Why study films

This question should be reformulated to read: Why study classical and contemporary American films? First, we need to understand the role of narrative in contemporary cinema, because we may have come to a historical watershed, a transformation of the mode of representation, of the logic of the visible we associate with narrative cinema. Second, without classical and contemporary American films one probably would not be studying the cinema. Hollywood film in particular is the American art par excellence, like tragedy is the art of the Greeks, the pyramids are associated with the civilization of Egypt, and the great cathedrals with the Holy Roman Empire. In this respect, the twentieth century was the American century, and its cinema - its film genres, stars, and stories - most consistently enchanted a public, an international public. This is a great historical achievement: a cultural form has been created. American film's dominance has also stifled, repressed, and marginalized many other forms of cinema; its sheer economic power has 'colonized' the rest of the world, its images, its fantasies, its lifestyles, its dreams and aspirations, its idea of reality.

For Hollywood cinema is a world industry, just as much as it is a world language, a powerful, stable, perfected system of visual communication. As such it represents real power, not just in and through the cinema: the coding of images on TV, the imaging of politics, advertising, lifestyle, etc. goes via the encoding of messages and meaning in and through images, and the image-word combination.

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