Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia'
Documentary on Eric Von Stronheim
Documentary on Hollywood - The Early Years
Part 1

Documentary on Hollywood - The Early Years
Part 2

Documentary on Hollywood - The Early Years
Part 3

The Hays Code - Hollywood - Ep 3
Documentary on Hollywood - The Early Years
Part 4

Watch this section from:
The Story of Film A Odyssey - Ep 1
Interesting documentary on Stoheim
1920's Silent Hollywood "Erich von Stroheim" Part Two

Interesting comparison between Stoheim and De Mille
Interesting article about the famous
last 'shooting' shot.

Film D'Art excerpt from
Cinema Europe 1
Interesting interview of John Ford
The full program on John Ford
Interesting documentary on Westerns by

Rescued by Rover
The 1st POV Close-Up in film: Grandma's Reading Glass by George Albert Smith features a young child who borrows a huge magnifying glass to focus on various objects, which was shot to demonstrate the new technique of close-up.
Cousins on Keaton
Interesting article on Keaton
The 180 degree rule
Harold Lloyd: The Third Genius (Ep.1 1/4)
Laurel & Hardy
The advent of sound meant that the purely visual gag based films were outdated. However two perfectly matched comedians took over where the silent comedians had finished Stan Laurel (1890 - 1965) and Oliver Hardy (1892 - 1957). They first appeared together in the silent movie 'Slipping wives' 1926 and over the following 25 years they became the most famous comedy duo in film history and fully exploited the new world of film and sound.
Laurel and Hardy, in their films, seemed to befall harmless situations which descended into chaos and destruction. Again perfect for the cinema.
Laurel and Hardy: Documentary
Living Famously. Part 1.
Paul Mertons BBC 4 Documentary on Laurel & Hady
Cousins on Griffith
Cousins on Flaherty
Cousins 180 degree rule
Full transcript