Casablanca / Alfred Hitchcock / Citizen Kane

Cinema: A History Of Film

The history of film began in the late 19th century, with the invention of 'magic lantern' optical toys (such as the Phenakistoscope and the Zoetrope) which presented short, repetitive animations exploiting the eye's persistence of vision (a phenomenon first reported by Peter Mark Roget in 1824). Coleman Sellers modified the Zoetrope, replacing its hand-drawn images with photographs, creating the Kinematoscope in 1861. Henry Renno Heyl then projected a series of Kinematoscope photographs, using his Phasmatrope device, in 1870.

Emil Reynaud invented a Zoetrope-like device called the Praxinoscope, which functioned as both a camera and a projector. Although Reynaud's images were all hand-drawn rather than photographic, they were presented on strips of celluloid (rather than on the discs used by all previous devices). Reynaud called his machine Theatre Optique, and used it to project Pantomimes Lumineuses presentations. His first public screening was a projection of Pauvre Pierrot (1892). Similarly, in 1886, William Friese-Greene collaborated with John Arthur Roebuck Rudge on a Biophantascope capable of projecting magic lantern slides in rapid succession.

Eadweard Muybridge used a Zoopraxiscope - a series of cameras, operated in rapid succession - to photograph the movements of a horse's legs. His results, published in 1878, seem in retrospect to be prototypical (albeit horizontal) film strips. Etienne-Jules Marey enhanced Muybridge's technique, creating a single camera capable of capturing a series of rapid exposures which he called Chronophotographie. Otto Anschutz invented a device capable of projecting Chronophotographie images in rapid sequence; he first demonstrated this Electrotachyscope in Berlin in 1894.


The very first moving photographic images were filmed in 1888. Louis Le Prince, using a camera he had invented himself, recorded approximately two seconds of 'actuality' footage known as Roundhay Garden Scene in Leeds, England. Le Prince also projected his footage, from a paper filmstrip, using projectors he designed himself. Le Prince built his first projector in Paris in 1887, and produced two further models in Leeds later that year. His projectors were patented in 1888.

Projection speeds for silent films were not standardised. Each of Le Prince's devices projected at a different rate: twelve, sixteen, and twenty frames-per-second. As early cameras and projectors were hand-cranked, frame-rate consistency was not always maintained, though sixteen frames-per-second is accepted as an industry average for silent films. Subsequently, twenty-four frames-per-second became the standard speed for sound films.


Thomas Edison, inventor of the cylinder phonograph, also experimented with cylindrical film recordings, using a Kinetoscope camera developed with his assistant, WKL Dickson. In 1893, after modifications, the Kinetoscope was consolidated as a hand-cranked machine displaying celluloid filmstrips to individual viewers, known as a Kinetograph; the first film shown to the public in this manner was Blacksmith Scene (1893). A year later, Charles Francis Jenkins invented the Phantoscope projector in Indiana, and refined it with Thomas Armat. Their Phantoscope patent was then sold to Edison, who renamed it the Vitascope and used it to project Kinetograph films in 1896.

In early 1895, the brothers Gray and Otway Latham developed and publicly demonstrated a film-projection system in New York. The Lathams were assisted by WKL Dickson, who had also worked with Edison, and their device was known as a Panopticon.

In Berlin, the brothers Max and Emil Skladowsky designed a Bioskop camera which recorded and projected two simultaneous images, each at eight frames-per-second therefore creating the illusion of sixteen frames-per-second projection. Their Bioskop was demonstrated to the public in late 1895.

Despite numerous antecedents (such as Louis Le Prince, Charles Francis Jenkins, the Lathams, and the Skladowskys), the brothers Louis and Auguste Lumiere are generally credited as the pioneers of projected film. The Lumieres utilised a Cinematographe camera/projector, patented by Leon Bouly in 1893 (originally called a Cynematograph, in 1892), to project moving images onto a large cinema screen.

The first film the Lumieres projected was La Sortie Des Usines Lumiere A Lyon, in Paris at the very end of 1895. The Lumiere's early films were all brief 'actualites' and 'scenics', documentaries detailing events from everyday life, the sole exception being their short comedy Le Jardinier: L'Arroseur Arrose, also from 1895, technically the first film with a fictional narrative. The significance was not the content of these films but rather the medium itself. Like still photography, x-rays, air travel, and high-speed land travel, all popularised at the turn of the 20th century, the cinema offered a new perspective from which to view the world. The early films of the Lumieres and others are now regarded as a 'cinema of attractions', offering novelty and spectacle rather than narrative.

When the Lumieres' films were screened in Japan, they were accompanied by live narration performed by 'benshi', and each sequence was projected on a continuous loop (a technique known as Tasuke). The benshi originally introduced each film by providing an explanation of its exposition, though later their performances became more sophisticated. Actors would stand behind the screen, interpreting the film as a live drama, known as Kagezerifu.

42nd Street / Anaemic Cinema / Le Voyage Dans La Lune


Cinema's exponential technological advancement was demonstrated in 1900 by Raoul Gromoin-Sanson, who unveiled his Cineorama system. Cineorama featured an enormous panoramic screen, onto which were projected ten simultaneous images side by side. The result was certainly spectacular, though the flammability of nitrate film reels, coupled with the logistics of synchronising ten projectors, curtailed the system's commercial potential. It would later influence Abel Gance's Napoleon and Hollywood's Cinerama process.

Primitive cinema initially consisted of 'actualities' (from the Lumieres; known in Latin America as 'actualidades') and Photoscenes (simple recordings of popular entertainers, released by Gaumont), though French stage magician Georges Melies sought to fully explore the camera's potential for illusion. He used editing and trick photography to create films in which objects and people appear, disappear, multiply, explode, grow, and shrink. These stop-motion effects influenced early cartoon animators such as James Stuart Blackton (Humorous Phases Of Funny Faces, 1906) and Emile Cohl (Fantasmagorie, 1907). Melies's film screenings were accompanied by narration provided by 'bonimenteurs', similar to Japanese benshi.

Melies's masterpiece was a science-fiction tale about a group of curious Victorians exploring the lunar surface, Le Voyage Dans La Lune (1902). It was based on a story by Jules Verne, who inspired many such narratives of fantastical journeys. Le Voyage was more than ten times longer than any previous film, a remarkable attempt at a sustained narrative which predates Edwin S Porter's early western The Great Train Robbery (1903). The first feature-length film was made in Australia, Charles Tait's The Story Of The Kelly Gang (1906).


DW Griffith's early short films (such as the gangster film The Musketeers Of Pig Alley, 1912) were the first to combine all the new narrative devices, including cross-cutting, multiple camera positions, inter-titles, and close-ups. Griffith can thus be seen as the first 'modern' director, whose greatest achievements were the historical epics The Birth Of A Nation (1915) and Intolerance (1916; subtitled A Sun-Play Of The Ages: A Drama Of Comparisons and Love's Struggle Throughout The Ages).

It was, however, the Italian studios that produced the very first epic films, including Quo Vadis? (Enrico Guazzoni, 1913) and the stunning Cabiria: Visione Storica Del Terzo Secolo AC (Giovanni Pastrone, 1914). In contrast to these historical epics was Arnaldo Ginna's film Vita Futurista (1916), part of the Futurismo (Futurism) movement and directed according to the cinema manifesto published by FT Marinetti in L'Italia Futurista. The manifesto envisioned Futurist cinema as an amalgamation (a "polyexpressive symphony") of other forms of visual art: "Painting + sculpture + plastic dynamism + words-in-freedom + composed noises + architecture + synthetic theatre = Futurist cinema" (1916).

Screen comedian Charlie Chaplin emigrated from London to Hollywood. There, he directed and starred in a series of single-reel silent comedies, including The Tramp (1915), which made him the most recognisable film star in the world. Together with DW Griffith, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks, Chaplin founded the independent studio United Artists in 1919. Pickford and Fairbanks were married, and Fairbanks specialised in swashbuckling roles such as The Mark Of Zorro (Fred Niblo, 1920) which anticipate those of Errol Flynn in the 1930s (The Adventures Of Robin Hood; Michael Curtiz, 1938). United Artists was eventually sold in 1952, and later merged with MGM.

The world-famous stage actress Sarah Bernhardt starred in the Elizabethan costume drama Les Amours De La Reine Elisabeth (Louis Mercanton, 1912), one of France's Film d'Art productions. The first example was L'Assassinat Du Duc de Guise (1908), directed by Andre Calmettes and Charles Le Bargy. Films d'Art were significant for their extended running-times, though their static camerawork and stage-like sets were more regressive than innovative. A similar trend existed in Germany, with the popularity of Autorenfilme (literary adaptations), starting with Der Andere (Max Mack, 1912). The Autorenfilme became increasingly elaborate, leading to opulent costume dramas known as Kostumefilme, a trend begun by Joe May's Veritas Vincit (1918) though dominated by Ernst Lubitsch (notably his Mme du Barry, 1919).

The brief period between 1908 and 1911 was seen as a 'bela epoca' for Brazilian cinema, among the most popular productions being Fitas Cantatas films accompanied by live singers. Similar to Brazil's Fitas Cantatas were the Japanese Rensa-Geki films, in which each sequence would be followed by a short dramatic scene (an innovation first introduced in 1916). Other Japanese genres of the period were: Nonsensu-Mono (comedies), Matatabi-Mono (films about wandering outlaws, such as Hiroshi Inagaki's Tenka Taiheiki from 1928), Bunka Eiga (documentaries, later called Kiroku Eiga), and Jiji Eiga (also documentaries, though specifically jingoistic).

1920s: The Silent Era

Charlie Chaplin's silent comedy shorts of the 1910s developed into feature-films in the 1920s and 1930s, notably The Gold Rush (1925) and City Lights (1931). (Chaplin resisted the industry's transition to sound and dialogue, though he did use sound effects and synchronised scores.) Buster Keaton's The General (1927, directed by Keaton and Clyde Bruckman) is another enduring silent comedy. Other Hollywood stars of the era included sex-symbol Rudolph Valentino, whose most popular leading role was in the exotic drama The Sheik (George Melford, 1921). In contrast to the decadence of Hollywood's emerging star and studio systems was Robert Flaherty's humanist documentary Nanook Of The North (1922), praised by John Grierson who wrote one of the first analyses of documentary films (First Principles Of Documentary, 1932). Grierson has been credited with coining the term 'documentary', though he disputes this: "Documentary is a clumsy description, but let it stand. The French who first used the term only meant travelogue."

American film production in the early 1920s was increasingly consolidated around a small number of film studios, all based in Hollywood, which became synonymous with the American film industry. This system of classical Hollywood studio production survived until the 1960s, when it would be challenged by the increasing popularity of television and the rise of independent film production.

Hollywood's first blockbuster of the post-silent era was the 'talkie' The Jazz Singer (Alan Crosland, 1927), as its sporadic lines of spoken dialogue caused an instant sensation. Oskar Messter had produced Tonbilders (films with synchronised sound) in the 1900s, and, while The Jazz Singer may have been technically inferior to these earlier experimental sound films, its commercial success led directly to the demise of silent cinema.

Erich von Stroheim, who emigrated from Austria to America, directed the epic Greed (1924), though it was cut by the studio from seven hours to two hours. French director Abel Gance's films (notably La Roue from 1923 and the stunning 'biopic' Napoleon from 1927) were similarly extravagant. Napoleon had a running-time of over five hours, and was projected using the Polyvision system: three screens were used, enabling incredible panoramic images to be presented. Polyvision was influenced by the ten-projector panoramas of the French Cineorama system, and it inspired the American Cinerama process of the 1950s. Similar effects were later achieved using split-screen techniques, as in Richard L Bare's Wicked, Wicked (1973; filmed in Duo-Vision).

