Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The 100 Most Influential Canons of World Cinema

     Influence is defined as that intangible power which can affect a person, thing or course of events. Many believe that motion pictures, more than any art form in the past century, have a profound influence on modern life. I would go further and say, it is hard to argue against that. If one accepts the tenet that directors more than any other creative force in the film production, are responsible for guiding and shaping cinema, then obviously the film directors as a group have had a vastly underestimated effect on how the society thinks and believe. But which director has had the most influence on other directors, the style, form and content of cinema, as well as on the public? In the past 100 years, which directors have made an indelible impact on our lives and on the art of movie making process? In what ways have the filmmakers helped to define cinema as we know and see it today? Who are the auteurs, who challenged and broke the traditional notion of filmmaking? Who amongst them have inspired the later generation of filmmakers and have left a real legacy behind? Who are the innovators in the medium of cinematic form and language?

     In the entire history of cinema, there are very few directors who have made an honest effort to rescue cinema as an art when it seems to be drowned in a sea of glamorized triviality, when human relationships on screen have been reduced to predictable banality, sloppy melodrama, extravagant gizmos and money rules the production and distribution of films. Amidst this cinematic catastrophe, crass commercialism, what puts these directors in a class of their own and catapult their films onto a height inaccessible to other filmmakers? It is first and foremost, their uncompromising stance, never to give up attitude against all odds. It is their self belief that cinema is an art form, and they offer not only a truthful experience to the viewers of real life but also imprint their signature in the film. Their attempt to make other directors aware of the fact that the most convincing of the art demand a special responsibility on the part of those who work on it, because, the methods by which cinema affects audiences can be used far more easily and rapidly for their moral decomposition than any other means of traditional art forms. As Tarkovsky puts in his book "Sculpting in Time" "....We have reached a time when we must declare open warfare on mediocrity, greyness and lack of expressiveness, and make creative enquiry a rule in cinema....The only condition of fighting for the right to create is faith in your own vocation, readiness to serve, and refusal to compromise." An auteur will inevitably put his mark, maybe in the content or the style or both while creating his work of art.

     In today’s generation, when discursive and critical film analysis has been dispensed with, replacing it with box-office standings and popularity ratings by viewer's poll, when big money, studios and profit oriented global distribution system has a vice like grip on the filmmaking process, where there is a general apathy towards serious cinema amongst the general populace (for they use cinema as a stress buster ), where there is a general decline of cinephilia and TV soap operas and "reality" shows provide instant gratification, it is very difficult to stand out, believe in oneself, take risk and make good cinema. Still, in spite of so many hurdles we see in today's world artists like Kiarostami, Hou Hsien Hsiao, Angelopoulos, Mike Leigh, Lars von Trier and Sokurov making the last ditch effort to save cinema in its pure form. 

     The era of silent films is known as the "Golden Age" of cinema. The auteur of this era overcame the lack of sound by producing visual brilliance. In the absence of studio interferences these directors were free to experiment and innovate, which they successfully did and laid the foundation of modern cinematic language. Many of these directors successfully graduated into the sound era. Many of them were absolute genius. Jean Renoir describes the fascination this generation holds for its juniors, "I am pursued by the insistent questions of young colleagues for whom everything that preceded the talking film seems as distant and mysterious as the movement of the great glaciers in the prehistoric period. We elders enjoy a respect analogous to what the modern artist feels in front of the graffiti of the caves of Lascaux. The comparison is flattering and brings us the satisfaction of knowing that we weren't wasting film." 

     The Golden era of Hollywood began in 1927 with the release of "The Jazz Singer" and it lasted till 1960s. The mode of production came to be known as the Hollywood studio system and the star system, which standardized the way movies were produced. All film workers (actors, directors, screenwriters, editors etc) were employees of a particular film studio. Most Hollywood pictures adhered closely to a genre- Western, comedy, film-noir, musical, animated cartoon, biopic- and the same creative teams often worked on different genre of films made by the same studio. This resulted in certain uniformity to film style: directors were encouraged to think themselves as employees rather than artists, and hence auteurs did not flourish. However, there were directors who worked against this stringent restrictions, interferences and endeavoured to express their originality and art form. The most notable amongst them were Orson Welles (who ultimately took artistic refuge in Europe), Alfred Hitchcock, Howard Hawks, John Ford, George Cukor, Frank Capra, Otto Preminger, Billy Wilder and Nicholas Ray.

