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History of film / cinema - Part 2
Transcript of History of film / cinema - Part 2
Until this point, the cinemas of France and Italy had been the most globally popular and powerful. But the United States was already gaining quickly when World War I (1914-1918) caused a devastating interruption in the European film industries. The American industry, or "Hollywood," as it was becoming known after its new geographical center in California, gained the position it has held, more or less, ever since: movie factory for the world, exporting its product to most countries on earth and controlling the market in many of them.
By the 1920s, the U.S. was in a dominant position in film production making an average of 800 feature films annually, or 82% of the global total (Eyman, 1997). 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.
The establishment of the studio system
This development was contemporary with the growth of the studio system and its greatest publicity method, the star system, which characterized American film for decades to come and provided models for other movie industries. The studios’ efficient, top-down control over all stages of their product enabled a new and ever-growing level of lavish production and technical sophistication. At the same time, the system’s commercial regimentation and focus on glamorous escapism discouraged daring and ambition beyond a certain degree, a prime example being the brief but still legendary directing career of the iconoclastic Erich von Stroheim in the late teens and the ‘20s.
The peak of world silent cinema
Despite the growth of the film industry in America at the start of the 20th century, there were other centers of important growth and innovation. In 1915, France lifted its ban on foreign imports and the early Hollywood fare inspired the birth of the cinematic 'avant-garde' which translates to "advance guard". It is a military term describing troops leading an attack across the battlefield. In the arts, including music, film and art it is used to describe a ground breaking work which defines a new way of seeing the world and thus of living in it. French Impressionist Cinema was a group of filmmakers who, around this time, experimented with optical and pictorial effects as well as rhythmic editing.
Ménilmontant (1926, Dimitri Kirsanoff)
Early German Cinema
Germany was America’s strongest competitor. Its most distinctive contribution was the dark, hallucinatory worlds of German Expressionism, which advanced the power of anti-realistic presentation to put internal states of mind onscreen, as well as strongly influenced the emerging horror genre.
Link to the Parkinson book
Excellent film history site:
Hollywood a celebration of the American silent
Early woman filmmakers
Unfortunately women were not treated as equals in the early days of film making, with their roles largely limited to on screen or other ancillary positions. Parkinson mentions Lois Weber and states that ' she was just one of thirty woman directors active in the 1920's' ibid., p.47
'The most important and prolific of all American women directors of the silent era, Lois Weber entered films in 1907 at Gaumont, working alongside Alice Guy-Blaché. In the ensuing years, she and her husband Phillips Smalley acted in, directed, wrote, and edited films for Gaumont, Rex, and Universal. By 1914 Weber was a well-known director when she went to work for the Bosworth Company to make Hypocrites. ' youtube.
Here is her 1915 film Hypocrites.
In 1926 two large American studios bailed out the German film company Ufa. The agreement saw several European filmmakers arrive in Hollywood to join other Europeans who had been imported in the 1920's.
Ernst Lubitsch is noted by Parkinson for his elegant, refined and detailed comedies ' which demonstrated a consummate skill for symbolic detail and innuendo' It became known as the 'Lubitsch touch' and contrasted the 'vulgarity of De Mille'. ibid.,p.48
An example of the precise nature of his work with 'superbly choreographed camera movement is the 1926 film 'So This Is Paris'
According to Parkinson, Lubitsch and just one other European director Michael Curtiz were successful in Hollywood. The other Europeans became disillusioned with the constraints imposed on them to adhere to the narrow formula that guaranteed mass audience and profit.
The Europeans did however leave a lasting legacy which Parkinson states ' was apparent in the lighting, decor and cinematography of the classical Hollywood style'. ibid.,p.50 An example of this is the 1927 film 'Sunrise' by F.W. Murnau.
Perhaps Murnau's most remembered film is 'Nosferatu' which he completed before the Parufamet agreement and during what is considered to be the Golden Age of German Cinema.
'Originally released in 1922 as Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie Des Grauens, director F.W. Murnau's chilling and eerie adaption of Stoker's Dracula is a silent masterpiece of terror which to this day is the most striking and frightening portrayal of the legend, youtube.
Murnau was joined in Hollywood by his fellow German filmmakers Paul Leni, Lothar Mendes and Ludwig Berger. Two Swedish filmmakers are also mentioned as having tried to bring their craft to Hollywood : Mauritz Stiller and Victor Sjöström. Here is an interview with the famous director Ingmar Bergman on how he was influenced by Sjöström's 1921 film 'The phantom carriage'.
Actors were also imported to Hollywood from Europe under Parufamet but according to Parkinson, Greta Garbo, the Swedish actress was the only person to be successful and indeed became one of the most successful Hollywood actresses.
The Société Film d'Art was a movement and the purpose was to try to ‘seduce the middle classes into cinemas by elevating the aesthetic and intellectual content of the moving pictures through the staging of prestigious plays on the screen’ However despite some of the most renowned literary and dramatic figures being involved film d’art, the genre did not last and was not really appreciated by audiences because it was just a play on the screen.
