Case studies of each national cinema covered in the course book
How to approach the unit
Follow the same principles
In other words, use the four approaches to analyse each national cinema
Consider links between European cinema and other national cinemas already covered on the course
Plan a reasonable workload for your study
You are expected to be more independent in selecting viewing material
Watch at least one feature film from each nation and think carefully about your choice of which films to watch
How to approach the unit
TMA04 Option One
This is ostensibly a question about aesthetics, but consider what links these cinemas from the social, economic and technological approach as well
TMA04 Option Two
Discuss at least one film from any two nations in reasonable detail
Consider the concept of the ‘vision of the national past’
While the essay questions seem to naturally lend themselves to aesthetic interpretations, think about how you can incorporate all four approaches and support them with historical evidence
Your reading material covers post-1973 (or post-1945 when you study West Germany) - Think about what historical events impacted on this period and hence why films from this era have been chosen.
The films discussed in the course book are generally middle class, ‘intellectual’ cinema. However, each nation covered has its own popular genres (e.g. Heimat films in Germany, Polar/policier in France) - It is quite often illuminating to consider how popular cinema fits in with the trends of a nation’s more intellectual films, and the implications this has for claims that particular films represent ‘national’ consciousness.
West German Cinema Since 1945
West German Cinema Immediate Post-War Context
In immediate post-war West Germany, it was largely America that controlled both the production and the distribution of films - Consider the implications of this for German cinema and society
British and American occupying forces jointly produced Welt im Film (World on Film) - If you are a German speaker you can view an example here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StawZ5_p750
Despite this, the export of German films was also adversely affected by the revulsion many countries felt for German films in the aftermath of the war (Course Book p. 7), further hampering the development of a ‘national’ cinema.
In 1948, the western powers introduced a currency reform (the Deutsche Mark), dramatically lowered taxes and removed price restrictions on goods to revitalise the German economy, and in turn entrenched the split between East and West.
Referred to a style associated with Nazi Germany and its immediate aftermath, of which Jew Suss (Viet Harlan, 1940) (about a Jewish businessman, Suss Oppenheimer, who connives his way into government for his own financial gain, raping a German girl and torturing her family in the bargain) is an interesting example. Suss is sentenced to death at the film’s conclusion.
An example of the press book for the film is here- http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/judsuss2.htm
While this is an extreme example, as late as 1957 about 70 per cent of West German feature films were made using the services of a director or scriptwriter who had worked under the Nazi regime (Course Book p.5).
You can also view a clip from The Murderers are Among us (Wolfgang Staudte, 1946) - an example of the Trummerfilme .
Young German Cinema
Young German Cinema - comes from the manifesto created at a 1962 short film festival in Oberhausen. Lasts until the late sixties.
Alexander Kluge’s debut , Abschied von Gestern (Yesterday Girl) (1966) , focuses on a young Jewish woman from East Germany who fails to make a new start in West Germany.
Based on the Sight & Sound article on Kluge’s work, discuss how the form of Kluge’s films was influenced by German society, and to what extent they marked a departure from Papas Kino .
New German Cinema
The two most prominent filmmakers in this movement were Werner Herzog and Rainer Werner Fassbinder, followed by Wim Wenders, the most commercially successful director of the German New Wave.
Watch the clip of Veronika Voss (Fassbinder, 1982) on your course video and discuss its relationship to Germany’s past and contemporary issues.
In July 1990, the two Germanys joined in a monetary, economic and social union, and in October they united politically under the aegis of Helmut Kohl’s Christian Democratic Party, heralding the end of the New German Cinema.
New German Cinema - A Case Study of Werner Herzog
Watch an example from either Aguirre, Wrath of God (1971) , The Enigma of Kasper Hauser (1972) or Fitzcarraldo (1982) and consider the similarities and differences between Herzog and Fassbinder’s work
Herzog describes himself as a Bavarian, rather than German director, and he certainly appears to portray outsider characters at odds with society. This is enhanced by his tendency to focus on historical settings. But do any of the Herzog films you have seen relate to contemporary German society? How ‘national’ are they?
A good indication of Herzog’s filmmaking philosophy can be seen in this monologue from Burden of Dreams (1982) about the making of Fitzcarraldo
German Cinema in Autumn?
In 1955, German made films accounted for approximately 50 per cent of the total domestic film market, a figure that declined to 30 per cent in the early 1970s (Course Book p. 20).
in 1990, only 5 per cent of the market share of films was claimed by German productions, with American films claiming 85 per cent (Course Book p. 20).
Consider the reasons for this decline and how it relates to the TMA questions.
French Cinema, 1974-2000
French Cinema: 1974-2000 Social Factors
May 1968 - Did a legacy of protest permeate throughout French cinema? Or instead, was there a more conservative, backward looking reaction to these events?
