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Winner of a prestigious Kraszna-Krausz Foundation Book Award in 1996, Film: An International History of the Medium, now in its second edition, presents the entire history of motion pictures, from pre-cinema to the present. Providing a complete analysis of the principal films, directors, and national cinemas, it supplies a thorough grounding in the social, economic, and political circumstances critical to an understanding of film as both art and industry.
In a highly readable narrative, Robert Sklar, one of the field's most eminent scholars, covers all significant periods and styles—not only commercial films and classical Hollywood cinema but also animation, documentaries, international art cinema, and the cinematic avant-garde. With emphasis on the international relationships among film communities, chapters are devoted to such critical nodes of film history as early cinema, Soviet silent cinema, Hollywood genres, Italian neorealism, and the French New Wave. Substantial sections are also devoted to the films of Eastern Europe, Latin America, Japan, China, Africa, the Middle East, and India. Informative sidebars complement the main text, and cross-cultural timelines introduce the book's seven main parts. Four totally new chapters on English-language art cinema, new European film, world cinema, and Hollywood bring the book's content up to the present.
Film: An International History of the Medium is beautifully designed and illustrated by more than 750 film stills, frame enlargements, production shots, and diagrams. The 212 color plates include rare examples of early hand tinting, pre-cinema technology, two- and three-color Technicolor,as well as almost 100 new images from contemporary films. These stunning and instructive illustrations further illuminate the author's cogent analyses and wide-ranging perspective. Chapter endnotes, a selected bibliography, a filmography, and a complete glossary of terms complete this extraordinary volume.
Lively text and 768 illustrations, 120 in full color, cover commercial film, animation, documentaries, art cinema, and the avant-garde the world over, to present the entire history of film from a global perspective. Includes bibliography, filmography, glossary, notes, index, and 6 timelines.
I. EMERGENCE OF CINEMA.
II. THE SILENT ERA.
III. CLASSIC CINEMA.
IV. POSTWAR TRANSFORMATION.
V. THE REVIVAL OF CINEMA.
VI. THE EXPANSION OF CINEMA.
VII. CINEMA BEGINS ITS SECOND CENTURY.
Cinema is a medium that refuses boundaries. Filmmakers move between countries; films combine genres; film practices overstep the limits of terms such as documentary, fiction, avant-garde. A history of cinema differs from a dictionary or an encyclopedia in its capacity to make connections, rather than to impose categories. The interrelations of the film medium at every level—from craft, artistry, and textual citation to financing, distribution, and exhibition—shape the organization and argument of this book.
Given restrictions of space, how many films make an appropriate number to include in a history of the medium? After attending the inaugural Cannes Film Festival in 1946, French critic and film theorist Andre Bazin offered this observation: "Out of two or three thousand full-length films produced in the world every year, there are perhaps only about fifteen whose titles are worth remembering, a half dozen that are worthy of mention in the future histories of cinema."
In this book, somewhat more than fourteen hundred specific films are mentioned, almost twice as many (extrapolating over cinema's first century) as Bazin deemed worthy. But the criteria for inclusion here are broader than his were at that moment. Bazin was looking for masterpieces. A history of cinema recognizes such great works of art but also tells a different story: of the medium's manifold levels of pleasure and function, derived from elements such as technology, genre, craft, and performance, and even of its role in political propaganda.
Even so, more than fourteen hundred films still does not exhaust the list of titles for which strong cases could be made.Many worthy works have had to be excluded, and every reader may recall a favorite film whose title or director does not appear in the text. Some of my own favorites are missing.
Some notes on technicalities:
Film histories vary as to their method of assigning a date to a film; some use year of production, some the year of first public screening (say, at a festival), some the official release date. Julie Dash's Daughters of the Dust, for example, was photographed in 1989, edited and completed in 1990, screened at festivals in 1991, and released in 1992. In this book, films are dated according to the year of release in the country of origin (thus Daughters of the Dust is dated 1992); occasionally production dates are added to note a gap of years between production and release.
On first mention, film titles are given in the original language, with the English-language release title, if any, in parentheses. In those instances where there is no English-language release title, or when the English title varies greatly from the original, a direct translation is provided in quotation marks.