Parkinson continues that the first film d’art was The Assassination of the Duke of Guise (1908)
Parkinson states that stylistically the film predated Melies however the directors were both seasoned theatrical people who ‘ had no filmic sense whatsoever spurning the dramatic potential of intercutting in favour of capturing the action from a single angle in long or medium shots.’ Ibid.,p.52 It is no surprise that the directors Charles Le Bargy and Andre Calmettes had both been imported from the theatre so were possibly preoccupied with the stage action as opposed to each frame of film.
Despite this film having a very impressive list of established artistic figures involved in the production such as composer Camille Saint-Saëns and a cast from the Comédie-Française, it was little more than a play on screen.
Film d’art was initially emulated and acclaimed as a cultural landmark however this was short lived due to the increasingly exposed technical limitations as produces tried grand ideas such as adding ballets an operas joining with the literary classics.It did serve a purpose of bringing cinema an unprecedented social and artistic respectability. It also highlighted that the theatrical stage acting methods were unsuitable for the screen. It also influenced other burgeoning filmmakers on the viability of the medium.
An example of an early Film D'Art is 'Queen Elisabeth' (1912) by Louis Mercanton.
Early Italian Cinema
The early Italian film makers latched onto the viability and increased running time. There were a series of Italian directors who with each new film tried to outdo the previous in terms of the size, length and lavish production. These films inspired Griffith.
Examples of such films were: ‘The last days of Pompeii’ 1913 by Mario Caserini and consisted of 9 reels of film. This in turn was outshone by ‘Quo Vadis’ also 1913 by Enrico Guazzoni which featured a huge cast including over 5000 extras and a very elaborate three dimensional set. Parkinson, while acknowledging that it made a twenty fold return on its investment ‘was little more than a series of impressive, if loosely bound, set pieces.’ Ibid.,p.53
This in turn was outdone in the film Cabiria (1914) by Pastrone which consisted of twelve reels and boasted some of the most sophisticated special effects of the silent era. According to Parkinson ‘Pastrone made use of artificial light and process photography, an invented a dolly and primitive crane to achieve a series of slow, extended tracking shots initially know as ‘cabiria movements’ The first world war brought this era of Italian filmmaking to an abrupt end.
First World War
World war one decimated European film production for five years. Which years?
However film making thrived in the neutral Scandinavian countries such as Denmark and Sweden. Parkinson writes that early Danish cinema was 'renowned for its artistry and controversial films' and he mentions the Danish Holger Madsen as someone who produced interesting work.
After the war, the Danish film industry declined and there was an exodus to German, Sweden and America. A legacy from this time is Nordisk which is the oldest studio in the world, formed in 1906.
There seems to be a fascination with spirituality among the Scandinavian filmmakers with titles such as 'Witchcraft through the ages' by Benjamin Christensen (1922), Carl Theodor Dreyer ('Vampyr') Critique.
Victor Sjöström was one of the leading directors of this period he together with Mauritz Stiller and Greta Garbo were all in Hollywood by 1925. Here is a clip from a Stiller film from 1924 which features a young Garbo.
Parkinson acknowledges their contribution by stating that ' they had left a legacy of remarkable features that explored the expressive possibilities of film art'.ibid., p.55
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.
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.
In 1916 he published a famous manifesto on how The cinema was called ‘a new art, much more agile and vast than any other’, yet he continued, ‘except for certain films on travel, hunting, wars, film-makers have done no more than inflict on us the most backward looking dramas, great and small’ ibid., p.51
The problem with early cinema was that it wasn’t an autonomous form of art but rather an offspring of the theater being essentially tableaux (living picture) shot from the front with a stationary camera.
An example of this would be films made by the French man Louis Feuillade who made over 600 short - medium length films between 1906 - 24. He did however attempt to be cinematic by using real locations in Paris.
In France brothers Lafitte in 1907. created so-called Films d'art. They were supposed to draw the higher classes of society into movie theaters. The more educated classes thought that film was just for uneducated people and preferred traditional theater. Films d'art were theater plays shot with camera and played in movie theaters. People didn't like them and the 'experiment' showed that film has its own expressive language different from theater.
Societe Film d’Art’
In France around 1907 the Lafitte brothers were creating so-called Films d'art with the intention of drawing the higher classes of society into movie theaters. However the more educated classes thought that film was just for uneducated people and preferred traditional theater. Films d'art were theater plays shot with camera and played in movie theaters. This type of film making didn't sustain though but the experiment demonstrated that film had an expressive language different from theater.
Parkinson writes that the ‘Societe Film d’Art’ was formed in 1908 and its purpose was to try to ‘seduce the middle classes into cinemas by elevating the aesthetic and intellectual content of the moving pictures through the staging of prestigious plays on the screen’ However despite some of the most renowned literary and dramatic figures being involved film d’art, the genre did not last and was not really appreciated by audiences because it was just a play on the screen.
Parkinson continues that the first film d’art was The Assassination of the Duke of Guise (1908)
Societe Film d’Art’
The film ' The assassination of the Duke of Guise featured music by the renowned composer Camille Saint-Saëns however despite its stylistic interest it had no filmic sense whatsoever spurning the dramatic potential of intercutting in favour of capturing the action from a single angle in long or medium shots.’ Ibid.,p.52
Film d’art was initially emulated and acclaimed as a cultural landmark however this was short lived due to the increasingly exposed technical limitations as producers tried grand ideas such as adding ballets an operas joining with the literary classics.It did serve a purpose of bringing cinema an unprecedented social and artistic respectability. It also highlighted that the theatrical stage acting methods were unsuitable for the screen
There was a measure of success with some of these types of films, for example the 1912 Film ' Queen Elisabeth' by Louis Mercanton. It was 55 mins long and according to Parkinson it influenced producers of the viability of this length and type of film despite being a film d'art type.
