Film Exam Study Notes (2 Half of Term 2)
Chapter 11: Conventional Film History – Evolutions, Masterpieces and Periodization
Evolutionary movie histories establish points of origin – that is, movies or events that mark the beginnings
of cinema. There are three kinds of historical origins commonly identifies with early cinema: the
technological origins, artistic origins, and economic origins.
Scientific/ Technological Origins
The Lumieres rehected the peephole technology of the Kinetoscope to project movies for public viewings.
On March 22, 1895, the brothers showed Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory. More of their films include
Arrival of a Train at a Station. This was the beginning of cinema history proper.
According to this perspective, cinematic images are foreshadowed in cave drawings, Egyptian hieroglyphics,
and stories found on tapestries. These images reflect the creativity of individuals and societies and provide
the pleasures of seeing human history re-created in pictures and words.
Since the rise of a middle class in the eighteenth century, art, entertainment, and technology have had an
important economic dimension. Throughout the nineteenth century, institutions such as vaudeville halls and
popular literature identified a growing public appetite for amusements, encouraged by the increased leisure
time and disposable incomes of the middle and lower classes.
The depiction of reality on film becomes more accurate as film technology becomes more advanced.Along
with the evolution of realistic narratives and characters, a major technical advance in cinematic realism was
the arrival of sound (refer back to notes on sound).
Certain directors began identifying themselves with specific genres, starts and styles so that they could
efficiently reproduce and make money (look up notes on auteurs)
Vertical integration – the studies owned both the production companies and the theaters, and they could
dictate that exhibitors book less desirables films to in order to get the ones they wanted to show.
Studio Classics and Classicists: 1930’s
The term “classical” suggests movies that work efficiently within established formulas while also infusing
those formulas with unusual creativity and artistry. Example: John Ford’s Stagecoach (1939) combines
establishing shots of the frontier with narrative formulas. Stagecoach represents the structural perfection of
the western. It also documents the struggle for a national identity across a uniquelyAmerican terrain of
violent frontiers and dramatic personal conflicts.
Transitional and Turbulent Visions: 1940’s/1950’s
Films in this era such as Orson Welles’Citizen Kane are admired in part because they challenge the realism,
continuity, and clarity of classical Hollywood cinema. The narrative structure and style reflect the
fragmentations and divisions of a character through the use of multiple points of view and complex shots
that create tensions and contradictions within single images.
- exaggerated emotions and visual style both elicit and undermine the intense pathos at the heart of
Rebels and Visionaries, Dealers and Deals: 1960’s – 2000’s
The most recent era of Hollywood film-making, from about 1980 to the present, has been driven by deals
and deal makers, individuals whose commercial and entrepreneurial expertise, as much as, or more than, their artistic ability, accounts for the success of the movie (think Brad Pitt, ect). In 1980’s/90’s directors
begin to have a lot to deal with the success of the movie.
Film History as Periodization
Another important and conventional way to organize film history is through historical periodization. With
this method, the timeline of Hollywood history is divided into segments that describe groups of years during
which movies share thematic and stylistic concerns.
Early Cinema (1895-1913)
- Rapid development and experimentation in filmmaking before Hollywood settled into more defined
- In the US, massive industrialization attracted large number of immigrants and rural citizens to urban
centers where the center of the movie industry began
- Industrialization fostered the growth of leisure time and commercialized leisure activities
- In 1910: the rise of the star or celebrity
- 1907-1913: the beginning of the international dominance of Hollywood
- First movies relied on the impact of a single shot of a specific scene or event
Classical Cinema (1913-1945)
- Divided into two parts: silent and sound films. The first part encompasses Hollywood’s silent period
from 1913 to 1927. NYC becomes the new cultural center of the world
- The US began to assert itself as both a thwerful global force after WWI as well as the embodiment
of the progressive promise of the 20 century.
- Hollywood itself came of age in the 1910’s and 20’s with 3 major historical developments: 1) the
standardization of film production 2) the establishment of the feature film and 3) the cultural and
economic expansion of the movies throughout the society
- The feature-film model become the dominant commercial practice of the 20 century and is still in
- Movies found more sophisticated subject manner and more elegant theatres for distribution,
reflecting their rising cultural status and their ability to attract audiences
- The most pronounces and important aesthetic changes during the Early Classical Period included 1)
the full development of narrative realism as the center of film form and 2) integration of the viewer’s
perspective into the editing/narration
- The second part of the classical cinema period, from 1927-1945 brought sound to film and represents
the golden age of Hollywood. The Great Depression, triggered in part by the stock market collapse of
1929, defined theAmerican cultural experience at the beginning of the 1930’s
- Hollywood followed industrial shifts with two important stylistic changes 1) the elaboration of movie
dialogue and the growth of characterization in films and 2) the prominence of generic formulas in
constructing film narratives
Postwar Cinema (1946-1965)
- Defined by several overriding historical events and motifs: WWII (the inhuman nightmare of Nazi
concentration camps and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki), doubts about human nature and
social progress. Unease after the war permeated traditional institutions, especially the family and
sexual/social relationships. The Cold War with the Soviet Union/ Communist bloc began an extended
period of tension
- The civil rights movements began to challenge social injustice
- Three key events defined the period of postwar Hollywood: 1) after the 1948 Paramount decision, the
traditional power of the studios dissolved 2) the arrival and rapid spread of television in the 1950’s
and 3) in 1968 the Production Code standards were relaxed and rating systems were introduced - Movies started to explore more controversial themes and issues as part of a new standard of realism
and developing a more self-conscious and exaggerated sense of image composition and narrative
- These topics led naturally to more unstable and unpredictable characters and narratives as well as to
sometimes subversive and violent visual styles (ex: Psycho 1960)
Contemporary Cinema (1965-1975)
- The movie industry shifted noticeable in response to four forces: 1) youth audiences becoming the
dominant group of moviegoers 2) European art films becoming an increasing influence in Hollywood
3) globalization and 4) the arrival of conglomerates, blockbusters, cable and home video.
- The elevation of image spectacles and special effects, and the fragmentation and reflexivity of
Chapter 12: Global and Local – Inclusive Histories of the Movies
Film History Before WWII
Early films were not necessarily fiction films, but films that delighted in the new medium’s capacity to
simply show things – actualities showing real events, scenic views, and brief skits
- This era dubbed the “cinema of attractions” by Tom Gunning was not a false start on the way to a
more sophisticated storytelling form
1. Soviet Silent Films
- The early internationalism of the cinema allowed stylistic innovations in one country to have an
- From about 1917 to 1931, Soviet silent films provided a major break with the entertainment history
of the movies
- This movement developed out of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and suggests its distance from the
assumptions and aims of the capitalist economics of Hollywood resulting in 1) an emphasis on
documentary and historical subjects and 2) a political concept of cinema centered on audience
- Sergei Eisentstein’s The Battleship Potemkin (1925) quickly became the most renowned film outside
- Display of dialectical montage which shows how conflicting or unrelated images can be linked
together to generate an emotional, intellectual and political understanding of real events
2. German Expressionistic Cinema
- From 1918-1929
- Detoured movies from their realist drive, with aim