Tom Ryall
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‘Art cinema’, 1920s British film culture
Alfred Hitchcock and Anthony Asquith
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‘Art cinema’ as a significant historical element of a national film culture has a secure place in the histories of the major European cinemas (France, Germany, the Soviet Union), apart, that is, from the British. Despite a vigorous minority film culture (the Film Society, small magazines such as Close Up, writers such as Paul Rotha and Iris Barry), and some evidence of an incipient avant-garde cinema (Sexton, 2008), British films remain tangential to the discussions of what Andrew Tudor (2005) has termed the ‘formative’ period of the European art film during the 1920s. Though a major European cinema with roots in the prehistory of the medium, Britain did not produce a Caligari or a Battleship Potemkin. This chapter examines the case for a British ‘art’ cinema of the 1920s, comparable to the canonical European cinemas in the context of the film culture of the period, and an evident climate of intellectual interest in ‘the art of film’. It incorporates case studies on the work of Alfred Hitchcock and Anthony Asquith.

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British art cinema

Creativity, experimentation and innovation

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