     The French New Wave, which was never a school or a tight group, was a spontaneous and important movement that spread rapidly beyond France's borders. Truffaut in his 1957 article summed up the essence of the emerging New Wave by his naive but sincere profession of faith: " The film of tomorrow appears to me as even more personal than an individual and autobiographical novel, like a confession, or a diary. The young filmmakers will express themselves in the first person and will relate what has happened to them: it may be the story of their first love or their most recent; of their political awakening; the story of a trip, a sickness, their military service, their marriage, their last vacation ... and it will be enjoyable because it will be true and new - The film of tomorrow will be an act of love. "The New Wave filmmakers changed forever the language of cinema and had enormous influence on world cinema. They pushed the boundary of filmmaking style to unthinkable horizon, which is best epitomized in the words of Godard: "I've chosen to do what others aren't doing. No one does that, so it remains to be done, let's try it. If already being done, there's no point in me doing it as well."

     What the “New Wave” moviemakers improvised was a spontaneous, independent cinema, a cinema that lived in their world and spoke to their generation. It was rough and unpolished, but honest and seldom uncommitted. Simultaneously, New Wave cinema exploded in different parts of the world, directly or indirectly influenced by  the French New Wave. However, in most of these cases, though there was an inspiration, the uprising was more related to indigenous factors. Japanese New Wave rose at the same time and except for the journalistic label bear no resemblance to French New Wave. Filmmakers like Nagisa Oshima, Imamura, Masumara and Kaneto Shindo came into prominence. Before that the Japanese Golden Age belonged to Mizoguchi, Ozu,Kurosawa, Kinoshita, Ichikawa and Nakahira. The German New Cienma was a more direct influence of French New Wave. Alexander Kluge was the pioneer and with him emerged a host of auteurs: Fassbinder, Herzog, Wenders and Schlondorff. With the political free-speech prevailing in Czeckoslovakia before the Prague uprising, Czech cinema captured worldwide attention with a series of honest films that criticized social and political conditions. In Poland, the products of Lodz film school like Polanski and Wajda caught international attention.

     The American independent cinema movement, pioneered by John Cassavetes, embraced the notion of art cinema, and therefore has become a breeding ground for the more diverse cinematic conventions and traits that are inherently linked with the art film. These Indie film are low budgeted, adopt formal strategies that disrupt or abandon the smooth flowing conventions associated with the mainstream Hollywood style and they offer challenging perspective on social issues, a rarity in Hollywood. Hans Richter was one of the pioneers of avant-garde film movement, Maya Derren redefined it and Brakhage, Kenneth Anger, Warhol and Jonas Mekas improvised further.

     The Italian cinema saw the neorealistic movement immediately post-war with the advent of Rossellini, De Sica and Visconti. In the 1960s a host of auteurs emerged like Antonioni, Pasolini, Bertolucci, Bellocchio and Sergio Leone. Mario Bava, Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci pioneered the horror genre which influenced later on the Hollywood directors like Carpenter and Sam Raimi.

     The influence of the French New Wave has spread worldwide - from Latin America to Africa and Asia. It is observed that the most innovative films are now coming out from these three continents. From the beginning, the cinema has been a major target of censors, the state and traditionalists afraid of its powerful impact, especially when manipulated by aesthetic and ideological innovations and rebels. As a result, public cinema has often found it difficult to display openly some of man's most fundamental experiences. Today, however, neither fear nor repression seem able to stem an accelerating world-wide trend towards a more liberated cinema, in which subjects and forms hitherto considered unthinkable or forbidden are boldly explored.

     Below here is the list of 100 most influential directors who shaped the style and content of world cinema for good with imagination, honesty, purposefulness, innovation and sheer brilliance and had enormous impact on a series of subsequent generation of filmmakers. The list includes directors in a chronological order of their best period of creative output or their most important masterpiece. The list covers the entire gamut and varieties of cinematic form, from feature films to documentaries, from avant-garde to experimental films. I have prepared this list painstakingly after exhaustive study and watching of films and honestly tried to eliminate the bias existing in the western print media in favour of particularly Hollywood directors. 

