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Modernist cinema

Parents: modernism - cinema

Related: alienation trope - avant-garde film - art film - art house film - abstract film - structural film

The rise of cinema and "moving pictures" in the first decade of the 20th century gave Modernism an artform which was uniquely its own, but it was largely undervalued by the literary and art intelligentsia. [Aug 2006]

Compare: classical Hollywood - postmodern cinema


Modernist cinema is the cinematic form of modernism

Early modernist filmmakers

This list speaks of early modernist filmmakers. The word 'modern' should be understood as avant garde or experimental in this context. These are filmmakers that forsaked the laws of narrativity and approached cinema not to tell stories, but as a visual medium to depict non-representational "moving art", dreamlike sequences and "moving images for the sake of moving images" (much like MTV today).

Luis Bunuel & Salvador Dali | Rene Clair | Jean Cocteau | Maya Deren | Marcel Duchamp | Germaine Dulac | Viking Eggeling | Oskar Fischinger | Joris Ivens | Fernand Leger | Len Lye | Erno Metzner (aka Erno Marzner) | Norman Mclaren | Man Ray | Hans Richter | Walther Ruttmann | Harry Smith | Paul Strand | Jean Vigo --http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/MRC/pomo.html [Dec 2004]

Robert T. Self on modernist cinema

Modernist cinema presupposes ... the world as splintered and centreless, meaning as imprecise and indeterminate, morality as divisive and illusory. It asserts that the human being is neither an autonomous individual nor a meaningful unity, but a process of divergent and contradictory forces, both internal and external. It suspects the power of communication in the face of human greed, alienation, estrangement, and self-destruction. [...]

A central strategy of modernist cinema is its effort to represent a true rather than an idealised reality. Its human figures are ordinary “people”, not literary “characters.” The behaviour of these people frequently seems motivated by unseen events and unknown causes and necessitates active audience participation in the closing of narrative gaps for the construction of meaning. Actions may prompt reactions but not in any logical or sequential way. Narrative order disappears. Narrative lines multiply. ...

Modernist narratives consequently develop fictions where story and plot time are fractured, where story reflects on its telling, where cause and effect are implicit, and where social identity is unstable and fragmented. --Robert T. Self in The Modernist Art Cinema of Robert Altman via http://www.sensesofcinema.com/contents/directors/05/altman.html [Aug 2006]

Modernism in cinema

The overall objective of the seminar MODERNISM IN THE CINEMA is to investigate how far and to what extent the category 'modernism' can be applied to film theory and film history. At the same time MODERNISM IN THE CINEMA will take a critical look at special modernist strategies that are attached to individual directors and historical modes of filmic expression and style.

In film studies modernist studies have not played any notable part in contrast to for instance literary history and art history. However, certain periods in film history (German expressionism) and a few movements (The avant-garde film in the twenties) have been seen as belonging to modernist currents. Yet to a considerable extent they have been determined by perspectives that either have their position outside film studies, or they have been seen as historical and well-defined periods.

The attempt of MODERNISM IN THE CINEMA is to investigate reasons for the missing involvement of modernism as a category for film, but more importantly to investigate if it is possible to establish actual studies in the relation between modernism and film. The seminar will shed light on different approaches to film and modernism, which will enrich the studies of film as well as of modernism. The seminar offers a critical investigation of the relations between cinematic representations, modes of experience and relation between film and reality. -- http://www.kommunikation.aau.dk/cfm/aktiviteter/seminar05.htm [Dec 2004]

The Modern Cinema and Narrativity

Published in Film Language: A Semiotics of the Cinema

Christian Metz in his essay ‘The Modern Cinema and Narrativity’ indicated the characteristics of the modernist cinema:

1. Importance of director as an auteur or author.

2. Anti-theatrical

3. Thought provoking

4. Emphasis on the structure of individual shots.

Masterpieces of Modernist Cinema (2006) - Ted Perry Marcus

Masterpieces of Modernist Cinema (2006) - Ted Perry [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Book Description
In Masterpieces of Modernist Cinema, prominent scholars consider well-known films that seem to stand alone in the history of cinema, without obvious precursors, and without progeny: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, L’âge d’or, and Last Year in Marienbad, to name a few. Such films appear to be sui generis and in some ways incomprehensible; but as these essays demonstrate, they are best understood within contexts beyond the world of cinema. Most were heavily influenced by some aspect of Modernism — Symbolism, Dada, Expressionism, Surrealism, Constructivism, Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, etc.—but the social and political events of the period have left their mark on these films as well. The essays in this collection address individual films, exploring the place of each in the history of cinema and the history of ideas, ultimately rendering each comprehensible.

Contributors are Dudley Andrew, Tom Gunning, Bruce Jenkins, Brandon W. Joseph, Anton Kaes, T. Jefferson Kline, Carrie Lambert-Beatty, Gilberto Perez, Ted Perry, Tony Pipolo, John Pruitt, P. Adams Sitney, and Yuri Tsivian.

From the Publisher
Noted film scholars analyze some of the most challenging films of the 20th century.


Close Up 1927-1933: Cinema and Modernism (1998) - James Donald, Anne Friedberg, Laura Marcus

Close Up 1927-1933: Cinema and Modernism (1998) - James Donald, Anne Friedberg, Laura Marcus [FR] [DE] [UK]

Product Description:
Close Up was the first English-language journal of film theory. Published between 1927 and 1933, it billed itself as "the only magazine devoted to film as an art," promising readers "theory and analysis: no gossip." The journal was edited by the writer and filmmaker Kenneth Macpherson, the novelist Winifred Bryher, and the poet H. D., and it attracted contributions from such major figures as Dorothy Richardson, Sergei Eisenstein, and Man Ray. This anthology presents some of the liveliest and most important articles from the publication's short but influential history.

The writing in Close Up was theoretically astute, politically incisive, open to emerging ideas from psychoanalysis, passionately committed to "pure cinema," and deeply critical of Hollywood and its European imitators. The articles collected here cover such subjects as women and film, "The Negro in Cinema," Russian and working-class cinema, and developments in film technology, including the much debated addition of sound. The contributors are a cosmopolitan cast, reflecting the journal's commitment to internationalism; Close Up was published from Switzerland, printed in England and France, and distributed in Paris, Berlin, London, New York, and Los Angeles. The editors of this volume present a substantial introduction and commentaries on the articles that set Close Up in historical and intellectual context. This is crucial reading for anyone interested in the origins of film theory and the relationship between cinema and modernism. --Amazon.com

Between 1927 and 1933, the journal "Close Up" championed a European avant-garde in film-making. It was edited by the writer and film-maker, Kenneth MacPherson and among its regular contributors were the poet H.D., Gertrude Stein, Dorothy Richardson and Virginia Woolf (whose essay on cinema is reprinted here in full). This volume republishes articles from the journal, with an introduction and a commentary on the lives of, and complex relationships between, its writers and editors. --Amazon.co.uk

Cinematic Modernism : Modernist Poetry and Film (2005) - Susan McCabe

Cinematic Modernism : Modernist Poetry and Film (2005) - Susan McCabe [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Book Description
Susan McCabe juxtaposes the work of four American modernist poets with the techniques and themes of early twentieth-century European avant-garde films. The historical experience of World War One and its aftermath of broken and shocked bodies shaped a preoccupation with fragmentation in both film and literature. Film, montage and camera work provided poets with a vocabulary through which to explore and refashion modern physical and metaphoric categories of the body, including the hysteric, automaton, bisexual and femme fatale. This innovative study explores the impact of new cinematic modes of representation on the poetry of Gertrude Stein, William Carlos Williams, H. D., and Marianne Moore. Cinematic Modernism links the study of literary forms with film studies, visual culture, gender studies and psychoanalysis to expand the usual parameters of literary modernism.

About the Author
Susan McCabe is Associate Professor of English at the University of Southern California. Product Details

See also: avant-garde film - modernist literature - abstract film

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