With the introduction of sustained narratives to Japanese cinema, the country's film industry began to polarise into two distinct styles: Gendai-Geki (dramas with contemporary settings, initially influenced by German Expressionism and also known as Gendai-Mono) and Jidai-Geki (period dramas influenced by Kyu-Geki historical films, also known as Jidai-Mono). Kichizo Chiba's Onoga Tsumi (1909) is one of the earliest examples of Gendai-Geki.

One of the earliest Jidai-Geki films is Chushingura (1907), by Ryo Konishi. Another, Bansho Kanamori's Yuki-Yoe Shi: Murasaki Zukin (1923), is also an early example of the Ken-Geki genre (Samurai sword-fighting films, also known as Chambara). Daisuke Ito's Chuji Tabi Nikki: Goyo Hen (1927) represents the pinnacle of early Jidai-Geki cinema and is also a Yakuza-Geki prototype. (Yakuza films, or Yakuza-Eiga, were initially chivalrous and known as Ninkyo-Eiga, a trend initiated in 1964 by Shingehiro Ozawa's Bakuto; in the 1970s, they became more realistic, a Jitsuroku-Eiga style popularised in 1973 by Kinji Fukasaku's Jingi Naki Tatakai).

Shomin-Geki films (comedies of social observation about lower-middle-class life, also known as Shoshimin-Geki) include Yasujiro Shimazu's Otosan (1923). The Shomin-Geki social comedies led to a series of satirical comedies known as Modan-Mono, such as Yutaka Abe's Ashi Ni Sawatta Onna (1926).

A group of overtly Marxist films, known as Keiko-Eiga, were swiftly suppressed by the Japanese authorities. Amongst them was Kenji Mizoguchi's Tokai Kokyogaku (1929). One of the final Keiko-Eiga films was Shigekichi Suzuki's Nani Gakanojo Wo So Saretaka (1930), the highest-grossing film in Japanese silent cinema.

Das Cabinet Des Dr Caligari / Metropolis / Nosferatu

Weimar Expressionism

German Expressionismus (Expressionism), the cinema's first avant-garde movement, emphasised atmosphere at the expense of realism. Angular, distorted designs, including artificial light and shadow formations, were painted directly onto the set walls. Actors were encouraged to create wildly stylised performances. Unconventional camera angles were employed. Elements of the Expressionist style would later appear in the films of Orson Welles, in Universal's 1930s horror films, and in Film Noir.

Fritz Lang's superproduction Metropolis (1927) almost bankrupted Germany's premier studio, UFA. Lang also made the chilling M (1931), and later produced a series of Hollywood thrillers including The Big Heat (1953). FW Murnau directed Nosferatu: Eine Symphonie Des Grauens (1921) and the naturalistic Kammerspielfilm Der Letzte Mann (1924) in Germany, and Sunrise: A Song Of Two Humans (1927) in America, only to be killed in a road accident a few years later.

A series of German Neue Sachlichkeit films, beginning with Die Strasse (Karl Grune, 1923) and Die Freudlose Gasse (GW Pabst, 1925), provided a contrast to the extreme stylisation of Expressionism. The films of this period were concerned with poverty-stricken life on the streets, hence they are known as Strassenfilme ('street films'). Simultaneously, DW Griffith also made a street film, Isn't Life Wonderful? (1924), filmed on location in Germany.

Avant-Garde Cinema

The cinematic avant-garde can be traced back to two European silent films: Abel Gance's experimental La Folie Du Dr Tube (1915) and the extraordinary horror masterpiece Das Cabinet Des Dr Caligari (Robert Weine, 1919), the first Expressionist film. The intersection of art and cinema in the 1920s led to a flowering of the cinematic avant-garde; Iakov Protazanov's Aelita (1924), for example, is the only known film from the Constructivist art movement, and Alexei Gan celebrated "the vitality of the cine platform of constructivism" (1928). American avant-garde cinema, however, has much later origins: Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid's Meshes Of The Afternoon from 1943, and Kenneth Anger's Fireworks from 1947.

Caligari was a Film d'Art production in all but name, with its painted scenery and static camera, though its angular sets were designed with complete disregard for realism. This resulted in a film which stylistically echoed the unbalanced psychology of its sinister central character and his somnambulistic assistant.

In France, Danish director Carl Theodore Dreyer made La Passion De Jeanne d'Arc (1928) and Spaniard Luis Bunuel (with minimal assistance from artist Salvador Dali) gained entry into the Paris Surrealist group with Un Chien Andalou (1928). The latter film, an iconoclastic masterpiece of enigmatic, shocking, and deliberately provocative dream imagery, features a woman's eye being sliced open with a razor, ants crawling from a hole in a man's hand, and dead donkeys lying on pianos. Bunuel subsequently worked extensively in Mexico, where he directed the Neo-Realist Los Olvidados (1950) and the Surrealist El Angel Exterminador (1962). He returned to France in the 1960s and made the sexual fantasy Belle De Jour (1967).

Absolute films, influenced by the Dada art movement, included Rhythmus '21 (Hans Richter, 1921), Diagonalsymphonien (Viking Eggeling, 1921), Entr'acte (Rene Clair, 1924), and Lichtspiel Opus (Walther Ruttmann, 1921; the first abstract film screened to the public). The Dada artists Marcel Duchamp (Anaemic Cinema, 1925) and Man Ray (La Retour A La Raison, 1923) also made experimental films at this time.

Many of these semi-abstract art films (or Cine-Poems) are examples of cinematic Impressionism, juxtaposing images to give them new meanings as the montazh (montage) theorists in Russia would later advocate. Fernand Leger's Le Ballet Mecanique (1924) was another experimental semi-abstract film, specifically influenced by Russian montage editing. Total abstraction was achieved by Henri Chomette, the French director whose works of Cinema-Pur included Cinq Minutes De Cinema-Pur (1925), depicting abstract patterns of light.

Soviet Montage

Impressionism in film was made possible by the work of Lev Kuleshov, the Russian director who investigated the psychological impact of montage. Kuleshov intercut a picture of Ivan Mozhukhin's expressionless face with images of a bowl of soup, a dead body in a coffin, and a little girl. After the shot of the soup, audiences perceived the face as appearing hungry; it was interpreted as mournful after the shot of the coffin; finally, it was viewed as happy after the little girl. Thus, Kuleshov discovered that juxtaposition could alter the meaning of images.

Following in the tradition of the agit-trains which projected Agitki political propaganda to Russian peasants, theorist Sergei Eisenstein harnessed the political potential of Kuleshov's montage. In a 1929 essay (translated as The Fourth Dimension In The Kino in 1930), he identified five types of montage: metric, rhythmic, tonal, overtonal, and intellectual. He was then commissioned by the Russian government to produce cinematic commemorations of the Russian Revolutions including Bronenosets Potyomkin (1925) and Oktyabr (1928). Bronenosets Potyomkin, which dramatised the 1905 naval revolt at Odessa, contains arguably the most celebrated sequence in silent cinema: the massacre on the Odessa Steps. Alongside Eisenstein, Russia's greatest directors of the silent era were Vsevolod Pudovkin (Mat, 1926) and Aleksandr Dovzhenko (Zemlya, 1930). Another Russian director, Alexander Sokurov, produced Russki Kovcheg (2002), a digital film consisting of a single continuous shot, the antithesis of Eisenstein's Montage editing.

Following the German invasion during World War II, Russian cinema was again harnessed for propagandist purposes, with a series of short films known collectively as Kinosborniki. The first of these anti-Nazi shorts was Boyevoy Kinosbornik, directed by Sergei Gerasimov, I Mutanov, and Y Nekrasov in 1941. The Russian public, however, were eager for escapism rather than propaganda, and the most successful films were glamorous Kolkhoz musicals such as Tsirk (Grigori Aleksandrov, 1936).

While Eisenstein used montage to simulate and heighten reality, Dziga Vertov's Kinoki philosophy saw it as a tool for the manipulation of realism. Vertov published My: Variant Manifesta ("'Cinematography' must die so that the art of cinema may live", 1922), though his outstanding contribution to cinema is Chelovek S Kinoapparatom from 1929. The film is essentially a City Symphony documentary about everyday life in Moscow, though it uses techniques such as split-screen, double-exposure, trick editing, stop-motion, and freeze-frames to constantly remind the audience of the camera's presence. (Walther Ruttmann had previously directed a City Symphony about Berlin, Berlin: Die Symphonie Einer Grosstadt, in 1927; the first example was Alberto Cavalcanti's study of Paris, Rien Que Les Heures from 1926.)

The innovations of Russian montage and the French avant-garde were part of a general modernist movement throughout the arts. Marcel L'Herbier's L'Inhumaine (1923) was resolutely modernist in its set design, though its outstanding artistic radicalism (like that of the overtly Expressionistic Caligari) inevitably made it commercially unsuccessful.

Chelovek S Kinoapparatom / Bronenosets Potyomkin / Un Chien Andalou


Jean Vigo's Zero De Conduite (1933) and L'Atalante (1934), and Julien Duvivier's Pepe Le Moko (1936; a Polar, or police thriller), were the first films of France's stylised, atmospheric Realisme Poetique (Poetic Realism) movement. Vigo completed only a handful of films before dying of tuberculosis. Poetic Realism's most significant director was Marcel Carne, whose greatest films are Le Quai Des Brumes (1938), Le Jour Se Leve (1939), and Les Enfants Du Paradis (1945). The dream-like theatricality of this latter film would be equalled the following year in Jean Cocteau's fantasy La Belle Et La Bete. Jean Gabin, the star of Pepe Le Moko and Quai Des Brumes (and Jean Renoir's La Bete Humaine, 1938), became the movement's greatest icon, and appeared with Eric von Stroheim in Jean Renoir's masterpiece La Grande Illusion (1937).

Renoir's deep-focus photography, constantly moving camera, long takes, and tragi-comic narratives were all used to greatest effect in La Regle Du Jeu (1939), and the film is still acclaimed as European cinema's greatest achievement. European cinema's most questionable achievement is perhaps the Nazi documentary Triumph Des Willens (Leni Riefenstahl, 1934): an outstanding technical accomplishment, though also a lionisation of Adolf Hitler.

Riefenstahl had previously starred in several of the popular mountainside films (known as Bergfilme) by Arnold Fanck, including Der Heilige Berg (1926), though she did not appear in Fanck's first example of the genre, Das Wunder Des Schneeschuhs (1921). Alongside the Bergfilme during the 1920s was a series of educational documentaries, made primarily by the UFA studio, known as Kulturfilme; the first significant example was Wege Zu Kraft Und Schonheit (1925), directed by Nicholas Kaufmann and Wilhelm Prager.

Western-style Rancheras films were hugely popular in Mexico, with the most successful being Fernando de Fuentes's Alla En El Rancho Grande (1936). Another Mexican genre from the period, Cabaretera, involved innocent women venturing into sleazy nightclubs and being seduced into lives of wanton debauchery, with Alberto Gout's Aventurera (1949) being the acknowledged classic of this cult exploitation genre.