     One aspect that is clear from the selection of the list is that the mark of a genius, the success and influence on the industry is a matter of quality over quantity. As Truffaut said, ".... a filmmaker shows what his career will be in his first 150 feet of film." Jean Vigo made only three movies in his life but labelled a genius by that one sheer masterpiece, "L'Atalante". The fact that Eisenstein or Tarkovsky is incorporated with only seven films to their credit - proves that the momentun from one film alone can extend generations into the future. And although, Welles, Truffaut and Godard have much larger filmographies, their inclusion is due, in large part, to the impact of a single early work. Studios have always tried to lure all moviemakers into an established "system", but it is those who have decided to break the rules, explore the unknown, become the true cinema mavericks, and have succeded in being the most revered, remembered and influential.

     This list will be followed by a further list of another 400 greatest filmmakers (alphabetically arranged). I have carefully kept out of these lists those directors, whom I feel are purely commercial, pretentious and over-hyped. Also, I have refrained from ranking the directors, which is a favourite past time of many journals and critics because a work of art is abstract and subjective and cinema making process of different eras have different factors governing it be it social, economical, moral, technical and political. Therefore, any attempt to rank geniuses is just engaging in fruitless semantics. Still, if you ask my personal favourites, I can name a few straightaway. They are Jean Renoir, Andrei Tarkovsky, Ingmar Bergman, Alfred Hitchcock, Jean-Luc Godard, Michaelangelo Antonioni, Jacques Rivette, Fassbinder and Truffaut.

Up to 1930
1. Georges Meleius          (France)
2. Louis Feuillude            (France)
3. D. W. Griffith              (USA)
4. Charles Spencer Chaplin (USA)
5. Erich von Stroheim      (USA)
6. Hans Richter               (Germany)
7. Sergei Eisenstein         (USSR)
8. Buster Keaton            (USA)
9. F. W. Murnau            (Germany, USA)
10. G. W. Pabst             (Germany)
11. Vsevolod Pudovkin  (USSR)
12. Fritz Lang                (Germany, USA)
13. Carl Theodore Dreyer (Denmark)
14. Marcel L'Herbier     (France)
15. Ernst Lubitsch         (Germany, USA)
16. Dziga Vertov           (USSR)
17. Jacques Feyder       (France)
18. Alexander Dovzhenko (USSR)
19. King Vidor             (USA)
20. Joseph von Sternberg (Austria,USA)
21. Abel Gance            (France)

1930 - 45 
22.  Rene Clair                  (France)
23.  Raoul Walsh               (USA)
24.  Jean Vigo                   (France)
25.  Jean Renoir                (France)
26.  Howard Hawks          (USA)
27.  Leo McCarey             (USA)
28.  Yasujiro Ozu              (Japan)
29.  Julien Duvivier            (France)
30.  Alfred Hitchcock        (UK,USA)
31.  Frank Capra               (USA)
32.  Louis Bunuel              (Spain, Mexico, France)
33.  George Cukor            (USA)
34.  Kenji Mizoguchi         (Japan)
35.  Orson Welles             (USA, France)
36.  Jean Cocteau             (France)
37.  John Ford                  (USA)
38.  Billy Wilder               (USA)
39.  Vincente Minnelli       (USA)
40.  Otto Preminger          (USA)
41.  Max Ophuls              (Germany, USA, France)
42.  Maya Derren             (USA)

1945 -59

43.  Michael Powell                 (UK)
44.  Marcel Carne                   (France)
45.  Roberto Rossellini             (Italy)
46.  Vittoria De Sica                (Italy)
47.  Luchino Visconti               (Italy)
48.  Robert Aldrich                  (USA)
49. Norman McLaren           (Canada)
50.  Anthony Mann                  (USA)
51.  Akira Kurosawa               (Japan)
52.  Henry Georges Clouzot     (France)
53.  Ingmar Bergman               (Sweden)
54.  Satyajit Ray                      (India)
55.  Jean Rouch                       (France)
56.  Keisuke Kinoshita             (Japan)
57.  Kon Ichikawa                    (Japan)
58.  Nicholas Ray                    (USA)
59.  Robert Bresson                 (France)
60.  Stan Brakhage                   (USA)
61.  Samuel Fuller                     (USA)
62.  Stanley Kubrick                 (USA, UK)
63.  Frederico Fellini                 (Italy)
64. Jacques Tati                        (France)
65.  Alain Resnais                      (France)

