2. National and Transnational Cinemas
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2 NATIONAL AND TRANSNATIONAL CINEMAS N A T I O N A L A N D T R A N S N A T I O N A L C I N E M A S • 109 . . . Although there has been a great deal of scholarship on the emergence and development of national cinemas, the role played by film manifestos in their histories has often been marginalized. The waves and movements that arose in Europe from the rubble of World War II were greatly tied to film manifestos. There are many salient reasons for this: the destruction of the European infrastructure from six years of war and bombing meant that all industry, including the creative ones, had to be reimagined. On an economic level, the Marshall Plan meant that a majority of European screens were showing Hollywood films. And because of the war, the Hollywood studios had six years worth of backlogged films that could now be released, along with the new films they were producing (among other things, this backlog led to French critics discovering film noir). This led to at least two developments. First, many European countries wanted to counteract the influence of American culture. Second, because of the destruction wrought by the war, the various European film industries had to radically rethink the modes and means of production in their respective countries. Each country faced its own specific issues, along with the panEuropean concern with Americanization. The issues facing Britain, for instance, were distinct, as the United Kingdom’s market had to compete with American films that shared a common language. In Italy the destruction brought on the country meant that new modes of filmmaking needed to be developed. In France, the country with perhaps the most cinephiles, over time an interstitial cinema developed in response to the staid “quality ” films being produced. Germany, as an occupied country, had its production tightly controlled by the Allies. In the twenty-five years following the war, each of these countries developed distinct national cinema “waves.” In each case these waves were tied to manifestos . The case of Britain in this regard is telling. One of the “victors” of the War, much of its industrial infrastructure had been destroyed, and, as noted, the British shared the English language with Americans. And like other English language countries, such as Canada, there was a turn toward documentary. The Free Cinema manifesto of 1956 was, according to Lindsay Anderson, as much an attempt to call into being the possibility of making films, and a promotional tool, as it was a coherent aesthetic movement. And while Free Cinema became, over time, international in its scope (exemplified by Polanski ’s Two Men and a Wardrobe [Poland, 1958], Truffaut’s Les mistons [France, 1957], and McLaren’s Neighbours [Canada, 1952]), its key goal was to make alternative forms of filmmaking acceptable and, more important, to screen them in Britain. Yet the movement also was part of a larger change taking place in the United Kingdom centrally concerned with the promises of the war and how the country itself would change its class-bound heritage. The Free Cinema films introduced the images and voices of the British working classes to the screen. Slightly preceding the Angry Young Men of British literature and 110 • N A T I O N A L A N D T R A N S N A T I O N A L C I N E M A S drama, Free Cinema attempted to reimagine British cinema but also to determine what kinds of images of “Britishness” would appear on the screens. The Free Cinema movement also was a key precursor and influence on the Kitchen Sink films of the late 1950s and 1960s. European cinemas continued to respond to American hegemony of the screens. Indeed , the latest manifestation of a Euro-wave, the Dogme ’95 manifesto, is all about this history and the supposed death of European waves. For Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg the beginning of this death can be traced back to the arrival of the French nouvelle vague in 1960. Trier and Vinterberg contend that Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Claude Chabrol, Eric Rohmer, and Jacques Rivette were all for the overthrowing of the cinema of the past but did not make anywhere near a decisive enough break with the past to bring about a new cinema. Yet the auteur cinema of la nouvelle vague was not a consolidated film style; it did not follow uniform...


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