Hollywood's Golden Age

In the 1930s, the hardships of the Depression were temporarily replaced by the glamour of Technicolor. Gone With The Wind (produced by David O Selznick for his own studio) and The Wizard Of Oz (from MGM), both directed by Victor Fleming in 1939, are the greatest films of this period. Gone With The Wind is a sumptuous, epic romance, resplendent in three-strip Technicolor, following the hand-colouring of the 1900s, the tinting of the 1910s, and the two-strip Technicolor of the 1920s. The Wizard Of Oz is particularly memorable for the moment when its sepia-tinted prologue in Kansas is transformed into the Technicolor paradise of the land of Oz. The first feature-length Technicolor production was The Gulf Between (Wray Bartlett Physioc, 1917), though this is now a lost film.

The Hollywood studio system, at the height of its artistic and commercial success in the 1930s, began more than ever to produce films formulated according to specific genres. For example, many hundreds of westerns (known as 'oaters' and 'horse operas') were made during the decade, the best of which was John Ford's Stagecoach (1939), starring John Wayne. Ford would continue to make westerns with Wayne for the next thirty years, though he also made the classic western My Darling Clementine with Henry Fonda in 1946.

Universal produced many horror films in the 1930s, notably Frankenstein (1931) and Bride Of Frankenstein (1935), both by British director James Whale, though the most unusual was Edgar G Ulmer's bizarre The Black Cat (1934). Of all the Universal horror films, Bride Of Frankenstein is the most significant, being both a prototypical horror film and a blackly comic parody of the genre's conventions. It is an incredibly subversive film, with barely disguised gay and blasphemous subtexts. (Least notable is Tod Browning's Dracula: its success, in 1931, launched the Universal horror cycle, though the film itself is stilted and creaky.)

Alongside horror, the gangster genre also established itself in the early 1930s. Mervyn Le Roy's somewhat dated Little Caesar (1930) was the first of the cycle, though far more powerful is William Wellman's The Public Enemy (1931), released shortly afterwards. Both films, made by Universal, were swiftly surpassed, however, by Howard Hawks's Scarface (1932) starring Paul Muni, produced by Howard Hughes.

The popularity of horror and gangster pictures was a cause of concern for the Catholic Legion of Decency and the Motion-Picture Producers and Distributors Association. The president of the MPPDA, Will Hays, drew up a Production Code forbidding excessive cinematic sex and violence.

The musicals 42nd Street (Lloyd Bacon), Gold-Diggers Of 1933 (Mervyn Le Roy), and Footlight Parade (Lloyd Bacon), all choreographed by Busby Berkeley for Warner in 1933, were popular with audiences eager for escapism. (They also inspired Brazil's Chanchada musicals such as Carnaval No Fogo by Watson Macedo, 1949.) Berkeley later directed the Technicolor fantasia The Gang's All Here (1943).

The Screwball comedy sub-genre made a star of Cary Grant, who appeared in Leo McCarey's The Awful Truth (1937) and Howard Hawks's Bringing Up Baby (1938). Screwball comedies, initiated by Hawks's Twentieth Century, 1934, were characterised by their fast-paced dialogue and 'battle of the sexes' humour. Screwball films were essentially frenetic variants of romantic comedies ('rom-coms'); romantic films and melodramas were regarded, somewhat dismissively, as 'chick flicks' (known in Germany as Frauenfilme), epitomised by Now Voyager (Irving Rapper, 1942).

The most popular actress of the period was Swedish icon Greta Garbo, who had been a silent film star since the early 1920s, notably in Flesh and The Devil (Clarence Brown, 1926). She later appeared (and, famously, spoke) in Clarence Brown's Anna Christie (1930) and Edmund Goulding's creaky Grand Hotel (1932), though withdrew from public life in 1941.


The most important film of the decade was unquestionably Citizen Kane, directed by Orson Welles in 1941. With its deep-focus photography, stylised lighting, and overlapping dialogue, amongst other innovations, Kane is perhaps America's most significant contribtion to the development of the cinema. Furthermore, it was Welles's cinematic debut, directed when he was a mere twenty-six years old. Previous to Kane, Welles had directed and starred in The War Of The Worlds, often cited as the world's greatest radio production. Although he was given total artistic control over Citizen Kane, his later films (including The Magnificent Ambersons from 1942 and The Lady From Shanghai from 1947) were often re-edited by studios without his supervision.

During World War II, producer Walt Disney's animated features, including Pinocchio (Ben Sharpsteen, 1940), Dumbo (Ben Sharpsteen, 1941), and Bambi (David Hand, 1942), provided much-needed escapism, as Technicolor had done during the Depression in the 1930s. They consolidated Disney's position at the forefront of animation, following the success of Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs (David Hand, 1937). Contrary to popular myth, Snow White was not the first feature-length animated film; that honour actually belongs to the Argentine film El Apostol by Quirino Cristiani (1917).

In Carol Reed's British classic The Third Man (1949), the anticipation of Welles's character Harry Lime rivals that of Kurtz in Apocalypse Now. Also in Britain, Ealing perfected their niche for delightful and satirical comedies with Kind Hearts And Coronets (Robert Hamer, 1948) and The Ladykillers (Alexander Mackendrick, 1955), both starring Alec Guinness.

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger co-directed a series of British masterpieces in the 1940s, including the celestial fantasy A Matter Of Life And Death (1946; an influence on the 1987 Wim Wenders film Der Himmel Uber Berlin), produced by their company The Archers, launched in 1943. Powell and Pressburger's films were far superior to the standard British films of the period, cheap 'quota quickies' churned out following a 1927 Act requiring a proportion of all exhibited films to be dosmestically produced.

Film Noir

After the War, directors turned increasingly towards social realism and reverted to monochrome cinematography. This visually, thematically, and psychologically dark style was known as Film Noir, influenced by German Expressionism and the B-movie Stranger On The Third Floor (Boris Ingster, 1940). The term was originally used by French critics to describe the Poetic Realist films of the 1930s; Nino Frank used it in 1946 in reference to mid-1940s American detective films. Recurrent motifs of Film Noir (and its melodramatic offshoot, Film Gris) include world-weary detectives, sultry femmes fatales, and urban crime narratives. Classic Films Noirs include Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity (1944), Jacques Tourneur's Out Of The Past (1947), and John Huston's The Asphalt Jungle (1950). Charles Laughton's lyrical The Night Of The Hunter (1955) is also stylistically a Noir film. Cinematographer John Alton was responsible for some of the most visually stylish Films Noirs, including The Big Combo (Joseph H Lewis, 1955).

Films Noirs were named after a series of French crime novels, and a cycle of German films derives its name from a similar source: Krimi films, including Der Frosch Mit Der Maske (Harald Reinl, 1959) were named after a series of German crime novels. Humphrey Bogart played the archetypal Noir detectives Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon (John Huston, 1941) and Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep (Howard Hawks, 1946). Marlowe was also played by Robert Montgomery, in Lady In The Lake (1947, directed by Montgomery); the film was shot entirely from a first-person-perspective, thus Montgomery is only ever seen by the audience when he is reflected by a mirror.

Bogart was perhaps the biggest star of the 1940s, and appeared in Michael Curtiz's perfect wartime romance Casablanca (1942) in addition to his Film Noir roles. Other major stars of the time were James Stewart in Frank Capra's It's A Wonderful Life (1946) and Cary Grant in Howard Hawks's brilliant Screwball comedy His Girl Friday (1940).

Noir themes such as urban crime were given more naturalistic treatments in a number of films both set in and filmed on the city streets. The first of these documentary-style, 'police procedural' thrillers was The House On 92nd Street (1945) by Henry Hathaway, though the most well-known is Jules Dassin's The Naked City (1948). (Dassin later directed the gangster classic Du Rififi Chez Les Hommes in 1955.) Elia Kazan directed one of the best documentary-style thrillers, Panic In The Streets (1950). Film Noir's most striking antithesis was the Hollywood musical, which Vincente Minnelli reinvented with Meet Me In St Louis (1944) by integrating songs directly into the melodramatic narrative.

The Lady From Shanghai / Double Indemnity / Ladri Di Biciclette


Throughout the Fascist regime in Italy, one method of avoiding political censorship was simply to concentrate on producing escapist, non-political cinema. These opulent, glamorous films, such as Gli Uomini, Che Mascalzoni!) (Mario Camerini, 1932; starring future director Vittorio de Sica), were known as Telefoni Bianchi. After the collapse of Fascism and Italy's defeat in World War II, and the resultant lack of funds for its national film industry, the opulent escapism of the past was impossible. Instead, Luchino Visconti's Ossessione (1943) took Italian cinema in a new direction: Neo-Realismo (Neo-Realism).

Ossessione was filmed on location, bypassing the need for expensive studio sets, though its international distribution was restircted for copyright reasons. Neo-Realism came to international attention with the release of Roberto Rossellini's Roma: Citta Aperta in 1945. Roma achieved a sense of documentary realism through its use of non-professional actors and donated film-stock. Equally significant are the films of Vittorio de Sica, especially Sciuscia (1946) and Ladri Di Biciclette (1948).

In the early 1950s, the Italian government funded film production only selectively, denying funds to overtly political films. Thus, elements of escapist comedy were introduced into Neo-Realist films, to make them more politically acceptable. This new style was known as Neo-Realismo Rosa (Pink Neo-Realism), and is typified by films such as Due Soldi Di Speranza (Renato Castellani, 1952). The comic element soon eclipsed the Neo-Realist components altogether, and a distinctive Italian comedy style, Commedia All'Italiana, was born with the films of Mario Monicelli, notably his I Soliti Ignoti (1958).


The 1950s were overwhelmed by science-fiction B-movies, some good, some bad, and some so bad they're good: The Thing From Another World (Christian Nyby, 1951; produced by Howard Hawks), The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (Eugene Lourie, 1953), the Japanese Gojira (an exercise in cryptozoology by Ishiro Honda, 1954, spawning the Kaiju-Eiga genre of Japanese monster films), The Incredible Shrinking Man (Jack Arnold, 1956), and Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (Don Siegel, 1956). The cycle was initiated by producer George Pal's Destination Moon (Irving Pichel, 1950), though the exploitative 'mockbuster' Rocketship X-M (Kurt Neumann, 1950) was released before Pal's film.

There are many more examples of these films, featuring deadly alien invasions (with anti-Communist subtexts) and monsters awakened and/or mutated (exploiting anxiety about atomic radiation), though their lurid posters are often more interesting than the films themselves. The most lamentable science-fiction films of the period were directed by Ed Wood, often cited as the world's worst director. Wood's films, including the notorious camp classic Plan Nine From Outer Space (1956), were certainly incompetent, though they were never dull.

MGM made a long series of Technicolor musicals produced by Arthur Freed in the 1940s and 1950s, including Meet Me In St Louis, and, most famously, Singin' In The Rain (Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, 1952). Often acclaimed as the greatest musical film ever made, Singin' In The Rain was a comedy based on Hollywood's transition to sound in the 1920s (a subject which later inspired 2011's silent-film homage The Artist, by Michel Hazanavicius). The other key Hollywood-on-Hollywood film of the era was the Gothic melodrama Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950), which starred two figures from the silent era: actress Gloria Swanson and director Erich von Stroheim.

Alfred Hitchcock relocated from London to Hollywood in the 1940s (his greatest British films being the Expressionist The Lodger: A Story Of The London Fog from 1926 and the espionage thriller The 39 Steps from 1935), and directed several films (including Notorious in 1946) under contract to David O Selznick. Hitchcock directed his most acclaimed films during the 1950s, after extricating himself from the Selznick contract: Rear Window (1956), and Vertigo (1958). Hitchcock's greatest film, the shocking Psycho, was released in 1960, and influenced 'slasher' films such as Bob Clark's Black Christmas (1974), John Carpenter's Halloween (1978), and Wes Craven's self-referential New Nightmare (1994) and Scream (1996).