1959 -75

66.  Francoise Truffaut              (France)
67.  Jean-Luc Godard               (France)
68.  Jacques Rivette                  (France)
69.  Chris Marker                     (France)
70.  Louis Malle                        (France)
71.  Eric Rohmer                       (France)
72.  Jacques Demy                    (France)
73.  Claude Chabrol                  (France)
74.  Kenneth Anger                   (USA)
75.  Michaelangelo Antonioni     (Italy)
76.  Nagisa Oshima                   (Japan)
77. Jan Svankmajor                   (Czech Rep)
78.  Sergio Leone                      (Italy)
79.  Sergei Paradjanov              (USSR)
80.  Mario Bava                        (Italy)
81.  Alexander Kluge                (Germany)
82.  Sam Peckinpah                  (USA)
83.  Pier Paolo Pasolini             (Italy)
84.  Bernardo Bertolucci           (Italy)
85.  John Cassavetes                (USA)
86.  Andrei Tarkovsky             (USSR, Sweden, Italy)
87.  Roman Polanski                (Poland, USA, UK)

1975 -2010

88.  Rainer Werner Fassbinder  (Germany)
89.  Werner Herzog                  (Germany)
90.  Robert Altman                   (USA)
91.  Woody Allen                     (USA)
92.  Steven Spielberg                (USA)
93.  Francis Ford Coppola        (USA)
94.  Jean-Marie Straub & Daniele Huillet (Germany)
95.  David Lynch                      (USA)
96.  Krzyosztof Kieslowski       (Poland, France)
97.  Martin Scorsese                (USA)
98.  Mike Leigh                       (UK)
99.  Abbas Kiarostami             (Iran)
100. Hou Hsien Hsiao              (Taiwan)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Cinema as an Art versus Cinema as a Product: A Perspective Part II

The film that I grew up with, are the “Classical Hollywood Narrative Style”, the most popular and prevalent form of filmmaking in the world.  This term was coined by David Bordwell. There are certain salient features of these films.  A film in this style would follow a convention commonly accepted amongst filmmakers. The film is structured with a clear, linear storyline to organize it into a series.  “….casually related events taking place in space and time”, with every scene being goal specific.

Lust for Life (1956)
            Now, to begin with, let’s delve into the typical structure and pattern of popular cinema.  Generally speaking, the film can be divided into three acts.  In the first act, the protagonist with well-fleshed out characteristics is introduced into the environment.  Next, clearly defined conflict is ushered in early in the plot.  The opening act of a film typically plunges us to immediately identify and understand the protagonist, who is the causal agent with a specific desire or goal.  The protagonist knows his aim and is ready to strive to attempt his goal by engaging himself in the conflict. 

            The second act is the progression of that situation to high point of conflict.  The protagonist single - minded strives to make his way through the conflict with “question and answer logic, problem solving routine”. 

            And the final act deals with how the conflict and problems are resolved.  Thus, you see the Hollywood film assemble a tight cause- and- effect chain of action.

            This narrative style, which is very popular (because you don’t have to think as every thing is offered to you on a platter),  favours cohesiveness  and linearity in narration and a seamless, free flowing style, which is achieved with deft editing and constantly focusing on the protagonist and his immediate zone of conflict with very conventional   camera angles. Because of these characteristics Hollywood films are very popular , no doubt about it, but is the experience and joy long-lasting? Mike Lorefice, the American critic, sums it up best when he writes, “One reason why Hollyplastic products, provide a wholly unsatisfactory experience is as they force feed every point to the popcorn chomping audience.”

Titanic (1997)

           To understand what I mean by good cinema, we have to first address Andre Bazine’s still seminal question, “What is Cinema”? According to me, certain assumptions are useful in evaluating quality of a picture.  Firstly, we need to understand cinema is an audio-visual medium.  By this I mean that the visual definition of the film is as   important,   if   not   more that the sound/ dialogues.  The second assumption presumes that cinema is a form of art. Cinema as an art form values chiefly the cinematic expression of ideas and functions and demand intellectual participation from the viewer.  Thirdly, all films   can be evaluated by the style and format of cinematic expression.  Next, it is imperative to comprehend that film is a discursive medium.  It gives the director the authorial freedom to structure his narrative style according to his philosophy /vision.  And finally, the filmmaker is the principal author responsible for his work.