Illustrations of specific films are either drawn from publicity stills or are frame enlargements. Readers should be aware that publicity stills generally are not actual scenes from films as recorded by motion-picture cameras; rather, they are photographs taken by still cameras before, during, or after a motion-picture shot. This difference accounts for the frequent discrepancy in angle or movement that may be noted between a publicity still and the shot as it appears in the film.
A history of film depends, to alter a familiar phrase, on the kindness of scholars. In nearly every decade since the cinema emerged, writers have contributed invaluable research or personal observations to our knowledge of the medium. A glance at the Bibliography will suggest how the pace of scholarship has accelerated, and its breadth has expanded, in recent years. This book owes its primary debt to all the historians of cinema, past and present. Perhaps among its readers will be a few who discover here opportunities to develop and revise the always incomplete project of cinema's history.
I want to acknowledge more specifically the remarkable endeavors in film scholarship and screenings by the Italian film organizations Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, in conducting the annual silent film retrospective in Pordenone, and Mostra Internazionale del Nuovo Cinema, organizer of annual festivals in Pesaro and elsewhere, that have influenced and aided film historians from many countries. Among Italian film scholars at these organizations and others, I thank especially Gian Piero Brunetta, Lorenzo Codelli, Giuliana Muscio, and Vito Zagarrio for their support and encouragement.
For innumerable courtesies and assistance in introducing me to Chinese cinema, I thank Professor Cheng Jihua of Beijing, China, and Chen Mei, of the China Film Association, currently at the Margaret Herrick Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Beverly Hills, California.
My approach to film history and historiography has been developed in mutual exploration with students and colleagues at the Department of Cinema Studies, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. Ann Harris, Cathy Holter, and their staffs at the department's George Amberg Film Study Center supported this project in many ways. I also received invaluable assistance from Charles Silver and Nancy Barnes of the Film Study Center, Department of Film, and from Mary Corliss and Terry Geesken of the Film Stills Archive, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. My graduate assistant, Peter Sacks, compiled the Filmography and carried out other important research tasks for the book. Others whom I thank for providing aid and support include Akira Shimizu, General Secretary, Japan Film Library Council, Tokyo; Dr. Kyoko Hirano of Japan Society New York; Steve Ricci, Bob Gitt, and Eric Aijala of the Film and Television Archive, University of California at Los Angeles; Ellen Alderman, Lizzie Borden, Gary Crowdus, Charles Musser, Maurice Schell, Leo Seltzer, Elena Simon, Martin Sklar, George Stoney, and Norman Wang.
It has been a pleasure to work with the staff of Harry N. Abrams, Inc., on this book. Editor Katherine R. Doyle, and Senior Picture Editor John K. Crowley brought to the project their enthusiasm and their exacting standards, and 1 am grateful for their commitment. I thank also Paul Gottlieb, Sheila Franklin Lieber, Julia Moore, Beverly Fazio, and Bob McKee of Abrams and Norwell F. (Bud) Therien, Jr., of Prentice Hall.
For chapters 25-28, I am grateful to Richard Pena, program director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, for appointing me to the New York Film Festival selection committee for four rewarding years (1996-1999) of nearly full-time immersion in contemporary cinema. Richard and other committee colleagues—David Ansen, Dave Kehr, Wendy Keys, John Powers, and Jonathan Rosenbaum—offered constant enlightenment and apercus. Joanne Koch, executive vice president; Gavin Smith, editor of Film Comment magazine, and many other Film Society staff members aided my association with that remarkable organization.
Mary Lea Bandy, Chief Curator of the Department of Film and Video,at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, has generously encouraged this work from its inception. Doug Dibbern has been a superb research assistant and has updated and revised the Filmography. My agent, Janis Donnaud, was instrumental in bringing this work to fruition.
My daughter, Susan Sklar Friedman, a film editor, improved the book in many ways through her expertise and assistance, and I was supported as well by my other children, Leonard Sklar, Kate Tentler, and Justin Tentler. Adrienne Harris helped me in ways beyond measure. I am grateful to George and Norah Harris for their encouragement. Nevona Friedman and Nadav Friedman came along to provide fresh energy and enthusiasm.
This book is dedicated to the memory of my mother, Lilyn Fuchs Sklar (1911-1992), and her sister, Frances Fuchs Dolin (1905-1993), whose father screened movies for immigrant audiences in New Brunswick, New Jersey.