The greatest star of the decade was undoubtedly Marilyn Monroe, perhaps the ultimate Hollywood sex symbol. Her renditions of Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Howard Hawks, 1953) and I Wanna Be Loved By You in Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959) are her career highlights. Monroe died in 1962, after an (either accidental or suicidal) overdose of sleeping pills.

The increasing popularity of television forced Hollywood to introduce numerous technological innovations in order to compete for audiences. The most successful of these innovations were widescreen and 3D formats based, ironically, on experiments conducted since the 1890s.

The first widescreen process of the 1950s, the triptych Cinerama format used for This Is Cinerama (Merian C Cooper, 1952), was directly inspired by the Polyvision system used in the 1920s, though it added a curved screen to provide a feeling of immersive depth. 20th Century Fox's CinemaScope anamorphic widescreen format (The Robe; Henry Koster, 1953), based on Henri Chretien's Hypergonar system, soon replaced the more cumbersome Cinerama. The triptych concept was revived in 2013, for the South Korean ScreenX system, showcased by Kim Jee-Woon's short film The X.

In order to fully demonstrate the panoramic potential of the new widescreen formats, a number of biblical epics of the 1920s were remade in widescreen Technicolor splendour, including Ben-Hur: A Tale Of The Christ (William Wyler, 1959). Since the 1950s, ultra-wide formats have only rarely been utilised for narrative films, relegated instead to novelty attractions such as IMAX (Tiger Child; Donald Brittain, 1970). These audience-engulfing, large-screen and multi-screen formats were initially proposed by Stan van der Beek in his 1966 essay Culture: Intercom And Expanded Cinema ("expanded cinema, as a tool for world communication").

Another gimmick used by Hollywood to lure audiences away from TV was 3D, which had been used previously in isolated experimental films and the silent film The Power Of Love (Nat G Deverich and Harry K Fairall, 1922) though was promoted as a mainstream attraction in the 1950s. The success of Bwana Devil (Arch Oboler, 1952), filmed in Natural Vision 3D, led to science-fiction films such as Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954) and It Came From Outer Space (1953), both by Jack Arnold, also receiving 3D releases.

Some of the more esoteric 1950s gimmicks included Psycho-Rama, a process by which images and text appeared subliminally within the horror film My World Dies Screaming (Harold Daniels, 1958). There were also two olfactory gimmicks: Smell-O-Vision (Scent Of Mystery; Jack Cardiff, 1960) and Aroma-Rama (La Muraglia Cinese; Carlo Lizzani, 1959). (A later scent-gimmick utilised scratch 'n' sniff cards: Odorama in 1981 for John Waters's Polyester.) Director William Castle (The Tingler, 1959) was the undisputed king of gimmicks in the 1950s, though his inventive marketing schemes were far more memorable than the films they promoted.

To provide a unique alternative to television, American drive-in cinemas began screening sensationalist, melodramatic exploitation films. These ranged from disposable WIP ('women in prison') films such as Caged (John Cromwell, 1949) to more substantial JD ('juvenile delinquent') films such as The Wild One and Rebel Without A Cause.

Though most 1950s exploitation films were low-budget, absurdly moralistic, and instantly out-of-date, there are two clear exceptions: the 'teensploitation' films The Wild One starring Marlon Brando and Rebel Without A Cause starring James Dean. Brando was one of a number of young male actors who starred in juvenile delinquent films about youth rebellion, the prototypical example being Brando's own performance in The Wild One (Laslo Benedek, 1953). James Dean starred in the yet more iconic Rebel Without A Cause (Nicholas Ray) in 1955 (released after Dean had been killed in a car accident). A parallel trend existed in Japanese cinema, with a genre known as Taiyozoku inaugurated by Takumi Furukawa's Taiyo No Kisetsu (1956).

In A Streetcar Named Desire (Elia Kazan, 1951), Marlon Brando introduced a new acting style to the cinema: the Method. Trained at the Actors' Studio, he brought an unprecedented intensity to screen acting, notably in On The Waterfront (Elia Kazan, 1954). Director Kazan named names to senator Joe McCarthy during the Communist witch-hunts, and On The Waterfront, in which Brando's character testifies against organised criminals, can be seen as self-justification for Kazan's actions.

The new realism of Brando and Dean's acting style was complemented by a new generation of directors who produced their own films and thus bypassed the studio system. Shadows (1959), by John Cassavetes, was made completely independently in 16mm. Stanley Kubrick also produced his own films, directing independently since the early 1950s (his breakthrough being Paths Of Glory, 1957). Arguably, no other director has matched Kubrick's perfectionism or his consistent genius. In the 1960s, he relocated to England, where he directed the satirical masterpiece Dr Strangelove, or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb (1964), the stunning science-fiction epic 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and the stylised A Clockwork Orange (1971). (Terrence Malick's The Tree Of Life, from 2011, was one of the few films to equal 2001's epic scope.)

The most determined of the independent producer-directors was Otto Preminger, who released The Moon Is Blue (1953) without Production Code approval. He also directed one of the best documentary-style Noir thrillers, Where The Sidewalk Ends, in 1950.

Hollywood genre cycles from the 1930s were revisited in the 1950s, notably the gangster film and the western. James Cagney starred in White Heat (Raoul Walsh, 1949), equalling and perhaps even exceeding the achievements of his original 1930s classic The Public Enemy. The western underwent considerable revision, influenced by the surprisingly radical High Noon (Fred Zinnemann, 1952). John Wayne, who starred in Howard Hawks's Red River (1948), gave arguably his greatest performance in John Ford's The Searchers (1956), introducing a new psychological complexity to the genre and presenting the traditional western hero as an anachronistic outcast.

The dark and amoral world of Film Noir reached its logical conclusion with the apocalyptic Kiss Me Deadly (Robert Aldrich, 1955). Orson Welles, director of Citizen Kane, began his Noir masterpiece Touch Of Evil (1958) with a sequence that rivals Bronenosets Potyomkin's 'Odessa Steps' as the greatest sequence ever filmed. Its opening shot is a stunning and seemingly never-ending tracking sequence.

During the 1950s, directors such as Satyajit Ray, Federico Fellini, Akira Kurosawa, and Ingmar Bergman all established international reputations for the cinema industries of their respective countries. In Sweden, Smultronstallet (1957), the masterful religious allegory Det Sjunde Inseglet (1957), and, later, Persona (1966), marked director Ingmar Bergman as one of world cinema's greatest artists. Japan's master director Akira Kurosawa, who was inspired by the American John Ford, was the most significant example of this internationalisation. His Rashomon (1950) and his epic Ken-Geki film Shichinin No Samurai (1954), both starring Toshiro Mifune, brought the Japanese film industry to the forefront of international attention. His other siginificant films of the period include Nora Inu (1949), Ikiru (1952), Yojimbo (1961), and Tengoku To Jigoku (1963).

Japan's other greatest film-makers, Kenji Mizoguchi and Yasujiro Ozu, had, unlike Kurosawa, been directing ever since the silent era, though their greatest films were also made in the 1950s. Mizoguchi's work - Ugetsu Monogatari (1953) and Sansho Dayu (1954) - has been compared to that of French director Jean Renoir, as he shares Renoir's use of deep-focus photography, constantly moving camera, and tragi-comic narrative. By contrast, Ozu's Tokyo Monogatari from 1953 (part of his Noriko series) contains virtually no camera movement at all. (A nostalgic trend for Meiji-Mono films, set in the historical Meiji period, was revived in the 1950s, the greatest example being Toyoda Shirou's Gan from 1953.)

Mizoguchi's Ugetsu Monogatari is an example of Japan's Kaidan-Eiga, films featuring ghost stories (an early example of which is Mizoguchi's own Kyoren No Onna Shisho, 1926). The dramatic realism of Ugetsu Monogatari is atypical of the genre, however, as most examples are supernatural horror stories. Nobuo Nakagawa, the greatest of all Japanese horror directors, made an Obaneneko-Mono film about a ghostly cat (Borei Kaibyo Yashiki, 1958). In 1964, Masaki Kobayashi's Kwaidan was the first Kaidan film to gain international recognition. The genre's real breakthrough came decades later, in 1998, when Hideo Nakata's J-Hora Ringu - following in the wake of Korea's K-Hora ghost film Yeogo Goedam (Park Ki-Hyung, 1998) - became the first worldwide Kaidan blockbuster.

Like the 1920s, the '50s represent a golden age for Japanese cinema. In the 1930s, a series of literary adaptions (Bungei-Eiga) was produced, including Izu No Odoriko (Heinosuke Gosho, 1933) and Wakai Hito (Shiro Toyoda, 1937); in the 1940s, there were jingoistic war dramas (Kokusaku-Eiga) such as Hawaii-Mare Oki Kaisen (Kajiro Yamamoto, 1942); however, in terms of variety and quantity, the 1920s and, especially, the '50s, remain unmatched in Japan.

The short-lived Keiko-Eiga films of the 1920s inspired a new genre of social-realist Japanese cinema, known as Shakai-Mono. The director who dominated this genre was Tadashi Imai, who was well-known for the unsentimental nature of his films (called 'nakanai') such as Himeyuri No To (1953). By contrast, most Japanese films were highly melodramatic ('namida chodai'), typified by Kinoyu Tanaka's Chibusa Yo Ein Nare (1955).

Another 1920s Japanese genre, Shomin-Geki, was also revived in the 1950s, branching into several new sub-genres. Mikio Naruse's Meshi (1951), for instance, was an example of the Tsuma-Mono sub-genre (films about wives). Keisuke Kinoshita's Nihon No Higeki (1953) represents the Haha-Mono sub-genre (films about mothers). The most popular of these Neo-Shomin-Geki films was Heinosuke Gosho's Entotsu No Mieru Basho (1953).

In India, Satyajit Ray directed Pather Panchali (1955, part of his Apu series), in stark contrast to the musical decadence of Bollywood films such as Alam Ara (Ardeshir Irani, 1931). Ray's film marked a temporary shift away from populist Bollywood fantasies, helping to foster an Indian culture of non-populist films known broadly as Parallel Cinema, including art films (Kalamatka) and experimental cinema (Prayogika). In the 1960s, New Indian Cinema was fully established as an alternative to formulaic mainstream populism, led by Bhuvan Shome (Mrinal Sen, 1969). With Arun Kaul, Mrinal Sen wrote a Manifesto Of The New Cinema Movement, criticising traditional Indian cinema, in 1968: "The Indian film, especially Hindi Cinema, is at its lowest ebb today. [...] New Cinema Movement is conceived as a self-sufficient structure embracing all three branches of film-making: production, distribution and exhibition." Shyam Benegal's debut film Ankur (1974) has been described as an example of Middle Cinema, as it represented a balance between the artistic integrity of Parallel Cinema and the populism of the mainstream Indian film industry.

In Italy, Federico Fellini directed La Strada (1954), which was compared to French Realisme Poetique, in contrast to Italy's prevalent Neo-Realismo style. Italian cinema was gradually moving away from the social worthiness of Neo-Realismo, and populist genres such as the Spaghetti western, the Giallo, the Peplum, and the Eurospy would all flourish in the 1960s. Peplum films, featuring heroic protagonists and classical/mythological settings, began with Le Fatiche Di Ercole (Pietro Francisci, 1958). Eurospy films such as Agente 077; Missione Bloody Mary (Sergio Grieco, 1965), Italian imitations of the James Bond series, were popular from circa 1964 until the end of the 1960s.