Early Italian Films
The early Italian film makers latched onto the viability and increased running time. There were a series of Italian directors who with each new film tried to outdo the previous in terms of the size, length and lavish production. These films inspired Griffith. Examples of such films were: ‘The last days of Pompeii’ 1913 by Mario Caserini and consisted of 9 reels of film. This in turn was outshone by ‘Quo Vadis’ also 1913 by Enrico Guazzoni which featured a huge cast including over 5000 extras and a very elaborate three dimensional set
Parkinson states, while acknowledging that it made a twenty fold return on its investment ‘was little more than a series of impressive, if loosely bound, set pieces.’ Ibid.,p.53
This film, in turn, was outdone by Cabiria (1914) by Pastrone which consisted of twelve reels and boasted some of the most sophisticated special effects of the silent era. According to Parkinson ‘Pastrone made use of artificial light and process photography, an invented a dolly and primitive crane to achieve a series of slow, extended tracking shots initially know as ‘cabiria movements’ The first world war brought this era of Italian filmmaking to an abrupt end.
The Scandinavians had a considerable stylistic and thematic impact with German filmmakers who had been trying to raise the status of film and to entice the more wealthy people in society to go to the cinema with their version of the French Film d’Art which arose from 1912
The legendary stage director Max Reinhardt was introduced to film through the autorenfilme movement. Parkinson states that he was famous ‘ for his use of functional sets, and chiaroscuro lighting, and his skilled choreography of performers’ ibid., p.56
Shattered (Scherben) 1921 Is 'one of the key films of the German kammerspiel movement, this silent work chronicles the tragic repercussions of a furtive love affair between a railway worker's daughter (Edith Posca) and her father's supervisor (Werner Krauss)'. (youtube)
'Kammerspielfilm is a type of German film that offers an intimate, cinematic portrait of lower middle class life. The name derives from a theater, the Kammerspiele, opened in 1906 by a major stage director Max Reinhardt to stage intimate dramas for small audiences. Few Kammerspiel films were made, but nearly all are classics.
Kammerspielfilme (the plural form) formed a German film movement of the 1920s silent film period that was developed around the same time as the more commonly known Expressionist movement in cinema. The Kammerspielfilm was known as the "chamber drama" as a result of the influence from the theatrical form of the chamber play. It is characterised by its focus on character psychology and its lack of intricate set design. Also, unlike Expressionist films, Kammerspielfilme seldom used intertitles to narrate the story'. (youtube)
More info on chiaroscuro lightinghttp://www.steves-digicams.com/knowledge-center/how-tos/becoming-a-professional-photographer/production-lighting-how-to-do-chiaroscuro-lighting.htmlhttp://whatisfilmnoir.wordpress.com/tag/chiaroscuro-lighting/
Early German Films
In Germany, filmmakers began to break away from the theatrical tradition in 1913 and the first film acknowledge as doing so is Stellan Rye’s ‘The Student of Prague’ that was an adaption of a Faust theme. http://www.faust.com/ (critique)
Parkinson mentions that this film ‘combined location shooting with an impressive array of photographic illusions. ‘ He continues by suggesting that this work anticipated the ‘Expressionism of the Weimar period’ ibid.,p.57. Despite its cinematic leanings it did not succeed though, according to Parkinson, of completely breaking from the proscenium based staging method.
After the first world war there was a big increase in film production in Germany and even more so after 1917 with the merger of all the studios into Universum Film Aktiengesellschaft or Ufa, which was a semi-state organisation although the state sold its shares in 1918.
Parkinson summarises a decades work of Ufa by stating quite emphatically that ‘ although concentrating more on distribution and exhibition than production, the films that Ufa did sponsor were, almost without exception, classics’ ibid.,p57
Parkinson singles out Ernst Lubitsch as the master of the ‘Kostümfilme’ genre that Ufa filmmakers concentrated on. His work is characterised by ‘lavish period sets, Reinhardt-style lighting, bold camera angles and rapid cutting’ ibid.,p.57 His films often featured the renowned actress Pola Negri
Here is a documentary on Pola Negri
Lubitsch films include ‘The eyes of the Mummy Ma’ 1918 critique
Carmen - 1918
Madame Dubarry -1919
Anne Boyleyn - 1920
Here is a link to part 3 of an excellent series of programs covering the history of cinema in Europe.
Parkinson highlights a feature of these movies which is ‘the sexual intrigues that simmered beneath the pageantry of the past’
Here are two excellent sites explaining German expressionism:
An excellent example of German Expressionist cinema is the film ‘ The Cabinet of Dr Caligari’ (1919) directed by Robert Wiene (critique). Here is some background to this film from the excellent Cinema Europe (III) series from youtube.
Parkinson illustrates the Expressionist aspect of this film, he states that the director hired Expressionist artists ‘to design sets with exaggerated dimensions, altered spatial relationships and distorted perpendiculars. The sinister unnaturalness of Caligari’s world was further compounded by the thick frozen makeup of the performers and the stylised representations of light and shade printed onto the backdrops’ ibid.,p.59
Its interesting to note that the lighting in this film was partly as a result of electricity rationing which limited the usage.
