For many theorists, art cinema, at least in the restricted sense, is defined through narrative and textual qualities
that run counter to the body of conventions associated particularly with the Hollywood studio picture but also characteristic of the conventional cinemas in many countries. The traditional qualities of the linear narrative with a finite ending, clarity of plot, such unobtrusive use of film techniques as camera movement and editing, the underlining of thematic and narrative points through repetition, sharply delineated characters and empathetic character identification techniques were jettisoned by the art film. In their place came oblique, non-linear, and episodic narration strategies, a commitment to "realism," both in terms of surface detail and complex character definition, thematic ambiguities, and overt displays of cinematic style. Whereas mainstream films concentrated on character behavior, action, and plot, art films tended to delve into character psychology and sensibility, to investigate the drama of the interior. The narrative economy and speed of the classical film gave way to the temps mort (dead time) of the art film. Although thematically broad, it is possible to argue that art cinema as part of its "realist" project often focuses upon the existential problems of the bourgeois intelligentsia, which constitute a meditative mirror for the supposed audience of urban intellectuals. In addition, unlike the authorial anonymity associated with mainstream filmmaking, art films are assumed to possess a strong, identifiable authorial presence. That is, the films are expressions or constructs traceable to the director, and as such they are the centerpiece of the critical discourses that focus upon the art film.
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