In protest at the lack of social realism in British films, a Free Cinema group was established, releasing a series of short statements between 1956 and 1959, concluding with: "FREE CINEMA is dead! Long live FREE CINEMA!" The group initially produced short documentaries which focused on working-class culture and recreation, including O Dreamland (Lyndsay Anderson, 1953). The Free Cinema directors then progressed from documentaries to feature-films: 'kitchen sink' dramas about Northern 'angry young men', such as Room At The Top (Jack Clayton, 1959) and Look Back In Anger (Tony Richardson, 1959), true to the social realist origins of the movement.

Isidore Isou, founder of the French Lettriste avant-garde art movement, directed Traite De Bave Et d'Eternite in 1950. The film was deliberately asynchronous, a technique Isou called Cinema Discrepant. Other Lettriste films featured spoken soundtracks though no images (known as Cinechronic films), the first being Gil J Wolman's Atochrone (1950).

Psycho / A Bout De Souffle / Rashomon


Mainstream American cinema began to embrace the radical counter-culture of underground cinema with subversive films such as The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1967) and Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper, 1969); the increasing radicalisation of the mainstream eventually led to the collapse of the old Hollywood studio system. Compare, for instance, the revitalising innovation of The Graduate with the lavish emptiness of Joseph L Mankiewicz's Cleopatra (1963). Television also played its part, as an increasingly significant medium for film distribution and even production: the first 'telefilm' (made-for-TV film), See How They Run (David Lowell Rich), was broadcast in 1964.

The release of two Hollywood films with unusually violent climaxes, Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch (1969), precipitated the collapse of the Production Code. Bonnie and Clyde's amoral account of a young outlaw couple would later influence Terrence Malick's road movie Badlands (1973).

Director Jonas Mekas wrote about the new generation of American underground film-makers influenced by the earlier avant-garde films of Maya Deren. He also coined the term New American Cinema and wrote The First Statement Of The New American Cinema Group ("If the New American Cinema has until now been an unconcsious and sporadic manifestation, we feel the time has come to join together. There are many of us - the movement is reaching significant proportions - and we know what needs to be destroyed and what we stand for", 1962.

New American Cinema was an umbrella term describing the works of, amongst others, the formalist Michael Snow and the artist Andy Warhol. Snow was a key figure in the Structural film movement, drawing attention to the movement of the camera rather than to any narrative content; his Wavelength from 1967, for example, is a long, slow, continuous zoom. On the fringe of the New American Cinema was Tony Conrad, whose The Flicker (1964) introduced the concept of the Flicker film, a film whose editing is so rapid that its images appear for only a single frame.

The most famous name in 1960s American underground cinema was Andy Warhol, who directed (or at least supervised) a series of long, static films in which motionless subjects were filmed for several hours. Warhol's early films link him to the Minimalist film movement, de-emphasising narrative and technique, and his more ambitious later works (such as The Chelsea Girls, 1966) were actually directed by Paul Morrissey.

In 1965, Warhol borrowed a prototype video camera to make some experimental videos, incorporating some of his early video footage into the film Outer and Inner Space (1965). This was shortly before the 'official' birth of video art, when, also in 1965, Nam June Paik videotaped the Papal procession of Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini. Nam June Paik was originally a Fluxus artist, and produced one of their first Fluxfilms, Zen For Film (1962).

Warhol may be the underground's most famous name, though its most famous film is Jack Smith's Flaming Creatures (1963), an orgy of sexual ambiguity. The greatest underground film-maker was the prolific and radical Stan Brakhage, whose most widely-known film is Dog Star Man (1964). Brakhage often painted directly onto strips of celluloid, to create abstract Direct films similar to those pioneered by the Futurists in the 1910s and Len Lye in the 1930s (such as A Colour Box, 1935).

Jean Rouche's Cinema Verite documentary Chronique d'Un Ete (1961) moved away from Godard's Brechtian alienation devices, in an attempt to achieve a more realistic vision. The political TV documentary Primary (Robert Drew, 1960) and the 'rockumentary' ('rock documentary') Dont Look Back [sic.] (DA Pennebaker, 1967) were part of a Cinema Direct movement, influenced by Cinema Verite. (Rockumentaries were parodied by Rob Reiner's 'mockumentary' ('mock documentary') This Is Spinal Tap, in 1984.) The self-reflexive Cinema Verite was concerned with the interrogation of cinematic truth, whereas Cinema Direct attempted a more objective 'fly-on-the-wall' observational style.

La Battaglia Di Algeri (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1965) was a Verite-style reconstruction of the Algerian Revolution, and Algerian director Mohamed Bouamari (El Faham, 1973) called for a Cinema Djidid (New Cinema) movement to respond to the problems facing the ordinary people of the country. New Cinema's greatest triumph was the epic Chronique Des Annees De Braise (Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina, 1975). New Cinema followed the politically radical Algerian Cinema Mudjahad (Freedom-Fighter Cinema) movement, which included films such as L'Aube Des Damnes (Ahmed Rachedi, 1965).

British cinema continued its realist aesthetic with films such as Saturday Night And Sunday Morning (Karel Reisz, 1960) and Ken Loach's Kes (1969). Their polar opposite was Lawrence Of Arabia (1962), one of David Lean's most spectacular British epics.

In Italy, Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita (1960) began with a technically perfect sequence in which a statue of Christ is carried by helicopter over the streets of Rome. The decadent lifestyles of the characters in Fellini's La Dolce Vita and (1963), and in Michelangelo Antonioni's L'Avventura (1960), effectively mark the end of Neo-Realism. A new kind of stylish, violent (and often exploitative) Italian cinema, which lasted throughout the 1970s, including Poliziotteschi crime films such as La Polizia Ringrazia (Steno, 1972), can be traced back to the violent horror films and Giallo thrillers of Mario Bava (La Ragazza Che Sapeva Troppo, 1963; La Maschera Del Demonio, 1960; Sei Donne Per L'Assassino, 1964) and Dario Argento (Profondo Rosso, 1975; Suspiria, 1977), which were inspired by a series of mystery/detective novels.

In Italy, Sergio Leone made a series of 'man with no name' Spaghetti westerns (including Per Un Pugno Di Dollari in 1964 [under the Americanised pseudonym Bob Robertson] and Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo in 1966). The series starred Clint Eastwood, who would later direct his own classic western, Unforgiven (1992). Leone was influenced by Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo; his masterpiece was the epic C'Era Una Volta Il West (1969). Spaghetti westerns (known in their native Italy as Macaroni westerns) were preceded by German Spatzle westerns (or Sauerkraut westerns) such as Der Schatz Im Silbersee (Harald Reinl, 1962) and later satirised by the Japanese comedy Tampopo (Juzo Itami, 1985), a self-styled Noodle western. The Curry western Sholay (Ramesh Shippy, 1975) is India's most successful Bollywood film. The South Korean film Joheunnom, Nabbeunnom, Isanghannom (Kim Ji-Woon, 2008) was marketed as a Kimchi western. In Japan, Takashi Miike directed a Sukiyaki western, Sukiyaki Western Django (2007). Inspired by Spaghetti westerns, Israeli director Boaz Davidson dubbed films such as Menahem Golan's Fortuna (1966) and his own Hagiga B'Snuker (1975) Bourekas, after a pastry dish. (The Bourekas comedies existed alongside the more politicised works of the Kayitz (Young Israeli Cinema) movement, with Ephraim Kishon's Sallah Shabbati from 1964 acting as a bridge between the two styles.) Spanish director Alex de la Iglesia called his film 800 Balas (2002) a Marmitako western. Predating Italy's Spaghetti westerns, production of Eastern European and Russian revisionist westerns (Osterns) was thriving thanks to the success of Samson Samsonov's Ognenni Versti (1957); even earlier was a cycle of Russian Borsch westerns in the 1920s. In Denmark, films such as Praeriens Skrappe Drenge (Carl Ottosen, 1970) were known as Kartoffelwesterns. There are also variants from Spain (Paella westerns) and France (Camembert westerns).

A 'porno chic' trend in Japan was initiated by Tetsuji Takechi's taboo-breaking Hakujitsumu from 1964 - which launched the Pinku-Eiga genre. Pinku-Eiga was later sub-divided into films classed as sensational (Shigeki Rosen), abnormal (Ijoseiai Rosen), and shameless (Harenchi Rosen). Japan also produced soft-core sexploitation films known as Jitsuro.

New Waves

In a break away from the prevalent French Poetic Realism, film critics writing for Cahiers Du Cinema magazine (edited by Andre Bazin) began making their own films, in a movement that became known as the Nouvelle Vague (French New Wave). Cahiers writers such as Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut recognised the individualism of directors such as Howard Hawks and Alfred Hitchcock, and this realisation led to the 'politique des auteurs' - the notion, popularised by Alexandre Astruc, that a director has artistic control over a film in the same way as an author has over a novel. They key text in the formation of the New Wave was Francois Truffaut's Une Certaine Tendance Du Cinema Francais, published in Cahiers in 1954 and decrying what he saw as the retrogressive state of French cinema ("the deliberately pessimistic examination I have undertaken of a certain tendency of the French cinema").

Godard's A Bout De Souffle (1960), with its hand-held camerawork, location-shooting, and jump-cut editing, signalled a reinvigoration of French cinema. The movement's other early masterpieces are the enigmatic collage-film Hiroshima Mon Amour (Alain Resnais, 1959) and Truffaut's Les 400 Coups. Truffaut's film caused a sensation when it opened in 1959, though Jean-Pierre Melville's Bob Le Flambeur (1955), Agnes Varda's La Pointe Courte (1956), and Claude Chabrol's Le Beau Serge (1958) are regarded as key progenitors of the movement.

Alain Resnais directed L'Annee Derniere A Marienbad (1961), which challenged the formal conventions of the cinema like almost no other film. The New Wave was still dominated, however, by Jean-Luc Godard, whose films of the period include Pierrot Le Fou (1965) and Week End (1967). In the apocalyptic Week End, the jump-cuts and hand-held cameras of A Bout De Souffle gave way to increasingly alienating devices, such as inter-titles and direct-to-camera monologues, which broke away from the illusion of realism.

Aside from the New Wave, French cinema of the period is remembered for its suspenseful and atmospheric horror films. Specifically, Henri-Georges Clouzot's Les Diaboliques (1954) was a significant influence on Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho.

Inspired by the French New Wave, there were new wave movements in several Eastern European countries throughout the 1960s, most famously in Czechoslovakia. The Czech new wave (Nova Vlna) was initiated by Slnko V Sieti (Stefan Uher, 1962), and led by Milos Forman (Lasky Jedne Plavovlasky, 1965) and Jiri Menzel (Ostre Sledovane Vlaky, 1966). Forman's Hori Ma Panenko (1967) was banned in perpetuity after the Prague Spring; he would later work in Hollywood, directing One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest in 1975. Many directors of the Czech new wave were graduates of the Prague Filme and Television Faculty of the Academy of Dramatic Arts.

In Yugoslavia, Aleksandar Petrovic's Dvoje (1961) initiated a Novi Film (New Film) movement that came to be known as the Crni Talas (Black Wave) or Novi Val (new wave). The movement's most acclaimed director, Dusan Makavejev, made the sexually radical Ljubavni Slucaj Ili Tragedija Sluzbenice PTTin 1967.

A Hungarian new wave was initiated by Miklos Jancso's Oldas Es Kotes (1962). His Szegenylegenyek (1965) was his first international success, and he perfected his signature long takes and tracking shots in Meg Ker A Nep (1972). Hungarian directors also developed an improvisational, semi-documentary style known as Filmregeny (Cine Romans), as in Istvan Darday's Filmregeny: Harom Nover (1979).