The Cabinet of Dr Caligari
Parkinson is critical of the limited structure ‘(arranged scenes with little camera movement or intercutting)’ and also notes that the Expressionism aspect was limited to ‘décor and staging’.
He does however recognise that ‘Dr. Caligari brought a non-narrative and poetic dimension to film art. Unforgettable but unrepeatable, it had little tangible influence on world cinema, yet its implications and its deployment of Stimmung ( the means of conveying mood with light and setting) dominated the Kino-debatte on the role of film in German art in the 1920’s’ ibid p60.
Schauerfilme ( Films of fantasy and terror). Filmmakers at this time in Germany seemed to thrive in ghoulish themes and Expressionist visuals. Here is an excellent site with more information on German films during the Weimar period:
There were other types though Fritz Lang’s 1921 film ‘Destiny’ had a theme that dealt with love and death and it was set in 9th century Baghdad, Renaissance Venice and a mythical China. Parkinson remarks about the use of lighting ‘ to achieve striking geometrical stylisations of architecture and space’
One of the most celebrate films from Germany at this time is ‘ Nosferatu’(1922). critique
It was directed by F.W Murnau who created the sinister mood through his use of ‘real locations, negative footage, and dislocated editing’ combined with’cinematographer Fritz Arno Wagner’s angular, low contrast compositions as from the grotesque-ness of Max Schreck’s vampire’ ibid.,p.60
1924 saw the creator of the film Caligari conceive his theory of ‘unchained’ or ‘subjective camera’ . The camera should not remain immobile’ he wrote, ‘ it must be every-where. It must come close to things and it must above all come close to human beings. It must spy on their sorrows an joys, the sweat on their brows, their sighs of relief’ ibid.,p.61
Another notable work from this period by Lang is Metropolis (1926) (critique) which is ‘memorable for its brilliant depiction of futuristic architecture and technology courtesy of the Schuffan Process, which combined miniature sets with live action.
The film ‘The last laugh’ that F.W Murnau collaborated on with Carl Mayer and the cinematographer used camera placements such as mounted on a bicycle, a fire-engine ladder, overhead cables and even an actors chest. The film also illustrates a combination of ‘subjective camera’ and Expressionism with the use of superimposition, unfocused lenses and distorting mirrors. (critique)
‘the Last Laugh/ Der Letzte Mann was a 1924 B&W silent film about the changing fortunes of a hotel doorman. Directed by F. W. Murnau (Nosferatu, Faust) and written by Carl Mayer (Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Sunrise), it is noteworthy for its use of a moving camera (one of the first to do so) and near lack of intertitles. (youtube)
Murnau experimented with the camera placement and lighting. He recognised that conscious decisions about the shot were objective. He saw the camera as a performer,’whose movements were always logical and whose stillness always significant’. His (1926 film Faust is regarded as one of the ' most influential German films ever made' (you tube') critique.
Murnau went to Hollywood as part of the Parufamet agreement. Parkinson states that ‘his discovery of the first- and third person camera was critical to the development of classical Hollywood narrative style’ ibid.,p.62
The objective movement
'Kammerspiel or "Chamber Drama" Film was a distinct trend in German filmmaking during the 1920s. The name “Kammerspiel” can be traced back to a German theatre of the same name that was opened by stage director Max Reinhardt in 1906. Kammerspiel films contrasted greatly from the German Expressionist films that were popular at the time. Rather than placing emphasis on fantasy, spectacle and extreme emotion, Kammerspiel focused objectively on one or a few characters, detailing a problem or conflict in their everyday lives. These films concentrated on character psychology and featured slow, methodical acting, contemporary settings and unhappy endings.'
'The Kammerspiel film drama is closely related to its theatre counterpart "Chamber Drama", which is characterized by an intimate setting and a small audience. Kammerspiel films contrasted greatly with the German Expressionist films that were being made during the same period. Expressionism emphasized fantasy, horror, extreme emotion, distortion and exaggeration. Expressionist films often took place in the past or in exotic locations. Kammerspiel, on the other hand, was characterized by slow, deliberate acting, intricate character psychology and emphasis on a few characters and a conflict in their daily lives. Kammerspiel films were often set in mundane, everyday surroundings and took place over a short amount of time. For example, Leopold Jessner's Backstairs takes place in two locations: a boardinghouse kitchen and an apartment, with a courtyard connecting the two. Kammerspiel films are also characterized by a lack of intertitles. The audience must rely on actors and setting to understand the unfolding narrative.' ibid.