            Truffaut and Rivette opined that cinema is primarily a way of self expression.  According to them, the auteurs held in high esteem were those who perceived to imbue their films with personal style, who acted, in Truffaut’s words “(to) bring something genuinely personal to (their) subject – instead of merely transferring someone else’s work faithfully and self-effacingly.”  As Godard observed in his essay- “…..cinema is an art …… one is always alone, on the set as before the blank page”.

            What are the tell-tale signs of good cinema? Well, according to me, good cinema has primarily two main characteristics: realism and specificity of auteur.
            Realism has been the “holy grail”   of artists since the dawn of mankind.  Our obsession   with realism drives us to create the art form that replicates what we see around us.  Andre Bazin claims cinema satisfies our obsession with realism.  Secondly, cinema is a medium for musing of the filmmaker, who uses it to explore his ideas and propagate his philosophy and thereby invariably puts his signature mark on the form, content and style of the product.

            To begin with, the first tenet of good cinema is to break free from the tight “cause – and – effect” chain of popular cinema.  Therefore, as you see, the narrative flow is deliberately made episodic and disruptive.  As Godard writes, “A story should have a beginning, middle and an end – but not necessarily in that order.” 

            It needs no emphasis, that storyline is an adjunctive   or a ploy to do character study.  The protagonist is never uni-dimensional, but multifaceted with complex characteristics, as in real life.  Therefore, it requires an in depth study of the myriad psychological traits of the individual.  Good cinema explores the inner drama that takes place in the character’s psyche, such as psychological issues dealing with individual identity, sexual or social issues, moral dilemmas, and personal crisis. Depiction of a slice of life only often portrays these aspects profoundly.

Van Gogh (1991)
            Thirdly, the dilemmas are probed in a pensive fashion, but usually without a clear-cut resolution.  The ending is often abrupt, or open-ended – leaving the matter at the viewer’s discretion to draw his own logical conclusion.  In this way, don’t you agree that the viewers participate in the film? As Michael Haneke, the noted Austrian film director asserts, “Films that are entertainments gives simple answers but I think that’s utterly more cynical, as it denies the viewer room to think.  If there are more answers at the end, then surely, it is a richer experience ……”   

The White Ribbon (2009)
            In my view the protagonist should have no clear definition and in some cases   no clear goal.  Thereby, the story line is de-emphasized and deconstructed and we can probe deeply into the complex issues of life and society.  Good cinema deal with such complex contentious topics, which are a taboo or not explored before.  Most of the Hollywood movies, avoid it totally or superficially gloss over it, or if at all dare to deal with it, resolves it at the end. In my kind a cinema, the realism is somewhat psychological and the sexual realism is raw.  There is no scope for hypocrisy in dealing with complicated issues and existentialism within characters also play a part in the development of this aspect.  “This is what …….Euroart – film masterpieces feel like, lean, qualmish, abstracted to the point of parable but as grounded as a grave digging,” wrote Michael Atkinson, film critic of Village Voice.  

            I find the Hollywood movies too “talky”. As if the script writer plays a more important role than the director in the film making process. I prefer a more visual style, because I feel more is said when it remains unsaid; with a glance or stare, or fine nuances of facial expression much more is conveyed than any words do. These films are aesthetically innovative, visually bold, languidly paced, socially committed and humanistic in outlook. The humanist approach concerns films about ordinary people and the expression of their real lives. Good films doesn’t align itself to superstardom, instead it foregrounds realism/and or visual style over narrative cohesion.

The Eclipse (1962)
           Unlike popular cinema, the spectator is engaged and made to think. “The reason I never like narrative is because traditionally narrative film has to have a resolution. By the end, you’re supposed to be able to figure out why things happened the way they did. And I’ve always been more into presenting a problem and getting you into an emotional place where you’re involved and understand the calamity, joy, desire, frustration, or duality, the whole range of psyche within a person’s life. It’s like a texture, or a mood, a moment- not this is the story and this is how it turns out,” noted Peggy Ahwesh, gifted American filmmaker.