In Brazil, the Cinema Novo (New Cinema) movement, anticipated by Nelson Pereira Dos Santos with Rio 40 Graus (1955, inspired by Neo-Realism), drew international attention to the country's most impoverished people and to its most accomplished director, Glauber Rocha, who directed the mythological Deus E O Diablo Na Terra Do Sol (1964). His manifesto La Estetica Del Hambre (1965) defined the New Cinema movement: "hunger in Latin America is not simply an alarming symptom; it is the essence of our society. Herein lies the tragic originality of Cinema Novo in relation to world cinema. Our originality is our hunger and our greatest misery is that this hunger is felt but not intellectually understood." While direct political content was suppressed in Brazilian cinema, censorship of sexual imagery was relaxed in the 1970s, leading to a series of soft-core sexploitation Cinema de Boca (Films of the Mouth) comedies known as Pornochanchades (as seen in the 1978 compilation film Os Melhores Momentos Da Pornochanchada, by Victor di Mello and Lenine Otoni).

In 1968, Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino formed a group called Cine Liberacion (Liberation Flm), with a manifesto (Hacia Un Tercer Cine, 1969) calling for a new Tercer Cine (Third Cinema) linking the emerging cinemas of South America and Africa: "If we choose films as the centre of our propositions and debate, it is because that is our work front and because the birth of a third cinema means, at least for us, the most important revolutionary artistic event of our times." They also co-directed a film of their own (La Hora De Los Hornos, 1968), and later established an offshoot of Third Cinema known as Cine Militante (Militant Cinema) in their book Cine, Cultura, Y Descolonizacion (1971): "we defined three types of cinema: the first cinema or overtly commercial cinema based on the American model; the second cinema, or "auteur cinema," a variant of first cinema, and similarly subject to the "owners of cinema" or to surplus value cinema; and the third cinema, the cinema of liberation. These notes are meant to develop that work, specifically one of the categories of third cinema, its most advanced category: militant cinema." Elsewhere in Latin America, a group of Mexican critics formed Nuevo Cine (New Cinema), published a journal of the same name, and endorsed Jomi Garcia Ascot's En El Balcon Vacio (1961) as a new beginning for Mexican cinema. They published their Manifesto Del Grupo Nuevo Cine in 1961, in support of directors "making new cinema in Mexico, which without a doubt will be a far superior cinema than the one today."

In Japan, Nagisa Oshima’s early films, such as Ai To Kibo No Machi (1959), marked him out as the most radical of that country's Nuberu Bagu (Japanese New Wave) of young directors. He later formed his own production company after his films became too political for Shochiku. In 1976, he directed the scandalous Ai No Korida, containing graphic sexual content, which was deemed obscene in Japan.

In 1955, a cinema conference was held in the Spanish town of Salamanca, after which Juan Antonio Bardem wrote a manifesto in Objectivo (1955): "Spanish cinema is still a cinema of painted dolls. The problem with Spanish cinema is that it is not that witness of our time which our time requires of every human creation." Bardem co-wrote Luis Garcia Berlanga's film Bienvenido Mr Marshall (a Neo-Realist parody of Espanolada exoticism, 1951) and directed the bitterly anti-Franco Muerta De Un Ciclista (1955). With Berlanga, he came to symbolise a new generation of radical film-makers whose work constituted a Nuevo Cine Espanol (New Spanish Cinema). The group's international figurehead was Carlos Saura, who directed La Caza (1966) and Cria Cuervos (1976).

A large group of young German directors signed a manifesto at Oberhausen in 1962, calling for a revival in German cinema: "We have concrete intellectual, formal, and economic conceptions about the production of the new German film. We are as a collective prepared to take economic risks. The old film is dead. We believe in the new one." They formed the Junger Deutscher Film (Young German Film) group, and the central focus of their manifesto was to replace the nostalgic, nationalistic, and escapist Heimatfilme ('Heimat films') popular in Germany throughout the 1950s (a style they dismissively labelled 'Papa's Kino'). Heimat films had served to boost German national feeling following World War II, and can be compared to the Technicolor escapism of Hollywood during the American Depression, and they represent the antithesis of the Trummerfilme ('rubble films' set in the ruins of Germany's bombed cities, such as Wolfgang Staudte's Die Morder Sind Unter Uns from 1946 and Roberto Rossellini's Italian film Germania Anno Zero from 1948). 1956 was the high point of the style, with Ulrich Erfurth's Drei Birken Auf Der Heide being a typical film from that year: a man returning to the village of his birth realises the importance of his idyllic rural homeland.

In 1966, the Junger Deutscher group released two important anti-Heimat films: Volker Schlondorff's Der Junge Torless and Alexander Kluger's Abschied Von Gestern. They were, however, eclipsed by an internationally-acclaimed group known as Neue Kino (New Cinema), led by Wim Wenders, Werner Herzog, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Wenders was fascinated by open spaces, as his 'road movie' Paris, Texas (1984) shows. Herzog's extravagant, mythological epics Aguirre Der Zorn Gottes (1972) and Fitzcarraldo (1982) both star the manic Klaus Kinski, whom an exasperated Herzog tried to kill on one occasion. Fassbinder's death by suicide marked the end-point of New Cinema; arguably his greatest film was Angst Essen Seele Auf (1974), influenced by the Hollywood melodramas of Douglas Sirk.

On The Waterfront / Toy Story / Sen To Chihiro No Kamikakushi


Films such as Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975) and Star Wars (George Lucas, 1977) dominated the mainstream American box-office, setting new profit records and initiating the now-familiar 'blockbuster'/'event movie' phenomenon. Star Wars, like the later Raiders Of The Lost Ark (Steven Spielberg, 1981), was an updated version of 1930s adventure serials such as Flash Gordon (Frederick Stephani, 1936). It is also an example of the 'space opera' sub-genre, which has been traced back to the Danish film Himmelskibet (Holger Madsen, 1918). (The serial format, with episodic narratives and 'cliffhanger' endings, was introduced by What Happened To Mary? (Charles Brabin) in 1912 and typified by The Perils Of Pauline (Donald MacKenzie and Louis J Gasnier) in 1914.)

Woody Allen with Annie Hall (1977) and Manhattan (1979), and Martin Scorsese with Taxi Driver (1976), directed arguably their greatest works during this decade. (Allen also directed one of his most misunderstood films, the self-satirising Stardust Memories, in 1980.) Roman Polanski's Chinatown (1974) heralded a revival of the Film Noir detective films from the 1940s. More precisely, Chinatown has been cited as an example of Film Soleil, a sub-genre featuring Noir narratives coupled with sun-drenched locations. Plein Soleil (Rene Clement, 1960) may qualify as the original Film Soleil, predating Chinatown by more than a decade, though the film credited with instigating the movement is actually the later Blood Simple.

Method actor Marlon Brando gave his greatest performances since the 1950s, in The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972) and particularly the breath-taking Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979). His performance in Apocalypse Now has been criticised as incoherent and self-indulgent, though, in fact, such traits are entirely consistent with the character he plays. The long build-up to his character's eventual shadowy appearance evokes The Third Man from the 1940s, and Brando's performance in Apocalypse Now is the equal of Orson Welles's in that earlier film.

Robert de Niro, arguably the greatest screen actor since Brando, starred in several of Scorsese's films, notably Taxi Driver, in what would become one of the greatest actor/director partnerships. He later appeared in Scorsese's gangster epic GoodFellas (1990). Jack Nicholson and Al Pacino were also key actors of the 1970s. Nicholson made exploitation films for Roger Corman throughout the 1960s, though his mainstream breakthrough came with his performance in Easy Rider. Pacino and de Niro both starred in The Godfather II (1974), Coppola's Godfather sequel, though they did not appear together; they had one joint scene decades later in Michael Mann's Heat (1995).

Government subsidy of the Film Development Corporation in Australia financed such films as Picnic At Hanging Rock (Peter Weir, 1975), though the revival of Australia's film industry is credited to a more unlikely source - crude yet popular 'Ozploitation' (Australian exploitation) films such as Stork (Tim Burstall, 1971).

A new generation of Polish directors, led by Krysztof Zanussi (Constans, 1980), made films with a strongly social-reformist agenda (highlighting the moral bankruptcy of contemporary society), a style which they called Kino Moralnego Niepokoju (Cinema of Moral Anxiety). In Turkey, actor and director Yilmaz Guney led a Young Turkish Cinema movement with Umut (1970), inspired by Italian Neo-Realism.

Greek cinema had revolved around populist Farsocomedies and patriotic, traditionalist Foustanelles films until Theodoros Angelopoulos inspired the New Greek Cinema movement. His politically radical debut film Anaparastasi was released in 1970.

Exploitation Cinema

Exploitation has a long cinematic pedigree, with some of the earliest examples being Aufklarungsfilme (prurient documentaries concerning the facts of life) and Sittenfilme (sexploitation dramas, such as Robert Reinert's Opium). These films were made in Germany only in 1919, during a brief period of relaxed censorship immediately after World War I. The various branches of exploitation cinema are all encompassed by the umbrella term 'paracinema', referring to cinema outside the mainstream.

With the Production Code disposed of, increasingly unrestricted representations of sex and violence were present in counter-culture and exploitation films from the 1960s onwards. Although pornographic Stag reels ('blue movies', 'cooch reels', 'beaver reels', or 'smokers') had existed since the 1890s, it was Russ Meyer's The Immoral Mr Teas (1959) which brought nudity into narrative cinema, initiating a stream of 'roughies', 'kinkies', 'ghoulies', and 'nudie-cuties'. Sexploitation films, known as Bombas (and milder crowd-pleasing Bakyas) would later dominate Filippino cinema in the 1970s. Sexploitation in America became increasingly explicit and violent following Herschell Gordon Lewis's gory Blood Feast (1963) and the Mondo documentary Mondo Cane (Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi, 1962), until eventually even hardcore pornography gained mainstream recognition. Deep Throat (1972), by Gerard Damiano, became porn's cross-over hit; it played in mainstream cinemas, with its success being dubbed 'porno chic'. Subsequently removed from public cinemas, pornography is now ubiquitous online and on video; John Stagliano's The Adventures Of Buttman (1989) led to the Verite-style Gonzo porn video sub-genre.

The 'midnight movie' was inaugurated in New York in 1970, when Alexandro Jodorowsky's apocalyptic Spaghetti western El Topo played to capacity audiences every night at midnight. With a complete lack of publicity, the film's popularity derived entirely from word-of-mouth. Pink Flamingos by John Waters received midnight screenings in 1972, though it was the camp horror-musical The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Jim Sharman, 1975) which came to epitomise the participatory midnight movie phenomenon, with audiences dressing up as characters from the film and singing along with the soundtrack.

Nick Zedd published a manifesto calling for a new kind of taboo-breaking cinema, which he named the Cinema of Transgression, in 1985: "We propose to go beyond all limits set or prescribed by taste, morality or any other traditional value system shackling the minds of men. We [...] propose to break all the taboos of our age by sinning as much as possible. There will be blood, shame, pain and ecstasy, the likes of which no one has yet imagined." (The Cinema Of Transgression Manifesto was originally attributed to Orion Jeriko, Zedd's pseudonym.) The Cinema of Transgression was an offshoot of No Wave Cinema, a New York underground movement launched by Amos Poe (The Foreigner, 1978) and others. Nick Zedd made his first underground films in the early 1980s, though his most extreme production is the confrontational, hardcore short film Whoregasm from 1988. The most extreme combination of sex and violence, the Snuff film, is merely an urban myth, despite the false marketing claims of the exploitation film (and 'video nasty') Snuff (Michael Findlay and Carter Stevens, 1976).