'Almost all the Kammerspiel films have unhappy endings, usually a brutal death. This generally meant that Kammerspiel films were less widely popular among the public and instead, garnered the attention of critics and sophisticated viewers. The one exception is F.W. Murnau's The Last Laugh (incorrectly translated into English - actually The Last Man). Producer Erich Pommer insisted that writer Carl Mayer tag a happy ending on to the end of the film. The result was a highly unlikely triumph of the protagonist when he suddenly becomes a millionaire due to a bogus inheritance. Despite this lighthearted conclusion, or maybe even because of it, The Last Laugh remains one of the genre's most successful and popular films.' ibid
Another example of a film in this new objectivity vogue is The Joyless Street (German: Die freudlose Gasse, 1925) is a film directed by Georg Wilhelm Pabst. It featured Greta Garbo. critique
Die freudlose Gasse
Parkinson writes this film is ‘ Gritty and graphic, with little sentimentality or symbolism, the film succeeds because of the astute performances of Asta Nielsen and Greta Garbo and the dynamism generated by Pabst’s almost seamless editing’
This is an important point which Parkinson states was influenced by Eisenstein’s montage He states that ‘ Pabst’s ‘invisible’ or ‘continuity editing’ disguised fragmentation by cutting during a movement which was then completed, from a new perspective, in the next shot’
The film ‘The love of Jeanne Ney’ (1927) features an even more pronounced use of this technique which contains ‘ a two-minute sequence containing forty barely perceptible cuts across both subjective and objective action’ ibid.,p.62
Parkinson continues that Pabst uses ‘angle and composition, rather than camera movement and symbolism, to establish character and psychological truth’ ibid p.63
Carl Mayer seems to have been an important innovative figure in the 1920’s in Germany. ‘He conceived the idea for Berlin, Symphony of a Great City (1927) although it was later edited and refine by Walter Rutmann who ‘ exulting in the shapes and rhythms of daily life, edited Karl Freunds candid camera footage into a dazzling city symphony. ‘ ibid. p.63.
This was a different form of film unlike ‘educational documentary’ but rather an ‘abstract celebration of the city’. Critique.
People on Sunday
This is another example of a film devoid of a clear narrative. The structure could be described as abstract, subjectivity. Critique
All four directors of this film including Billy Wilder left Germany to go to Hollywood under the Parufamet agreement
The influence of Marinetti
He was an Italian philosopher who is regarded as the father of futurism and his thoughts had a huge influence on the arts and politics.
'The cinema, being itself visual, must above all fulfil the evolution of painting detach itself from reality, from photography, from the peaceful and solemn. It must become anti-graceful, deforming, impressionistic, synthetic dynamic , free wording’ ibid., p.64
The 1916 film ‘Vita Futurista’ was a collaboration between Arnaldo Ginna and Marinetti. It is interesting because of its use of Mirrors, superimpostion, split screens and dots handpainted onto the celluloid to distort their images’ ibid p.64
Here is a short clip. What do you notice?
French cinematic art
Louis Delluc, 1890 – 1924 (Impressionist – narrative avant garde)He is considered the ‘ father of French cinematic art’ ibid.,p64. The themes that Marinetti were echoed by Delluc. He is acknowledged as films first aesthetic theorist . He was initially hostile to film, believing that it just wasn’t comparable to the impressionistic poetry of Baudelaire, He was won over by the film work of Ince, Chaplin, the Swedes and the Expressionists.
Fundamentally he realised the potential of film and cinematography to ‘transform objects into symbols for thought and emotion.’
He preferred not to use detailed scripts in his work but rather challenged his audiences to understand the meaning, narrative through ‘ ambiguous arrangement of selective realism, subtle imagery and cinematic trickery’ ibid.,p.64
He also ‘ manipulated the temporal and spatial unity of his fatalistic urban dramas in order to convey place and atmosphere an depict inner passion’
Films include Fever (1921) (included below), Woman from Nowhere (1922), L’Inondation (1924)The work of Delluc has influenced French film makers ever since and established the characteristic visual style of French cinema.
Other filmmakers who were influenced by Delluc employed innovative techniques such as irises, masks, superimposition, filters, distorting lenses, vertiginous camera movements and rhythmic point of view editing to reinforce the disturbing ambiguity of their images. ‘
The techniques that the French filmmakers were employing were reminiscent of some of the techniques of the impressionist painters
Germaine Dulac (1882 – 1942)
Was influenced by Delluc and employed things such as soft focus and variegated speeds in ‘The Smiling Madame Beudet’ (1923) (Critique this plus the next film below)
This short French silent film was made in 1922, and directed by famed surrealist director Germaine Dulac. It is considered by many to be one of the first truly "feminist" films. It tells the story of an intelligent woman trapped in a loveless marriage.
‘The Seashell and the Clergyman’ 1927 uses chaotic incidences and grotesque images to portray sexual repression
The Seashell and the Clergyman (French: La Coquille et le clergyman) is considered by many to be the first surrealist film. It was directed by Germaine Dulac, from an original scenario by Antonin Artaud, and premiered in Paris on 9 February 1928. The film follows the erotic hallucinations of a priest lusting after the wife of a general.
Marcel L’Herbier (1890 – 1979)
His films are characterised by their abstract form and ‘ visual representation of the psyche’. They ‘incorporated Impressionistic and Cubist influences’ ibid.
Parkinson mentions several of his films including 'El Dorado' from 1921. But he states that the finest film was L’Argent from 1929. Critique
‘It is noted for its imaginative camera movements and dislocated editing’
The fall of the house of Usher
Jean Epstein 1928
In this film Epstein disregards narrative structure altogether. Critique .
Abel Gance (1889 – 1981)
He was heavily influenced by Delluc and Parkinson describes him as a ‘maverick’ ibid., p.65He was named as ‘the Griffith of France’ after the film ‘j’accuse’.
