National Cinema Exercise – MDA 1700

Everything, MDA 1700 Film Communicating in Film: Styles and Movements

National cinema exercise. Choose a decade, choose a nation. Discuss the key films released during that period and what unites/divides them. Do they fit into first, second, third or fourth world cinema?

New Hollywood, The American New Wave, Post-Classical Hollywood… These are terms used to refer to a period in American cinema, between the late 1960s and early 1980s, in which a group of experimental film-makers, sometimes referred to as the ‘movie brats’, emerged and decided to challenge classical film-making techniques, breathing new life into an artistically and financially depressed Hollywood. Many of these film-makers were young, fresh out of film school and had been picked up and given movie deals by large production companies who, due to a financial depression, had nothing to lose. It could be argued that these film-makers simply happened to be in the right place, at the right time. Here are a few of the many major figures during the New Hollywood movement, along with their most well known work during this era:

  • Martin ScorseseMean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull
  • Woody AllenAnnie Hall, Manhatten, Sleeper
  • Francis Ford CoppolaThe Godfather part 1 & 2, Apocalypse Now
  • Stephen SpielbergJaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Stanley Kubrick2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining
  • Terrence Malick – Badlands, Days of Heaven
  • Dennis HopperEasy Rider 
  • Mike NicholsThe Graduate
  • Brian De PalmaCarrie 
  • Sidney Lumet – Dog Day Afternoon 
  • Ridley ScottThe Duellists, Alien

A lot of film-makers during the New Hollywood era were heavily influenced by ‘French New Wave’ cinema from the 1950s and 1960s; film-makers like François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard who’s intentions were to challenge classical film convention. The New Hollywood film-makers were very much influenced by auteur theory, an idea that also came out of the French New Wave. An ‘auteur’ is a director who has full control over his film. Auteur theory argues that a director is to a film, what a writer is to a novel. In other words, an audience watching a film directed by a true auteur should be able to tell who the director is, simply by looking at the screen; the film would have the stamp of the director, a recognisably and distinct style that sets them apart from the rest.

All of the directors listed above can be referred to as auteurs. You could watch a Scorsese film from the 1970s and instantly know that you are watching a Scorsese film due to his stylistic choices, dialogue, shot selection etc… That being said, there are still some notable film making techniques that were commonplace during the New Hollywood movement. Many of these techniques broke the ‘rule book’ of classical Hollywood editing, cinematography and writing. For example; the use of jump cuts (also largely used during the French New wave), line crosses (breaking the 180 degree rule), whip pans/zooms, sudden changes in cutting tempo etc… Many of these techniques were directly used to take the audience out of the movie, to jar the audience and remind them that they are watching a film, as opposed to using the ‘invisible’ techniques from classic Hollywood to let the audience forget that they are watching a film and get lost in the story.

A lot of (not all) the New Hollywood film-makers wanted the audience to be conscious of film-making decisions, especially editing, which up until that point in American cinema, had remained an invisible art form; the final shooting scene from ‘Bonnie and Clyde’, the transitions in ‘Easy Rider’, the breaking of the fourth wall in ‘Annie Hall’, the famous bone-to-spaceship match cut in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ are all good examples of this.

In relation to the question, it is difficult to categorise the New Hollywood movement into first or second world cinema. Technically it would be first world cinema, as it is still Hollywood, and many of the films/film-makers were huge, blockbuster, money making machines. However, the movement adopted so many second world cinema ideas and techniques, such as the rejection of Hollywood convention, and auteur theory, that it could be considered as an honorary member of second world cinema.

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