Enter The Dragon (Robert Clouse, 1973) cashed in on the 1970s vogue for kung-fu by giving actor Bruce Lee his first American role. Like Rebel Without A Cause, it was released after its main star had died. While Hong Kong kung-fu (or 'chop-socky') stars such as Lee demonstrated impressive though largely realistic martial-arts skills, the stars of another form of martial-arts cinema (Chinese Wuxia Pian films, also known as Mo Hap Pin) were endowed with supernatural and mythological powers. The first Wuxia film was the serial Huo Shao Hong Lian Si (Shichuan Zhang, 1928), though the genre's modern form was established by King Hu's Long Men Ke Zhen (1966).

Airport (George Seaton and Henry Hathaway, 1970) launched a brief genre cycle, the disaster film, featuring fires, earthquakes, and other catastrophies. The key films of the cycle was The Towering Inferno (John Guillermin and Irwin Allen, 1974).

Equally short-lived was the 'blaxploitation' cycle, which emerged with Cotton Comes To Harlem (Ossie Davis, 1970) and included Shaft (1971) directed by Gordon Parks. (Like Stanley Kubrick, Parks was formerly a professional magazine photographer.) Melvin van Peebles critiqued the blaxploitation cycle with his incendiary film Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song in 1971. The following year, John Boorman's Deliverance (1972) introduced what became known as 'hixploitation': films with menacing yokels and foreboding backwoods. Other exploitation trends include 'Canuxploitation' (Canadian directors including Bob Clark and David Cronenberg), 'Mexploitation' (Mexican Lucha Libre wrestler-hero films such as Benito Alazraki's Santo Contra Los Zombies from 1961, one of the industry's low-budget Churro films) and, 'nunsploitation' (Ken Russell's profane orgy The Devils, 1971).

Taxi Driver / Pulp Fiction

New Hollywood

A new generation of directors from film-schools, including Scorsese and Coppola, established a New Hollywood following the collapses of the Hays Code and the studio system. Indeed, Coppola established his own studio, American Zoetrope, with George Lucas in 1969 (though he sold it in 1984). The New Hollywood directors also introduced an unprecedented authenticity into American cinema, evident, for example, in the no-holds-barred language and violence of Scorsese's Taxi Driver. This unrestrained attitude, free from the previous Production Code restrictions, was also demonstrated by William Friedkin in his urban crime thriller The French Connection (1971) and his shocking supernatural horror film The Exorcist (1973).

The New Hollywood era of directorial authority was somewhat curtailed in 1980 following the commercial disaster of Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate, recalling the excesses of Eric von Stroheim in the 1920s. Like von Stroheim, Cimino went substantially over-budget and created a five-hour film which the studio drastically cut. Unlike von Stroheim, however, Cimino's version, or at least an approximation of it, was subsequently released in an (unsuccessful) attempt to recoup costs.


American cinema in the 1980s, despite producing a glut of bombastic action movies (typified by Rambo in Ted Kotcheff's First Blood from 1982, and John McTiernan's excellent Die Hard from 1988), Hollywood did generate two clear masterpieces: Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull (1980) and David Lynch's Blue Velvet (1986). Raging Bull stars Robert de Niro as a brutal middle-weight boxer, and Blue Velvet examines the corruption behind the immaculate exterior of suburban America. (Lynch's later Mulholland Drive (2001) was also critically acclaimed.) Tim Burton directed a number of modern Gothic films in the 1980s, though his greatest film is the dark fairy-tale Edward Scissorhands (1990), starring Johnny Depp. Depp appeared in many of Burton's subsequent films, including Sleepy Hollow (1999). Woody Allen directed several classic comedies, including the profound Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989). The successes of Spike Lee's independent films She's Gotta Have It (1986) and Do The Right Thing (1989) led to the label New Black Cinema.

The Brat Pack, a group of young American actors (Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, and Ally Sheedy) starred in St Elmo's Fire (Joel Schumacher, 1985) and The Breakfast Club (John Hughes, 1985). These films attracted teenage audiences, in a revival of the Teenpic trend of the 1950s. Subsequently, adolescents became Hollywood's target demographic, with Kidpic films aimed at pre-teen audiences.

Lawrence Kasdan's steamy Body Heat (1981), Joel Coen's debut Blood Simple (1982), James Cameron's Tech Noir The Terminator (1984), and Ridley Scott's dystopian Blade Runner (1982) were all part of a revival of the Film Noir style, known as Neo-Noir or, alternatively, Apres-Noir. Coen, working with his brother Ethan, later directed Fargo (1996), which, with its snow-covered landscapes, is the visual antithesis of Noir. Scott, like many directors of the 1980s, began his career in advertising, and films of the period began discernably to adopt the rapid editing and overt stylisation of advertisements and music videos. This tendency, which came to be known as Cinema du Look, was most evident in Jean-Jacques Beineix's Diva (1981). The high-concept films produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer also share this fast-paced MTV aesthetic; 1980s icon Tom Cruise starred in their blockbuster Top Gun in 1986, directed by Tony Scott.

Following the end of the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese government's restrictions on access to western films were finally lifted in the early 1980s, and the first Chinese film-makers to benefit from this were the Fifth Generation group, graduates of the reopened Beijing Film Academy. Fifth Generation films, such as Huang Tudi (Chen Kaige, 1984) focussed on the history of rural China. Arguably the first film of the Fifth Generation, Yige He Bage (Zheng Junzhao, 1984) was not released until 1987, after its anti-Communist implications had been toned down.

Similarly, a new generation of film-makers in Taiwan was concerned at the increasing urbanisation of their society, and the Taiwanese Central Motion-Picture Corporation received government funding which supported their work. The leading figures of this Hsin-Jui (Taiwanese New Wave) movement were Hou Hsiao-Hsien, who directed the historical epic Beiqing Chengshi (1989), and Yang Dechang (also known as Edward Yang), whose Guling Jie Shaonian Sha Ren Shijian (1991) is an epic evocation of 1960s street life. The Taiwanese New Wave was revitalised in the 1990s, with the films of Tsai Ming-Liang (whose work, such as Aiqing Wansui from 1994, is a cold study of urban alienation) and Ang Lee (who followed Yin Shi Nan Nu in 1994 with a series of commercial Hollywood genre films).

Following the Soviet Union's newfound tolerance of freedom of speech ('glasnost'), its films ('otechestvennye filmy'/'fatherland films') were predominantly bleak examinations of life's harsh realities. These somewhat depressing films were known as 'chernukha' ('black films'), the dominant aesthetic of 1980s Soviet cinema as seen in films such as the popular Malenkaya Vera (Vasily Pichul, 1988). A related style, 'bytovoy' ('realism'), presented a degree of social criticism and satire, as in Vladimir Menshov's Moskva Slezam Ne Verit (1980). (There were also a number of blockbuster films (Boeviki), such as Alla Surikova's Chelovek S Bulvara Kaputsinov from 1987.) This was a period of transition in Russia, as a consequence of the government's 'perestroika' policy, leading to fall of the 'iron curtain' in 1989, various Eastern European revolutions in that year, and ultimately the end of the Cold War.

A small group of Kazakh directors, given the opportunity to study at the VGIK film insititute in Moscow, sought to counteract the predominant grim realism of Russian cinema with a Kazakh new wave. They achieved international success with Rachid Nugmanov's Igla (1988).

In Japan, Anime films (also known as 'Japanimation') such as Akira (Katsuhiro Otomo, 1987) and Kokaku Kidotai (Mamoru Oshii, 1995) were adapted from the country's popular comic magazines. (The Akira Manga comic was drawn by Katsuhiro Otomo himself.) Arguably the most important animation artist since Walt Disney, Hayao Miyazaki directed many enchanting Anime films, released by Ghibli, the studio he co-founded in 1985. Miyazaki's first critical success came with Kaze No Tani No Naushika (1984, based on his own Manga) and Tonari No Totoro (1988), and his Sen To Chihiro No Kamikakushi (2001) features a magical lyricism comparable to The Wizard Of Oz.

The Anime industry in Japan has existed since the 1960s, producing countless animated series and serials aimed at children, with specific genres catering for boys (Shonen) and girls (Shojo). There are also Anime genres for young women (Josei) and adolescents (Seinen). Cartoons featuring attractive boys are known as Bishonen, while those featuring pretty girls are called Bishojo. Cartoons featuring superheroes are known as Sentai. Maho Shojo is a genre featuring girls with magical powers. Anime with especially cute characters are known as Moe. The Mecha genre features giant robots. Japan also has an extensive market for bawdy (Ecchi) and pornographic (Hentai) Anime, which can be sub-divided into several specific genres. For example, Yaoi cartoons feature gay characters (though are aimed at a female audience), Shonen-Ai are gay cartoons aimed at a male audience, Yuri and Shojo-Ai feature lesbian characters, Shota are erotic cartoons featuring young boys, and Lolicon are similarly erotic Anime featuring young girls.

Kung-fu films, and softcore Fengyue exploitation such as Fengyue Qitan (Li Hanxiang, 1972), had dominated Hong Kong cinema in the 1970s. However, in 1979, director Tsui Hark made his debut with the dazzling and hallucinatory Die Bian, leading a new wave of commercial Hong Kong cinema. Tsui, who was criticised for the increasing populism of his films, was also a successful producer, working with fellow Hong Kong director Wu Yusen (also known as John Woo). The Heroic Bloodshed gangster films Yingxiong Bense (1986) and Die Xue Shuang Xiong (1989) were instant blockbusters, produced by Tsui Hark, directed by Wu Yusen, and starring Chow Yun-Fat. Du Sheng, starring Chow Sing Chi (also known as Stephen Chow) in a parody of Chow Yun-Fat, introduced a new Hong Kong comedy style known as 'mo lei tau' ('nonsense'), and was directed by Chun-Wai Lau (also known as Jeffrey Lau) and Corey Yuen in 1990.

Domestic video players created a new market for classic old films and unpromising new ones: distribution companies could now release films DTV ('direct-to-video') if they felt that a theatrical release would be uncommercial. Video was also, initially, less strictly regulated than the cinema, and numerous violent horror films released on video in the UK were eventually banned. These 'video nasties' (such as Ruggero Deodato's notorious Cannibal Holocaust from 1979) were condemned as 'splatter' films, 'slice-and-dicers', and 'stalk-and-slashers'.

In Japan, direct-to-video films were known as V-Cinema. Many Anime series deemed too short for television transmission were instead released direct-to-video as OVAs ('original video animations'), the first example being Darossu (Mamoru Oshii, 1983). Once DVDs replaced videos as the domestic medium of choice, DTVs became DVDPs ('DVD premieres').


A major new studio, Dreamworks SKG, was established in 1994 by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen. After several years of construction delays, Dreamworks began active film production in 1997 and quickly became one of the most successful film studios in Hollywood. Its greatest commercial successes were the digital animations it produced to compete with Pixar, including Shrek (Andrew Adamson, 2001). Shrek was notable for its conscious attempts to appeal to both children and adults, and it also contained several thinly-disguised Disney parodies (following Jeffrey Katzenberg's split with Disney and several Pixar/Disney collaborations). Dreamworks was acquired by Paramount in 2005.

Robert Altman's Short Cuts (1993), Bryan Singer's The Usual Suspects (1995), and Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia (1999) all weave together complex inter-connected stories, as did Christopher Nolan's reverse-narrative Memento (2001). (Anderson directed the acclaimed There Will Be Blood in 2007.) Narrative convolution was taken to a new level by Charlie Kaufman, who wrote Being John Malkovich (Spike Jonze, 1999) and Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004); Kaufman's directorial debut was Synecdoche, New York (2008).