Here is a short clip from J'accuse (1919)
Here is an interview given by film historian Kevin Brownlow on Abel Gance talking about Gance's film Napoleon and his extraordinary use of camera mobility
Video article on French Impressionism
Video article on Futurism
La Roue (1922)
His 1915 film 'Le Folie de Docteur Tube (Dr Tube’s Mania') is described by Parkinson as an experiment in impressionism. Do you concur?
After ‘j’accuse’ he was keen to create films that were following on from Germaine Dulac’s approach of creating a ‘symphonic poem based on images’ in the film La Roue this is evident where ? Critique
Here is a video article on La Roue narrated by Kristin Thompson.
Kristin Thompson and Kevin B. Lee. Shooting Down Pictures video essay on Abel Gance's La roue."
This was originally 9 hours long but Pathé ordered it to be cut to just two and a half. It has an interesting structure ‘ based on accelerated and associative montage’ ibid., p.65
Jean Cocteau the French poet, author, playwright, artist and film maker was so impressed with La Roue that he stated ‘ There is cinema before and after La Roue as there is painting before and after Picasso’
This was a huge work which brought to film the life of Napoleon. Kevin Brownlow stated in 1979 ‘ the visual resources of the cinema have never been stretched further than in Napoléon vu par Abel Gance. The picture is an encyclopaedia of cinematic effects – a pyrotechnical display of what the silent film was capable of in the hands of a genius’ ibid., p.66
The techniques that Gance used to maintain fluidity and ‘subjective camera movements’ Gance, using a newly developed portable camera attached the camera ‘onto a galloping horses back, a pendulum, a flying football, and into plunging water proof box, while to achieve the vast panoramas that he would project onto triptych screens he mounted three synchronised cameras in an src. This polyvision process also enabled him to effect powerful lateral montages of contrasting or complementary images ’ibid., p.66
His editing was also ingenious and Parkinson describes it as being metaphorical ‘ at one point filling the screen with sixteen superimposed images’
Napoléon also featured the worlds first stereophonic sound track.
A review of Napoléan by
The second wave
(of the Avant Garde)
Louis Delluc died in 1924 but his Cinés clubs continued with his work to explore the abstract potential of film and in a quest to achieve cinema pur providing intellectual challenge through an absence of figurative meaning. The avant garde second wave sprung up.
Examples of work from this period are ‘Return to reason’ 1923 by the American photographer Man Ray
(born Emmanuel Radnitzky, August 27, 1890 – November 18, 1976)
was an American modernist artist who spent most of his career in Paris, France. A significant contributor to the Dada and Surrealist movements, although his ties to each were informal.
He produced major works in a variety of media but considered himself a painter above all. He was best known in the art world for his avant-garde photography, and he was a renowned fashion and portrait photographer. Ray is also noted for his work with photograms, which he called "rayographs" in reference to himself.
The second wave
The 1924 film ‘Entr’act’ involved several important artistic figures namely Eric Satie, Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp
'The complete film takes about 20 minutes using such techniques as watching people run in slow motion, watching things happen in reverse, looking at a ballet dancer from underneath, watching an egg over a fountain of water get shot and instantly become a bird and watching people disappear' (youtube) Parkinson states that this film combines cinema pur with comedy.
Luis Buñuel (1900 – 83)
He was a Spaniard rather than using Surrealism for comedic purposes used it to ‘ satirise and shock’ He collaborated with the famous surrealist artist Salvador Dali.
‘Un Chien andalou’ (1928 ) this work was according to Parkinson intended to be a ‘violent attack on Surrealist cinemas over dependence on Freudian psychology’.
‘Buñuel stated that Nothing in this film symbolises anything’ however looking at the film, there are plenty of shocking images
Here Buñuel did have a theme which recurred through his work the conflict between Sexual desire and religious and political repression. The films first showing in Paris provoked riots. He thought of the film as ‘a desperate and passionate call to murder’ André Breton who Parkinson refers to as the founder of surrealism called it the only authentically Surrealist film ever made
‘The passion of Joan of Arc (1927)’
Directed by Dane Carl and Theodor Dreyer and According to Parkinson the most important film of 1920's France
‘shot in sequence on panchromatic stock to enhance psychological realism the action consists of a series of uncompromising close-ups from symbolic angles of faces devoid of any makeup which contrasts the Maid’s serenity and sincerity with the duplicity of her accusers. Emotion is often conveyed in extreme close-ups of eyes and mouths, and similarly the courtroom is only defined by props, fragments of the set and the stark white lighting…..the cameraman Rudolph Maté made abrupt use of zooms, tilts and pans to shift dramatic emphasis. ‘
Parkinson is critical of the use of intertitles which he states disrupt the ‘visual expression, rhythm an pictorial unity’This film was banned in Britain because it portrayed the English soldiers in a bad way.
Early Cinema Elsewhere
British cinema itself was dominated by Hollywood. The English government passed an act in 1927 The Cinematograph Films Act which demanded that 30% of British Films had to occupy the domestic market. This meant that many directors just made quota quickies to make a living.Gainsborough Pictures in 1924 founded by Michael Ballon and the work of directors Alfred Hitchcock and Anthony Asquith changed things
Hollywood dominated most of world cinema in countries such as Mexico, Australia, Brazil, Argentina. Even in Egypt, the influence of America was felt and it was called ‘Hollywood on the Nile’ ibid p.70. China had funding from America. Only the Soviet Union and Japan resisted the domination of America.
