History of Cinema Essay
History of Cinema
From the very beginning its existence the cinema has created works of art worthy to stand comparison with the masterpieces of painting, music, literature, and theatre. Even more than that, the cinema is irremovably embedded in the whole history of the twentieth century. It has not only shaped but also reflected the reality of the times. The cinema gave also form to the aspirations and dreams of people all over the world. This work will focus on the main historical factors and the conditions surrounding the history of film-making.
However, it is also the case that it is simply impossible, in a work of this size, to do justice to all the many individuals, technologies and processes that have played noteworthy roles in the history of cinema. The history is not only interesting in its own right; it can also illuminate with particular clarity how the cinema works as a whole. This work consists of four main parts: the Early times, the Silent Cinema, the Sound Cinema, and the Modern Cinema from 1960 to the modern times. In each part the paper looks at history of the cinema in general.
As far as possible this paper will cover each development from a broad international perspective. The Early Cinema From the beginning the cinema developed quickly. What in 1890 had been just a dream had by 1913 grown into a whole industry. First films were just moving snapshots. They were only one minute in length and nearly all consisted of just one shot. By 1905, the films were usually five to ten minutes in length and included changes of site and camera position to create a story or show a theme.
Later, in the early 1910s, when the first ‘feature-length’ films appeared, there little by little emerged new techniques for handling complex stories. At this time the process of creating of films had itself grown into a large-scale business. Specialist offices had emerged, exceptionally intended to the making of films. During the 1910s the heart of supply became Los Angeles – Hollywood. The early cinema of from the mid- 1890s to the mid-1910s is often called ‘pre-Hollywood’ cinema. The cinema of this period has also been called pre-classical.
Actually the styles of filmmaking common in the early years have never been completely shifted by Hollywood or classical modes, even in America. Many films continued to be pre- or at any rate non-Hollywood in their style for a long time. But it is right to say that much of the cinema development in the years from 1906 or 1907 can be considered as laying the ground for what later became the Hollywood industry. Silent Cinema On the contrary to popular belief, the history of animation did not begin with Walt Disney’s sound film Steamboat Willie in 1928.
Before that film there was a popular tradition, a film industry, and a vast number of films – considering nearly 100 of Disney’s (Hayward 234). The general history of the animated film begins with the use of transient trick effects in films around the turn of the century. As several genres emerged (Westerns, chase films, etc. ). During 1906-10, there appeared at the same time films made all or mostly by the animation technique. Since most films were a single reel. There was little programmatic difference between the animated films and others. But the multi-reel film trend developed after around 1912.
Animated films retained their one-reel-or-less length. Until the First World War, animation was a completely international phenomenon. However, after about 1915 the producers in the United States began to control the world market. In a quarter of a century, the silent cinema created a tradition of film comedy. The cinema arrived at the end of a century that had witnessed a rich development of popular comedy. Later, the new proletarian audiences of the great cities of Europe and America found their own theatre in music hall, variety, and musical comedy. With these popular audiences, comedy became constant demand.
When life was bad, laughter was a comfort; when it was good, they wanted to enjoy themselves just the same. Famous comedy mime troupes of the music halls, like the Martinettis, the Ravels, the Hanlon- Lees, and Fred Karno’s Speechless Comedians, can be seen as direct predecessors of one-reel slapstick films. Karno, in fact, was to train two of the greatest film comedians, Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel (Hayward 56- 58). The term ‘documentary’ did not become popular use until the late 1920s and 1930s. In the beginning it was applied to various kinds of ‘creative’ non-fiction screen practice in the post-First World War, classical cinema era.
Originating films in the category have typically comprised Robert Flah erty ‘s Nanook of the North ( 1922), various Soviet films of the 1920s such as Dziga Vertov’s The Man with the Movie Camera (Chelovek s kinoapparatom, 1929), Walter Ruttmann’s 11Berlin: Symphony of a City (Berlin: die Sinfonie der GroBstadt, 1927), and John Grierson’s Drifters ( 1929) (Cook 89). Early documentarians used the magic lantern to create complex and often sophisticated programs out of a succession of projected photographic images.
The images were accompanied by a live narration, with an occasional use of music and sound effects. By the turn of the century, films were gradually replacing slides. This in turn gave rise to the new terminology. The documentary tradition preceded film and has continued into the era of television and video. In this way it was redefined in the light of technological innovations, as well as in the context of shifting social and cultural forces. British films of the period were often quite sophisticated, particularly in the comic and actuality fields.
Narrative editing, too, was often innovative. Sound Cinema The development from silent to sound cinema marks a period of revolution in the history of cinema. The revolution 4can be easily dated from 6 October 1927, with the New York premiere of Warner Bros. ‘ The Jazz Singer in which Al Jolson pronounces the immortal line ‘You ain’t heard nothin’ yet’ with more or less perfect synchronization between his lips in the film and his voice recorded in parallel on a disc (Hjort 90). Filmmakers began to use innovative sound technology that produced panic in cinema industry.
In the same time it encouraged experiments and hopes too. While it decreased popularity of Hollywood’s films for several years, it stimulated a rebirth of national film production all over the world. This period in the history of cinema has specific features that make it unique in comparison with the years before and after. The coming of sound itself, and its world-wide implications is the first look. Then the focus is on the world of the studios, how the system operated – particularly in Hollywood – and how different aspects of the cinema were combined together during the studio period.