Robert Rodriguez's El Mariachi (1992, known as a Burrito western) was an 'indie' film produced on an ultra-low budget, inspired by Sex, Lies, and Videotape (Steven Soderbergh, 1989) and Slacker (Richard Linklater, 1991). Arguably the first major indie film of the period was Jim Jarmusch's Stranger Than Paradise (1984). A group of independent films with gay themes (such as Gus van Sant's My Own Private Idaho, 1991) was defined by B Ruby Rich as New Queer Cinema, a trend that began with the film festival success of Poison (Todd Haynes, 1990). Throughout the decade, indie cinema was dominated by former video-junkie Quentin Tarantino, whose audacious debut Reservoir Dogs (1992) was followed by the highly acclaimed Pulp Fiction (1994).

With the collapse of the military dictatorship in South Korea in the early 1990s, restrictions on foreign media were lifted. This led to an influx of Hollywood films, with which the country's national film industry could not compete. After securing corporate sponsorship, a new wave of South Korean films achieved increasing domestic and international success. The instant and unprecedented box-office popularity of Swiri (Kang Je-Gyu, 1999), and the cult success of Oldboy (Park Chan-Wook, 2003), heralded a New Korean Cinema movement and reasserted the dominance of South Korea's film industry within Asia, a trend known as Hallyu (Korean Wave). (A short-lived Korean new wave movement, known as Yongsang Sedae, had existed in the 1970s, initiated in 1974 by Yi Chang-Ho's Pyoldul Ui Kohyang.)

Fifth Generation film-maker Zhang Yimou (whose debut was Hong Gao Liang in 1987) directed his masterpiece, Da Hong Denglong Gaogao Gua (1991), a film whose sumptuous cinematography is contrasted with its themes of repression and jealousy. His fellow Fifth Generation director, Kaige Chen, made the lavish Ba Wang Bie Ji in 1993. In contrast to the increasingly spectacular Fifth Generation films, a more realistic, urban, and independent Sixth Generation was led by Beijing Zazhong (Zhang Yuan, 1993). Emerging simultaneously with the documentary-style Sixth Generation films was a New Documentary Movement of low-budget Chinese documentaries such as Liulang Beijing: Zuihou De Mengxiangzhe (Wu Wenguang, 1990).

1997 was a breakthrough year for the cinema of Iran. The country's long history of exploitative 'filmfarsi' productions was broken by the international acclaim garnered by the films of Abbas Kiarostami's Ta'm E Guilass (1997), which won the Palme d'Or at Cannes. Mohsen Makhmalbaf's later Safar E Ghandehar (2001) took Iranian cinema, by now at the forefront of international appreciation, into the next century. Safar E Ghandehar, which follows a woman travelling in the Afghan desert, was released at the same time as Afghanistan's Taliban regime was overthrown. Jafar Panahi's film Dayereh (2000) received international critical acclaim, though the director was imprisoned in 2010 and banned from film-making for twenty years.

A group of Danish directors formed Dogme '95, and agreed to a Vow Of Chastity manifesto (an anti-auteurist statement that paradoxically quotes Francois Truffaut: "DOGME 95 has the expressed goal of countering "certain tendencies" in the cinema today", 1995) pledging never to use artificial lighting, post-synchronised sound, camera tripods, or studio sets. In an anti-auteurist gesture, they also refused to allow themselves directorial credits. Each Dogme '95 film was prefaced with a title-card certifying its accordance with the Dogme code. The first such film was Thomas Vinterberg's Festen (1998).

In France, La Haine (Matieu Kassovitz, 1995) was arguably the film of the decade, highlighting the racial tension in 'banlieu' ghettos. A similar theme is explored from an Arab perspective in French Cinema Beur films such as Karim Dridi's Bye-Bye from 1995.

A series of provocative French films, known collectively as the New French Extreme movement and led by Gaspar Noe's Seul Contre Tous (1997), introduced transgressive sex and violence into arthouse cinema. In Michael Haneke's equally shocking Austrian film Funny Games (1997), an exercise in 'epater le bourgeois', two young murderers invade a family's holiday home; Haneke also directed the intellectual thriller Cache (2005).

Todo Sobre Mi Madre (1999), by Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, was the last masterpiece of the century, and Almodovar later directed the emotionally devastating Hable Con Ella (2002). The most promising new director in world cinema at the turn of the 21st century was perhaps Hong Kong's Wong Kar-Wai. His Chong Qing Sen Lin (1994) developed a cult following, and his Fa Yeung Nin Wa (2000) was an international arthouse success.

Det Sjunde Inseglet / Lung Bunmi Raleuk Chat


Latin American cinema overcame its region's economic instability with a Buena Onda of internationally successful films from Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico. The revival arguably began with the emergence of a Nuevo Cine Argentino (New Argentine Cinema) represented by Fabian Bielinsky's kinetic Nueve Reinas (2000). Alfonso Cuaron's Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001) and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Amores Perros (2000), both from Mexico, were simultaneous Nueva Ola (Mexican New Wave) successes. Also from Latin America, Cidade De Deus (2002), by Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund, is the most commercially successful Brazilian film ever made. Its casual violence was influenced by Scorsese and Tarantino, and with its theme of poverty in the favelas of Rio it echoes Brazil's New Cinema movement from the 1960s. The film's co-producer, Walter Salles, directed one of the earliest Buena Onda (Good Wave) films: Central Do Brasil (1998), in a period known as a 'retomada' ('renaissance'), with state funding affording directors more creative freedom.

A Chinese martial-arts film revival was instigated by the worldwide arthouse success of Wo Hu Cang Long (Ang Lee, 2000). It was followed by the balletic, graceful Yingxiong (2002) directed by Zhang Yimou, and his lavish tragedy Man Cheng Jin Dai Huang Jin Jia (2006). The epic scale of the latter film made it China's most extravagant 'dapian' ('blockbuster').

The minimalist, naturalistic Moartea Domnului Lazarescu (Cristi Puiu, 2005), with its long takes and static camera, signalled a new wave in Romanian cinema. A central funding system, the National Centre of Cinematography, was established at the start of the decade, and the new wave achieved its greatest success when Cristian Mungiu's Patru Luni, Trei Saptamini, Si Doi Zile won the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 2007.

Horror films became less supernatural and more graphic, with a trend known as 'torture porn'. This style was largely initiated by Eli Roth, who led a 'splat pack' of horror directors with his gratuitously violent film Hostel (2005).

Several American indie film-makers were accused of selling out, as they directed studio projects alongside independent productions. A new group of intimate, low-budget films, collectively labelled Mumblecore, was hailed as a revival of real independent cinema. Andrew Bujalski's Funny Ha Ha (2005) was the first film of the Mumblecore movement.


Online video streaming led to a decline in video sales and rentals, and Hollywood turned once again to 3D as a gimmick to attract cinema audiences. (3D had been employed in the 1950s when Hollywood was challenged by TV; fifty years later, it was the internet that threatened to usurp viewers from both Hollywood and television.) The 3D revival was led by James Cameron's Avatar (2009), which became the most expensive and commercially successful film ever made. As modern 3D required digital cameras and projectors, there was a dramatic shift in film production and distribution from analogue to digital.

Mainstream cinema in the early 21st century became increasingly dependent on franchises, sequels, adaptations, remakes, and reboots, all of which were regarded by the major studios as relatively safe financial investments. In particular, comic-book adaptations became perennial summer blockbusters, with the characters themselves, rather than the stars, becoming the marquee attractions. In this context, Christopher Nolan's Inception (2010) was exceptional as an intelligent yet successful film based on an original script. Nolan was also a lone voice in his opposition to 3D and digital production.

A renaissance in Thai cinema was, like that of Latin America, concurrent with a financial crisis in the region. The New Thai Cinema movement was instigated almost single-handedly in the late 1990s by Nonzee Nimibutr with his successful gangster film 2499 Antapan Krong Muang (1997). Nonzee went on to produce Wisit Sasanatieng's Fah Talai Jone in 2000. Wisit (who wrote Nonzee's 2499, and came from a television advertising background) had a uniquely 'retro' style evoking the melodramas of 1950s Thai cinema. In Fah Talai Jone, he digitally transformed the environment he filmed with un-naturally bright colours, so that each frame resembled an Andy Warhol screen-print.

Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand's most prominent avant-garde director, made enigmatic, allegorical, and contemplative films. His breakthrough came with the mysterious Sud Pralad (2004), and his evocative Lung Bunmi Raleuk Chat (2010) won the Palme d'Or at Cannes.

Digital Cinema

At the turn of the 21st century, cinema was transforming into an increasingly digital medium, converging with the realms of video games and computer graphics. This process effectively began in the 1970s: when home computers were first available, computer motion graphics sequences were programmed as Demoscene clips. It then became possible to record a character's progression through computer game levels, as a demo or replay: filmed demonstrations of fast game-completion were known as Speedruns, the most famous being Quake Done Quick (Matthias Belz, Yonatan Donner, and Nolan Pflug; 1997). The first narrative-based demo was Diary Of A Camper (Matthew van Sickler, 1996), also featuring footage from the game Quake. The game/cinema convergence later intensified, resulting in Machinima films with sustained narratives featuring game characters interacting within 3D graphic environments. The term Machinima was coined by Hugh Hancock and Anthony Bailey, who released Quad God in 2000, featuring footage from the game Quake III.

In another cinema/computer convergence, webloggers produced online video diaries known as V-Blogs: the first known V-Blogger was Adrian Miles, who started posting his 'vogs' in 2000. Mashup videos, Anime Music Videos, and Songvids were also created online, by re-editing and dubbing existing film footage to ironic effect. The very first example was perhaps Both Sides Now (1980), Kandy Fong's projection of Star Trek slides accompanied by music.

The first Mashup video predates the internet: Apocalypse Pooh (1987), Todd Graham's dubbing of Winnie The Pooh with Apocalypse Now and vice-versa. Cellphones provided new platforms for digital films, known as Microcinema due to the limitations of length and file size imposed by the technology.

American cinema began incorporating digital imagery into its blockbuster films in the early 1990s, notably morphing metal in James Cameron's Terminator II: Judgment Day (1991) and incredible digitally-generated dinosaurs in Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park (1993). The next step, total digital animation, was taken by the Pixar studio with Toy Story (John Lasseter, 1995). (The use of computers in film animation began in 1960, when John Whitney founded Motion Graphics and produced abstract animations via an analogue computer he had invented. In 1961, he compiled his earliest films into a showreel titled Catalog.)

Digital effects were also central to The Matrix (Andy and Larry Wachowski, 1999), which was concerned with the mutli-layered and illusory nature of reality itself (a more technologically sophisticated version of earlier 'virtual reality' films such as David Cronenberg's Videodrome from 1982). Peter Jackson's epic fantasy The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (2001) seemlessly integrated digital technology with traditional photographic effects. Jackson's Lord Of The Rings prequel, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), was filmed in 3D at forty-eight frames-per-second, in a process known as High Frame-Rate 3D.

The electronic, non-analogue exhibition of moving images is known by the umbrella term E-Cinema, though E-Cinema was soon eclipsed by high-definition digital projection (D-Cinema). Directors such as Robert Rodriguez, James Cameron, and George Lucas - not uncoincidentally, directors with their own production facilities - led the shift towards digital production and projection. The first film to be screened digitally was The Last Broadcast (Stefan Avalos and Lance Weiler, 1998), which was transmitted to cinemas via satellite.