Only a few months after the first Lumière projection in Paris, Brazilian filmmakers began to latch onto this new platform. Between 1900 to 1912, the Brazilian film artisanal industry begun to develop. This period, was known as the Bela Época , Brazilian films dominated the domestic market, and documentaries and newsreels constituted the most important filmic productions. Fiction films were realized according to the established genres of comedy, melodrama, and historical drama, generally adaptations of literary classics, as well as carnival and satirical musicals, which followed the popular traditions of the circus and the vaudeville of the nineteenth century.
However Brazilian cinema didn't sustain success due to a number of factors including lack of technical expertise, funding and an inability to compete with Hollywood. Here is a link to an excellent:
Early Japanese Cinema
A notable film from 20’s Japan was the Expressionist piece ‘ A page of Madness’ (1926)Director Teinosuke Kinugasa was influenced by Caligari’s expressionist stylistic and psychological intensity ibid,
‘A Page of Madness is a silent film by Japanese film director Teinosuke Kinugasa, made in 1926. It was lost for forty-five years until being rediscovered by Kinugasa in his storehouse in 1971. The film is the product of an avant garde group of artists in Japan known as the Shinkankaku-ha (or School of New Perceptions) who tried to overcome naturalistic representation
The film does not contain intertitles, making it difficult to follow for audiences today. The print existing today is missing nearly a third of what was shown in theaters in 1926. Showings in 1920s Japan would have included live narration by a storyteller or benshi as well as musical accompaniment. The famous benshi Musei Tokugawa narrated the film at the Musashinokan theater in Shinjuku in Tokyo’ youtube
Here is a discussion program on ‘a page of madness’
Early Russian Cinema
The first film studio opened in Russia in 1908 but was very much under the control of the Tsarist regime
Here is a good documentary on early Russian cinema
After the Bolshevik revolution there was an exodus of many Russion filmmakers to the West. Lenin realized the propaganda value of cinema. International disagreements about trade meant that there was a scarcity of film stock in Russia at this time. The young film maker Dziga Vertov filmed Kino-eye newsreels and were displayed in a fleet of agitiational propaganda trains. Russia was country of 160 million people with 100 different languages.
‘The man with the movie camera’ 1929
‘Here is a very interesting "art film" from Russia. Dziga Vertov's "The Man with a Movie Camera" is considered one of the most innovative and influential films of the silent era. Startlingly modern, this film utilizes a groundbreaking style of rapid editing and incorporates innumerable other cinematic effects to create a work of amazing power and energy. This is a powerful, totally visual film without title cards, actors or storyline. Released: September 8, 1929’
Parkinson writes’Vertov and his co-editor Elizaveta Svilova, used prismatic lens, dissolves, multiple superimpositions, split screens, tints, animation, micro cinematography and staccato editing, thus disregarding reality and entering the realm of ciné-poetry
Lev Kuleshov (1899 – 1970)
He was greatly influenced by Griffith and ‘He endlessly re-edited scenes from intolerance to illustrate both the value of a shot as a photographic representation of reality and how its meaning could be altered through montage’
His experiment in showing juxtaposing shots and noting the viewers subjective response is know as the Kuleshov effect.
This is a famous experiment where he took a shot of an impassive face of an actor Ivan Mozhukin and juxtaposed this shot with shots of a bowl of soup, a corpse in a coffin, and a child with a toy bear, appeared to register hunger, grief and joy respectively’ ibid.,p.73. He conceived the term creative geography after he had linked shots of a man , a woman, a Moscow street an the White House in Washington , D.C. into a logical sequence Thus he was showing how editing could create temporal an spatial unity.
Parkinson compares Kuleshov and Griffith by stating’ whereas Griffith had linked shots for narrative impact, Kuleshov’s work evinced that montage could also have a metaphorical or associational function, the power of which lay, not in the images themselves, but in the audiences perception of them.’ Ibid., p.73
The extraordinary adventures of Mr West 1924 by Kuleshov is the first anti American propaganda film depicts the visit by a Mr West and his body guard to the land of the evil Bolshevicks but through the course of the film comes to admire the Soviets.
Mikhailovich Eisenstein (1898 – 1948)
Following on from Kuleshov is Eisenstein who is a hugely influential figure in film history
He was born in Latvia and trained as an engineer before serving in the Red Army during the civil war (1918 -22) During the civil war he designed agit-prop posters and helped staging troop plays.
He worked in stage mostly and learned a lot about how to stage plays and how to combine stylization with improvisation. He seems interested with the concept of montage from the start and the first play he directed ‘ the wise man and his thinking was to have a ‘montage of attractions, units of impression combined into one whole that were mathematically calculated to produce certain emotional shocks’ibid.,p.73
Eistenstein watched a lot of Expressionist and Hollywood pictures and he worked under documentary director Esther Shub and Kuleshov. He also worked very closely with Eduard Tissé who was to become his regular cinematographer, to capture the realism of the locations.
