The Emergence of Cinema as an Institution Chapter 1 John Belton, American Cinema, American Culture Clip: [Brief] History of the Motion Picture
• From 1929 to 1949: 80 to 90 million Americans viewed movies weekly• Movies resembled a religious institution, but primarily a social institution“THE CATHEDRAL OF THE MOTIONPICTURE”
Developing Systems: Society & Technology• Film as an institution • Q: What is an institution? • A: An established, custom, practice, or relationship in society (American Heritage Dictionary) Examples: government, military, church, school• Economic: Purpose = make money (e.g., Edisons Kinetoscope only one voyeur at a time, pun intended), but developed into a product marketed and sold the audiences. Star system and genre system are commodities• Social: Promoted social interaction among Americans; Leisurely activity; Examples: church, clubs, bars• Technological: marvel attracted crowds, dependence on products of the Industrial Revolution (celluloid, sound, etc.)• Psychological: Appeals to emotions, makes us want to go to the movies; escapism, enjoyment, contemporary times vary greatly from the past when movie-going was akin to our TV habits today.
Edison & the Kinetoscope (cont’d)• Capturing Time: an age of many new inventions, which impacted cultural shifts. First motion picture camera• Introduced new concept of time (along with the photograph & phonograph) • A commodity - reproduced and sold • Objectified, infinitely re- experienced• Viewed by one person at a time• Designed to maximize profit
• Invention of projection (1895-1896)• Changed viewers relationship to the image was no longer private, but a public experienceMASS PRODUCTION, MASS CONSUMPTION
The Nickelodeon: A Collective Experience• Working class attraction• 5¢ movies• “For the first time in American history all races, genders, social and ethnic groups shared a collective experience”• A step toward the creation of a homogeneous middle-class American culture
Cleaning Up: The Benefits of Respectability• Motion Picture Patents Company (MPPC) • Result of mass consumption and need for stabilization • Interested in profit and market expansion• Goal: attract upper class viewers• Objectives • Eliminate ethnic films • Increase price of admission • Produce films based on literary, historical, or biblical sources (Poe, Dickens, Tolstoy, Shakespeare)
• The Camera as Recorder• The Camera as Narrator• The Feature FilmSPECTACLE AND STORYTELLING: FROMPORTER TO GRIFFITH
The Camera as Recorder• „bourgeoisification of the movies‟• Post-1908, exhibitionist in nature, theatrical• Middle-class demand for more advanced/complex narratives• Focus on perfection of narrative skills• Edwin S. Porters use of showing same action from different perspectives successively • Two versions of The Life of an American Fireman (1903) • http://youtube.com/watch?v=p4C0gJ7BnLc
The Camera as Narrator• Active narration used to shape audiences perception• Griffiths use of parallel editing or cross-cutting • Creates suspense • Psychological development of characters
The “Feature” Film• More complex narratives• Multiple-reel• Financial success• D.W. Griffiths historical epic, The Birth of a Nation (1915) • 12 reels, 3 hours long • Extreme racism overtly presented and exposes the power of the motion picture as a medium to communicate ideological arguments • http://youtube.com/watch?v=32hMZP0K 2wM
“Garden of Dreams” & The Great Showmen• Change from uncomfortable, modest theaters to spacious, luxurious movie palaces• From theater attendants to concierge service• Middle class experience the luxuries of the richPRESENTING…THE MOVIE PALACE
AN EVOLVING INSTITUTION• What began as a technological marvel at the turn of the century has changed in countless ways • Stylistic and technological developments • A shifting in American consciousness• Continues to be an efficient system of storytelling• “The cinematic institution of Hollywood past has disappeared…transformed into a new institution designed to serve…contemporary audiences” (19).• Goal: “to recover a sense of the experience that previous generations had when they went to the movies” (20).