The Cine Goes to Town: French Cinema, 1896-1914, Updated and Expanded Edition / Edition 1

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Overview


Richard Abel's magisterial new book radically rewrites the history of French cinema between 1896 and 1914, particularly during the years when Pathé-Frères, the first major corporation in the new industry, led the world in film production and distribution. Based on extensive investigation of rare archival films and documents, and drawing on recent social and cultural histories of turn-of-the-century France and the United States, his book provides new insights into the earliest history of the cinema.

Abel tells how early French film entertainment changed from a cinema of attractions to the narrative format that Hollywood would so successfully exploit. He describes the popular genres of the era—comic chases, trick films and féeries, historical and biblical stories, family melodramas and grand guignol tales, crime and detective films—and shows the shift from short subjects to feature-length films. Cinema venues evolved along with the films as live music, color effects, and other new exhibiting techniques and practices drew larger and larger audiences. Abel explores the ways these early films mapped significant differences in French social life, helping to produce thoroughly bourgeois citizens for Third Republic France.

The Ciné Goes to Town recovers early French cinema's unique contribution to the development of the mass culture industry. As the one-hundredth anniversary of cinema approaches, this compelling demonstration of film's role in the formation of social and national identity will attract a wide audience of film scholars, social and cultural historians, and film enthusiasts.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520079366
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 6/1/1998
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 574
  • Product dimensions: 6.90 (w) x 9.90 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author


Richard Abel is National Endowment for the Humanities Professor of English at Drake University. His books include French Cinema: The First Wave, 1915-1929 (1984), winner of the Theatre Library Association Award, and French Film Theory and Criticism: A History/Anthology, 1907-1939 (1988), winner of the Jay Leyda Prize in Cinema Studies.
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Table of Contents

Illustrations
Preface
Note to the 1998 Edition
Acknowledgments
Note on Terms
1 Turn-of-the-Century France 1
2 The French Cinema Industry, 1896-1914 9
The Big Four, 1896-1902 10
Pathe Comes to Power, 1902-1907 19
Strategies of Dominance, 1907-1911 25
Strategies of Survival, 1911-1914 46
3 The Cinema of Attractions, 1896-1904 59
Trick Films and Feeries 61
Comic Films 87
Diverging Paths: From Actualites to Historical and Realist Films 91
4 The Transition to a Narrative Cinema, 1904-1907 102
The Bricolage Model 105
The Comic Chase Film and Company 109
The Pleasure and Pain of Just Looking: Erotic Films and Others 117
The Dramatic and Realist Films 121
Dissemination and Difference 136
The Cinema of Attractions (continued) 156
5 The Pre-Feature, Single-Reel Story Film, 1907-1911 179
Contemporary Melodramas: Light and Dark Variants 183
Comics Come in Series 215
Film d'Art and Films d'Art: The Historical Film and the Literary Adaptation 246
Trick Films and Feeries 278
6 The Rise of the Feature Film, 1911-1914 298
The Historical Film Comes of Age 302
Life As It Is: In and Out of Fashion 326
Crime Pays: Detectives Versus Criminals 354
The Comic Series in Full Swing 388
Afterword 429
Filmography 433
Notes 463
Bibliography 537
Index 547
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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2002

    Comprehensive History of early French silent Film

    Richard Abel has done a massive reasearch job, and impressively documented French silent films from their first showing until the outbreak of World War I. French films were the most popular in the world until the War wiped out the film-making industry for a few years. By then, the American film industry was the world leader. Abel viewed hundreds of still-existing early films in writing this book. The appendix includes a very useful filmography that lists existing French silent films, the archive that holds them, and lists contemporary magazine reviews of the films. This book has very detailed endnotes of his sources. There are quite a few photos from the films that Abel describes. The book is broken up into five parts. The first part documents a history of the French film industry up to 1914, and the audiencies of the time. The next section documents "The Cinema of Attractions (1896-1904), when George Melies was the most popular filmmaker with his "trick" films. Also, the Lumiere Brothers specialized in "actuality" films, and the Pathe company was growing. The next section covers "The Transition to a Narrative Cinema (1904-1907)", where short story films were king. Pathe and Gaumont were the dominant film companies, and Melies was not popular much longer. Next, "The Pre-Feature Single-Reel Story Film" documents the rise of comedies, historical films and even cartoons. Finally, "The Rise of the Feature Film (1911-1914) covers historical epics that were much longer, crime and detective films, and comedies featuring comedians like Max Linder and Andre Deed. The book also explains how both serious films and comedies both affirmed and satirized contemporary French society. If you are new to the study of film history, this book will be way over your head. On the other hand, if you are interested in the development of film narrative and editing, you will be fascinated by this book. My only complaint is that Abel describes so many different examples of films, that it is tough to read a large chunk of this book at one sitting. After an hour or so, all of the plot-lines and camera-work and editing that he describes starts to blur together in your mind. I think that the book might have benefited from more section breaks. Still, this is a fascinating book for the serious silent film fan.

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