Parkinson writes that ‘ what transformed ‘ kino-eye’ footage into the ‘kino-fist’ Eisenstein envisaged was the power of his editing’
http://kinofistproductions.com/kinofist.htmlHe was greatly influenced by Marx and his interest in the use of Montage mirrored the Maxist axiom of history and human experience to be a series of conflicts in which as thesis collides with an opposing force or antithesis, to produce a new phenomenon, or synthesis which is greater than its causal parts’Despite the effect of montage i.e. the collision of independent shots giving a film its dynamic it’s meaning only comes from audience perception
Intellectual montage is what most concerned Eisenstein.
This is the ‘ linking of contrasting shots to make ideological statements or express abstract ideas’ ibid,.p76
One example of this is in the film 'Strike' 1925 where there are shots of massacred workers juxtaposed with slaughtered cows.
Battleship Potemkin (1925)
A comparison between Eisensteins Battleship Potemkin (1925) and a typical Hollywood movie is interesting it is 86 minutes long and contains 1346 shots compare with a typical 90 minute Hollywood feature.
It’s a huge masterpiece. Possibly the greatest ever montage scene in cinema history is act four massacre of protesting citizens.The sequence took a week to film and has an average shot length of 52 frames, or 2 seconds.
Parkinson describes the scene’ inter cutting moments of personal tragedy into the scene’s documentary realism, Eisenstein forced the viewer to empathise with, as well as witness, the events through his use of long shots, close-ups, objective and subjective angles, distorted lenses, variegated speeds, jump cuts and static shots’. Ibid.,p.77
The General Line (1929) in this film there is great use of the overtonal montage and Eisenstein refers to this as polyphonic or harmonic montage. He had fallen foul with the authorities by now so was forced to go to Hollywood where his unhappiness continued.
Eisenstein V's Pudovkin
They had differing views on film theory although they both agreed that ‘ the foundation of film art is editing’ .
They disagreed on what was the best method of conveying cinematic meaning.
Pudovkin, who was closely associated with Kuleshov didn’t favour the dialectical approach of collision. He preferred a Constructivist approach where shots were linked ‘ the expression that the film s shot is entirely false, and should disappear from the language. The film is not shot, but built, built up from the separate strips of celluloid that are its raw material’ ibid. p.78
Another difference between them was that Pudovkin preferred to have a central identifiable character whereas Eisenstein favoured ‘mass heroes although they both agreed the importance of editing when determining the role of performer. Because Pudovkin had a more human approach resembling that of Griffith, his films were the more popular with the Soviet audiences. In 1928 both directors agreed a manifesto on the use of non-naturalistic sound.
Moussinac wrote that ‘ a film of Eisenstein’s resembles a scream, one of Pudovkin’s a song’
Here is a documentary on Pudovkin
Here is Pudovkins film Mother
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
Hypocrites is an amazingly complex film in both narrative and technique, following the parallel stories of an early Christian ascetic and a modern minister, with most actors in dual roles. Gabriel (Courtney Foote) is a medieval monk who devotes himself to completing a statue of "Truth," only to be murdered by a mob when his work turns out to be an image of a naked woman. The contemporary Gabriel is the pastor of a large urban congregation for whom religion is a matter of appearances, not beliefs. The hypocrisy of the congregation is exposed by a series of vignettes in which the Naked Truth, literally portrayed by a nude woman, reveals their appetites for money, sex, and power.
Hypocrites was a shocking and controversial film whose release was held up for many months by the difficulty of distributing a film with full nudity. Weber's sincerity and reputation allowed her to use something that in the hands of a male director would have been considered scandalous and immoral. Widely admired at the time for extraordinary use of multiple exposures and intricate editing, Hypocrites propelled Weber to the front ranks of silent directors."
Critique 'Lady Windermere's Fan'
Ernst Lubitsch 1925
Lillian Gish talks about her experience under the great Swedish director Victor Sjöström in the 1928 film 'The Wind'
Critique the phantom chariot 1921 ' Victor Sjostrom'
A clip from Cabiria demonstrating a tracking shot
Short explanation on Futurism
'The process of looking at ideas and information critically, taking nothing for granted, but questioning accuracy, motivation and inferences, and seeking new understanding, connections and insights.'
'Although critical thinking can seem like a slow process because it is precise, as you hone your skills you will find that in fact they save you time: you learn to identify the most relevant information quickly and accurately'
This is this film Shattered by Carl Mayer from 1921.
'Key film in Germany's kammerspiel (chamber play) movement, which emphasized naturalism with a minimum number of characters. A railway worker's daughter is seduced by her father's supervisor. When the man abandons her, the girl's father takes revenge' you tube.
The unchained camera
( Taken from Cinema Europe - youtube)
Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney
(The love of Jeanne Ney) Complete
Murnau 1926 - Faust. ' A supreme example of German fantasy'
Review of Battleship Potemkin from Cinema Europe
The Odessa Steps scene
The cabinet of Dr. Caligari complete
Further work: Look at Cinema Europe 4
Clip from Murnau's film Faust - 1926
FAUST - F. W. Murnau 1926 (Complete)
Short clip from 'Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney (The love of Jeanne Ney') 1927 - Pabst
Review of La Roue from Cinema Europe:
Review of Napoléan in Cinema Europe, episode 4
Review of Jean D'Arc from Cinema Europe series part 4