The earliest pictures, often of astonishingly good quality and steadiness, were intended as popular entertainment in music-hall programs. They showed comic turns, magic trick pictures, slapstick, little romances and even short five-minute dramas. More important were the films recording actual happenings.
In the earliest years of the cinema its power to show contemporary events vividly was recognized and appreciated. More than anything else this unique quality secured popularity for the film as a new form of instruction and entertainment.
The history of the film from 1900 to 1911 is the development of it as an international industry. During this period, films grew gradually from ten minute's length to two hours.
Makers of films began to learn how to tell a story effectively in motion pictures, the pictures taking the place of words. At this period films were making so much money that film-making attracted a different type of people — people who lacked the enthusiasm of the pioneers, whose aim was to coin money rather than to develop this new art.
During the First World War the demand for films continued to grow at a time when European producers were least able to meet it. In consequence America became the foremost filmmaking country of the world and Hollywood in California, with the advantage of its strong clear light, the chief center of production.
The USA developed the "star" system and film publicity simultaneously, so that the names of artists such as Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Picford and Charlie Chaplin were well known to the public wherever there were cinemas to show their films. The cinema became the people's entertainment, lavish, luxurious, often lurid, available almost to everyone at the price of a few pence.
After the war some of the European film industries revived during the short period left to the silent film (1919 - 1928 approximately).
Germany developed the artificial studio film with remarkable photography, sets, lighting and acting. The German school specialized in fantasy, spectacle and melodrama.
Soviet Russia, nationalizing her film industry in 1919 after the Revolution, made the most remarkable contribution of the period to film art in the work of such directors as Eisenstein and Pudovkin. They used the film to interpret history and the problems of contemporary Russian life and their films are among the most important in the history of cinema.
France was the home of experience, especially in the film movement called the avant-garde, run by a group of young directors who attempted to devise films, to reflect ideas of psychology and art.
The British screen, however, remained almost entirely dominated by the American film which developed its tradition of star display in thousands of shallow but commercially successful films.
E. Read a list of word combinations and say which of them were used in the text:
popular entertainment, picture palaces, to secure popularity, to dramatize life, to become legendary, to tell a story in motion pictures, worldwide impact, to coin money, to interpret history, studio bosses, cinema-goers, silent era, smell-o-vision, to devise films, to be dominated by the American film, complicated editing techniques, three-dimentional films, star display, to have no commercial value, technicolor.
F. Answer the questions:
What did the earliest films show?
What are the main features of the film development between 1900 and 1911?
Why did America leave European countries behind at the beginning of the 20th century?
What was Germany’s contribution to the film development?
What objectives did Eisenstein and Pudovkin pursue in their work?
What kind of films did French producers attempt to devise?
G. Render the main idea of the text in: 1) one word; 2) two words; 3) a sentence.
H. Summerize the text in a paragraph of 50-70 words, specifying the contribution of different countries to the film development.
THE HISTORY OF FILM
The earliest films presented 15- to 60-second glimpses of real scenes recorded outdoors (workmen, trains, fire engines, boats, parades, and soldiers) or of staged theatrical performances shot indoors. These two early tendencies — to record life as it is and to dramatize life for artistic effect – can be viewed as the two dominant paths of film history.
EUROPEAN FILM IN THE 1920s
In the same decade, the European film industries recovered from the war to produce one of the richest artistic periods in film history. The German cinema, stimulated by EXPRESSIONISM in painting and the theater and by the design theories of the BAUHAUS, created bizarrely expressionistic settings for such fantasies as Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari (1919), F. W. MURNAU's Nosferatu (1922), and Fritz LANG's Metropolis (1927). The Germans also brought their sense of decor, atmospheric lighting, and penchant for a frequently moving camera to such realistic political and psychological studies as Mumau's The Last Laugh (1924), G. W. PABST’s The Joyless Street (1925), and E. A. Dupont's Variety (1925).
Innovation also came from the completely different approach taken by filmmakers in the USSR, where movies were intended not only to entertain but also to instruct the masses in the social and political goals of their new government. The Soviet cinema used montage, or complicated editing techniques that relied on visual metaphor, to create excitement and richness of texture and, ultimately, to affect ideological attitudes. The most influential Soviet theorist and filmmaker was Sergei M. Eisenstein, whose Potemkin (1925) had a worldwide impact; other innovative Soviet filmmakers of the 1920s included V. I. PUDOVKIN, Lev Kuleshov, Abram Room, and Alexander DOVZHENKO.
The Swedish cinema of the 1920s relied heavily on the striking visual qualities of the northern landscape. Mauritz Stiller and Victor Sjostrom mixed this natural imagery of mountains, sea, and ice with psychological drama and tales of supernatural quests. French cinema, by contrast, brought the methods and assumptions of modern painting to film. Under the influence of SURREALISM and Dadaism, filmmakers working in France began to experiment with the possibility of rendering abstract perceptions or dreams in a visual medium. Marcel DUCHAMP, Rene CLAIR, Femand LEGER, Jean RENOIR-and Luis BUNoUEL and Salvador DALI in Un Chien andalou (1928) — all made antirealist, antirational, noncommercial films that helped establish the avant-garde tradition in filmmaking. Several of these filmmakers would later make significant contributions to the narrative tradition in the sound era.
THE ARRIVAL OF SOUND
The era of the talking film began in late 1927 with the enormous success of Warner Brothers' The Jazz Singer. The first totally sound film, Lights of New York, followed in 1928.
The most effective early sound films were those that played most adventurously with the union of picture and sound track. Walt DISNEY in his cartoons combined surprising sights with inventive sounds, carefully orchestrating the animated motion and musical rhythm.
HOLLYWOOD'S GOLDEN ERA
The 1930s was the golden era of the Hollywood studio film. It was the decade of the great movie stars – Greta GARBO, Marlene DIETRICH, Jean HARLOW, Mae WEST, Katharine HEPBURN, Bette DAVIS, Gary GRANT, Gary COOPER, Clark GABLE, James STEWART – and some of America's greatest directors thrived on the pressures and excitement of studio production. Josef von STERNBERG became legendary for his use of exotic decor and sexual symbolism; Howard HAWKS made driving adventures and fast-paced comedies: Frank CAPRA blended politics and morality in a series of comedy-dramas: and John FORD mystified the American West.