             The greatest drawback of Hollywood cinema as envisaged by Alexander Kluge, the pioneer of German New Wave cinema, “The mainstream narrative cinema…works by a process of closing off the ability for the spectator to engage their imaginative faculties while watching a film- I can’t take for granted the notion of spectator as passive observer. In the right kind of film- the spectator can assume a much more active role during the screening of the film.”

            It is apparent by now, that good cinema challenges common conception of film-making. Needless to say, the   emphasis is on aesthetics, mood, and atmosphere over plots and superegos. These movies tend to challenge conventions in subject matter, narrative mis en scene and ideology and   dare to experiment with style and format. As Michael Haneke puts it” …films are intended as polemical statement against the American “barrel down” cinema and its disempowerment of the spectator. They are an appeal for a cinema of insistent questions instead of false (because too quick) answers, for clarifying distance in place of violating closeness, for provocation and dialogue instead of consumption and consensus.”

            My kind of good films just does not exist merely to be enjoyed, but to be weighed upon, grappled with and possibly overwhelmed by it. To conclude, nothing is more apt then to quote from the book “Sculpting in Time”, written by my most favourite film-maker, Andrei Tarkovsky, “When less than everything has been said about a subject, you can still think on further…The alternative is for the audience to be presented with a final deduction…. No effort on their part. What can it mean to them when they have not shared with the author the misery and joy of bringing an image into being?....juxtaposing a person with an environment that is boundless, collating him with a countless number of people passing by close to him and far away, relating a person to the world, that is the meaning of cinema”.

Zerkalo (1975)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Cinema as an Art versus Cinema as a Product : A Perspective; Part I

The popular brand of Hollywood and Bollywood movies was my source of entertainment as I grew up. Later on, I started enjoying classic Hollywood movies. The DVD of "Bicycle Thief" that I picked up casually at a music store, couple of years ago, changed my perspective of the world of cinema. I graduated from the popular mainstream to realistic films. Self study and the availability of plethora of information on the internet helped me to build my collection of good cinema over the years. Cinema has inspired me so much that I want to share my views. 
It is common knowledge that Hollywood cinema was built upon the concept of commercial product. The film is treated as a commodity; its viability is tested and marketed vigorously on a global scale. American cinema has pretty much always been an industry from day one, which relies on the commercial success of the feature film. The film is a commercial vehicle.
Interestingly, no contemporary cinema better exemplifies Tom Gunning's “Cinema of Attraction” model than does that of the mainstream popular cinema. Bollywood is famously spectacle -driven in its emphasis on sets, costumes, melodrama, grandiloquent dialogues, choreographed dance and music, slapstick comedy interludes, larger than life presentation of stars. Such unrealistic escapist farce is yet to come out of the mode of folk theatre. 
Can escapism be a source of entertainment? Aren't we as human beings with higher cognitive abilities will enjoy more a realistic portrayal of life? I'm sure some of us go to a movie to experience something new, to make us ruminate. A work of art, whether it is literature, painting or cinema surely gives us pleasure- by enabling us to experience life with a macro lens.
Unfortunately, the media have popularized an impression that cinema is to "entertain" people without engaging them in a meaningful way. The concept is all storylines end with a resolution so that you go home unaffected.
However, undeniably, cinema is a major art form, and not just sheer entertainment, as are painting and drama. Artists express themselves by using paint and dramatists by using words. Filmmaker's canvass is the film stock and his brush is the camera. To understand the conflict and confluence of cinema as an art and cinema as a product we need to go to the beginning of cinema making and follow its journey through the last century.
Cinema has a brief history, compared to such art forms as music, literature and painting. It has its origin only in the last decade of the nineteenth century when Lumiere brothers held a public screening of projected motion pictures on 28th Dec, 1895 in a Paris cafe.
In the first years of the history of cinema, not much of a difference existed between the two forms- cinema as an art and cinema as a popular entertainment. Earliest works of Georges Meleies like "le voyage dans la lune" (1902) shows experimentation with editing to give the desired effects. The leading film producing countries during the silent era were Germany and Soviet Union. To compete with the lavish film productions of Hollywood, the German filmmakers like Fritz Lang, Murnau,Pabst and Paul Wegener developed their own style by using symbolism and mise en scene to add mood and deeper meaning to a movie, concentrating on the dark fringes of human experience. This particular style, called German Expressionism, created a visual art form far superior to Hollywood spectacle. Movies like "Nosferatu" (1922) and "Pandora's Box" (1928) exemplifies this. Not only this, it became the precursor of the great American film-noirs of the 30's and 40's. The Russian filmmakers, on the other hand, developed an unique style of editing- montage style. The canonical works of Eiseinstein ("Battleship Potemkin"), Dziga Vertov("The Man with a Movie Camera") and Pudovkin("Mother") influenced subsequent filmmaking process.