The studios were not entirely free to make films simply for the market. The system also encountered problems of how to regulate itself to take account of political, social, and moral concern. While other countries experienced political censorship of varying degrees of severity, the Hollywood cinema suffered relatively little interference from central government. The Hollywood was instead faced with carefully orchestrated demands for a moral clean-up and the risk of intervention by local censor boards (Neale 78-79).
Along with spoken dialogue, the major innovation of the sound cinema was synchronized music. The art of musical illustration that was used during the silent period was changed by the synchronized music. A considerable difference was, certainly, that filmmakers began to use music as a part of the fictional world. For instance, music could now be introduced when the film showed an orchestra or an actor performing a song. Then, sound film would use music not only to the picture, but to dialogue as well. Music became pure background.
Composition, performance, and recording were all subject to studio control, and the production of musical tracks of high quality can be counted one of the greatest achievements of the system. Outside Hollywood music tracks were often less polished. But directors were more often free to work with composers of their own choice, and Sergei Prokofiev’s music for Eisen stein ‘s Alexander Nevsky (1938) provides an interesting contrast to two classic Warner Bros. scores of the same period – Erich Korngold’s The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and Max Steiner’s Casablanca (1943).
Modern Cinema The most significant change in world cinema since 1945 was that produced by the breakdown of the Hollywood studio system and of its competitors and imitators elsewhere. By the early 1960s the Hollywood system was in severe disarray. Declining audiences and a series of costly flops left the major studios on the verge of bankruptcy or open to hostile take-over. While the studios experienced difficulties, new enterprises such as American International Pictures emerged. These companied made low-budget movies that were intended for the new youth and drive-in markets. Many new genres came into being.
One of such innovations was the road movie. It proved to be influential not only on more mainstream American films but throughout the world. The mainstream itself was forced to innovate, drawing inspiration both from the down-market competition and from the new cinemas emerging in Europe. In Europe the most important single event was the sudden explosion on to the scene of the French New Wave – the Nouvelle Vague – with first features by Claude Chabrol, Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, and Alain Resnais following each other in quick succession in 1958 and 1959 (Hjort 123).
The New Wave had been briefly preceded in Britain by the ‘Free Cinema’ movement, and was followed by the ‘Young German Cinema’ which announced its existence in the Oberhausen Manifesto of 1962 and went on to renovate the lackluster West German cinema later in the decade. In Italy the change was less sudden but none the less significant, with the creation of Federico Fellini’s La dolce vita and Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’avventura in 1960. It was beginning of a new art cinema. Changes in the 1960s were not confined to Europe.
The Cuban Revolution in 1959 gave an impetus to the growth of new cinemas throughout Latin America, notably in Brazil (Cook 45). In Japan the studio system which had nurtured the work of the great masters such as Mizoguchi and Ozu was also in crisis, and in the changed situation allowed for the entry on to the world stage of directors like Nagisa Oshima, who was to play a role in Japanese cinema similar to that of Godard in France. The new cinemas greatly extended the boundaries of film art. They brought new audiences into the cinema, for whom films assumed an unprecedented cultural importance.
Throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s the cinema spoke more directly to these mainly young audiences than did any of the more traditional art forms. But outside Italy, France and England the innovate cinema with the new realities was not popular. Because of the limits on the size of the audience, the new cinema had to be low-budget or propped up by subsidy (sometimes both) in order to survive (Guneratne 67). The ‘new’ period in Hollywood cinema begins from the 1975 release of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws.
The film signaled the birth of a new, younger generation of Hollywood directors. Born mainly in the 1940s, they both studied the films of classical Hollywood and were influenced by the filmmakers of world cinema. George Lucas and Steven Spielberg made blockbusters with classic principles. One of the most famous filmmaker in the 1980s has been Woody Allen. Allen has made famous films, such as Interiors (1978) and Stardust Memories (1980). Conclusion There exists recognition of the fact that from the beginning the cinema has developed in remarkably similar ways all over the world.
But it is also recognized that from the end of the First World War onwards, one film industry – the American – has played a main role in the creation of world’s cinema. However, many nations have created their own, culturally identifiable, genre films that proved extremely popular during the 1970s and 1980s. In India, for instance, a remarkable 250 film-making companies, using more than 60 studios, continued to produce 700 feature films a year throughout the 1980s (Kindem 23). The central government encouraged the making of Indian films by requiring all commercial cinemas to screen at least one Indian film per show.
A star system, much like Hollywood’s of the 1930s and 1940s, is strong in all parts of the world. Indeed Indian stars working on several productions at the same time can become enormously wealthy. The nations survived mainly by learning from Hollywood cinema. At the same time Europe produced a product that corresponded to needs that Hollywood cinema could not supply. Asian countries have been strong producers of film. Hong Kong, a country of only 5 million people, produces more films than Hollywood.
In the 1990s Hong Kong’s citizens watched Hollywood and native productions in about equal numbers. In the 1980s Hong Kong martial arts films were distributed world-wide in large numbers. With broadcasting systems combined with the rise of satellite-distributed services Hollywood penetrates even these markets. Hollywood produced the most famous icons in the world such as Steven Spielberg and Arnold Schwarzenegger. With its international control, the Hollywood corporations could and will define standards of film style, form, and content.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 21 September 2016
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