1974 - Election of Giscard d’Estaing heralded a programme of liberalisation that mirrored Britain in the late 1960s (legalising abortion, divorce etc.)
By 1979- French films accounted for 50.1% of the cinema audience, with American films constituting 29.3%
By 1993 only 34.6% were French, and American 57.1%
Why did this happen? Consider from aesthetic, social, economic and technological viewpoints.
French Cinema: 1974-2000 Economic and Technological Factors
Strong film funding arrangements put in place with cinema in France supported by TV revenue
Strong tradition of independent filmmaking supported by lightweight, portable cameras and massive indigenous audience base
French Cinema, 1974-2000 Aesthetic Approach
Crisis of masculinity
Perhaps related to the previously mentioned changes in 1970s French legislation?
See Les Valsuese for an example of this
Fetishised portrayals of women
40 to 50 per cent of French cinema releases between 1976-78 was pornography, and the fetishised portrayal of women has a long lineage in French art cinema
Criticism of style over substance (Cinema du Look)
Seen in Diva (Jean-Jaques Beineix, 1981) and La Haine (Mathieu Kassovitz, 1995)
Refuge in the Past
As seen in Jean de Florette (Claude Berri, 1986)
Can this be due to war guilt? The Sorrow and the Pity (Dir. Marcel Ophuls) was released in 1969
French Cinema, 1974-2000 Case Study - La Haine
Interestingly, the French cinema discussed in the course book branches away from the auteur legacy (despite Godard, Truffaut, Chabrol and Resnais still making films during this period). In many ways the work covered could be called a ‘new French cinema’, and youth is certainly a key factor.
Despite this, La Haine (1996, Dir. Matieu Kassovitz) shares similar traits - But is it style over substance? Watch the extract from the course video and assess the social, economic, technological and aesthetic influences
Italian Cinema, 1973-2000
Italian Cinema, 1973-2000 Social Factors
Censorship laws were relaxed in 1965
Italy in the 1970s followed a similar legislative path to Britain in the late 1960s
The voting age was lowered to 18 (1974), and divorce (1975) and abortion (1978) were legalised
Italian Cinema, 1973-2000 Economic and Technological Factors
Television becomes more dominant in the 1970s, prompting a shift towards ‘spectacle’ in the cinema
Unlike in France, there was not the same support for cinema from Italy’s TV companies
In addition, there were a number of dominant popular Italian genres, so ‘art’ cinema did not have as strong a financial foundation
Italian Cinema, 1973-2000 Aesthetic Approach
‘ Polished camerawork and editing’
‘ In keeping with the tradition of Italian painting’
‘ Touches of the melodramatic’
Again, following Italian operatic traditions
The Second World War and its legacy
Similarly to France, the national myths about Italy’s role in the conflict are troublesome
Particularly with foreign actors appearing in films
I would add ‘realist traditions’
As seen in the neo-realist movement of the late forties and fifties (Rosselini ( Roma, Citta Aperta/Rome, Open City, 1945 ), De Sica ( Ladri di Biciclette/Bicycle Thieves, 1948 ))
What other national cinema you have covered on the course had similar traits?
Italian Popular Genres
Otherwise known as ‘Sword and Sandal’, for example Le Fatiche di Ercole/Hercules (Pietro Francisci, 1958) starring Steve Reeves
Named after pulp crime novels with yellow covers (‘giallo’ is Italian for ‘yellow’), these are similar to the French Policier/Polar , but more graphically violent
The major Italian popular genre - See Ricardo Freda, Mario Bava & Dario Argento for key examples of this. The majority of these featured non-Italian actors (e.g. Barbara Steele, David Hemmings, Christopher Lee)
Case Study of La Vita e Bella
La Vita e Bella/Life is Beautiful (Roberto Benigni, 1997) - http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=PorTC447hbQ&feature=related (unfortunately this is the dubbed version – best to watch in conjunction with your course book commentary)
How do these examples follow the trends outlined in your course book?
Further Sources of Research
Films & Extra Resources on Course Website
Cine Lumiere - http://www.institut-francais.org.uk /
A Short History of French Cinema
Italian Cultural Institute - http://www.iiclondra.esteri.it/IIC_Londra
http://www.german-films.de/index.php - brilliant resource for stats and synopses of films - check out the film archive and statistics links on the home page.
The Goethe Institute - http://www.goethe.de/ins/gb/lon/enindex.htm
All videos discussed in this session on squrl.com
At the OU’s main London venue in Camden, from 10am-4pm
16 July – TMA05 Deadline 4 August
Covers the entire TV Genres unit
Details of the Next Tutorial
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