Pandora's Box (1929)

Even the American formula-ridden melodramas like "Greed" and "Foolish Wives", King Vidor's "The Crowd", epics such as Griffith's "The Birth of a Nation" and "Intolerance," and comedies of Chaplin, Buster Keaton and David Lloyd were of high artistic quality in spite of being popular cinema. Works of French film directors Feuillude, Herbier, Rene Clair, Feyder, Epstein and Gance produced great synthesis of art and popular entertainment.
With the advent of repressive era in Germany and Soviet Union, filmmaking in these two countries suffered. Many German directors fled to America and introduced German expressionism in Hollywood. Prominent among them were Lang, Preminger and Michael Curtiz. Billy Wilder, Ernst Lubitsch and Sternberg enriched Hollywood. Simultaneously, with the advent of sound, the image making lost much of its brilliance and poetry, and commercial standards and studio system flourished. Popularity, market economy and iron grip of major studios led to the demise of art. The Hollywood system dominated film-making to up till 1945. Amongst the Hollywood directors, Hitchcock, Howard Hawks, Orson Welles, Otto Preminger and later on John Huston and Nicholas Ray defied the system and put some originality in their creative pursuit. Due to strict commercialism of the hollywood system artistic flair of directors like Welles and Stroheim were stifled and they went into exile in Europe. Only France was producing a large number of superb films, thanks to Renoir, Duvivier, Vigo and Jean Cocteau. Except for Mizoguchi and Ozu even Japan went into decline.
The war destroyed the economy of Italy and its studio set-up. This forced the Italian directors to make films that focussed on the society and its problems. With budgetary constraint, they chose outdoor locations, non-professional actors, natural lighting and delved on daily life and problems of common man. Artistic masterpieces like "Bicycle Thief", "Paisan", "La terra trema" and "Rome open city" were created by the likes of De Sica, Rossellini and Visconti. They pioneered the first important post-war film movement, neo-realism. These films, because of their gritty, realistic and documentary look, inspired generations of filmmakers and had a positive impact on French New Wave a decade later.

Paisan (1946)

An artistic movement whose influence on films has been profound and enduring, the French New Wave made its first splashes as a movement shot through with youthful exuberance, brisk reinvigoration and experimentation of the film making process. Under the guidance ship of Andre Bazin of the film critic magazine Cahiers du cinema, these young turks, critic-turned directors, Truffaut, Godard, Rohmer, Rivette and Chabrol rejected the classical montage-style narrative filmmaking where script writers and editors played a dominant role. Instead, they favoured mise en scene, or literally "playing in the scene" (preferring the reality of what is filmed over manipulation via editing), the long take, deep composition, shooting on location, improvised dialogue and direct sound recording, jump cuts and freeze frames. Moreover, they had the conviction that the films are a personal artistic impression and should bear the stamp of the author.
Many of these favourite conventions actually sprang not only from artistic tenets but also from expediency of situation. These directors knew a great deal about film theory but less about film production. Plus being low on budget, they improvised, which later became conventions which while defining what good cinema is, challenged the classical concept of filmmaking of Hollywood. A dazzling number of original, passionate, personal films of the highest seriousness were made. These filmmakers changed the vernacular of filmmaking once and for all. The impact of “New Wave” spread all over the world and its footprints are still present today.

Jules and Jim (1962)

In the next edition, I will discuss classic Hollywood narrative structure and the alternative to it, which I prefer to call good cinema.