FOCUS Film History Art and Institutional Constraints

Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin is a drama about a mutiny on board a battleship. It is based on a minor (even farcical) incident from the unsuccessful Russian Revolution of 1905. As history the film is unreliable, although it is a fascinating insight into the social and political attitudes of the period of its making (i.e. the first decade of the Soviet regime). Soviet cinema Battleship Potemkin. Courtesy of BFI Stills, Posters and Designs was a product of the Soviet Union. In February 1917 -...

FOCUS Genre Stardom and Classic Hollywood Narrative

Westerns have a long history in cinema. Indeed, it is generally agreed that the first American narrative film, Edwin S. Porter's silent The Great Train Robbery (1903), was a Western. Before Stagecoach, Westerns were generally not quality films. They were made quickly and cheaply for a largely male audience. Their appeal lay in the gunfights, chases and spectacular scenery. They were 'B' features known within the industry as 'horse operas'. John Ford cut his teeth as a director on such Westerns....

FOCUS Editing and Film Form Realism

With Raging Bull, Martin Scorsese was, as far as he was concerned, directing his last film - throwing everything he had into a creative swansong suicide. He has since directed 11 feature-length dramas, and many other projects. Thelma Schoonmaker's credit, for which she won several major editing awards, appears over an introductory scene that amounts to a single static shot lasting over two and three-quarter minutes with no cuts. These ironies fit well with a film that was an enigma. That Raging...

FOCUS The Auteur and International Art Cinema

Akira Kurosawa was born 3 March 1910 in Tokyo, Japan, and died 6 September 1998 in Tokyo. The Seven Samurai was made at the height of the great director's creative powers. It is impressive, influential and an example of film as both high art and popular entertainment. After training as a painter, Kurosawa became engaged in cinema as a way of portraying movement. He began directing with Horse (Uma, Japan, 1941) and got his first director credit with Judo Saga (Sugata sanshiro, Japan, 1943). He...

FOCUS European Art Cinema Film as Political Art the Epic

1900 is undoubtedly 'epic' - it celebrates a century, it displays generations in conflict and in its original version lasted five and a half hours. The film's 6 million budget was supplied by three different sources 2 million from United Artists, 2 million from Paramount and 2 million from 20th Century Fox. Thus 1900 can be seen as an impressive example of the Holly wood Europe synergy - as usual the relationship was not unproblematic. The production went 3 million over budget, which might seem...

FOCUS Documentary Propaganda

Dziga Vertov's The Man with the Movie Camera is a remarkable film. It is unlike anything that came before or after it in Vertov's uvre, Soviet cinema or indeed the history of film. The film is a documentary made by one of the most prolific and vociferous defenders of non-fiction or 'unplayed' film. 'Unplayed film' neigrovaia fil'ma was the contemporary Soviet term for the genre. Vertov used the term 'unplayed' to highlight his 'Cine-Eye' Group's approach to using factual material. Thus it is...

FOCUS Italian Neo Realism Realism mise en scne

Ever since its first release, The Bicycle Thieves has been hailed as an important work an 'essential' illustrative text for film theory -namely, film realism. Over the years it has been cited in many of the regularly solicited lists of critics' most 'important', 'influential' or 'favourite' films. Whether or not The Bicycle Thieves is truly great cinema cannot of course be proved, but it remains a key piece of film history, representing perhaps the best all-round illustration of an influential...