British art cinema: Creativity, experimentation and innovation brings together a selection of essays from both new and established scholars that engage with how far artistic creativity, entertainment and commerce have informed a conceptual British ‘arthouse’ cinema. The chapters show that rather than always sitting in the shadow of its European counterparts, for example, British cinema has often produced films and film-makers that explore intellectual ideas, and embrace experiment and innovation. The book examines the complex nature of state-funded and independent British filmmaking, the relationship between the modernist movement and British cinema, and the relationship between British cinema, Hollywood and US popular culture. The chapters cover the history of British cinema from the silent period to the 2010s. Film-makers explored in detail include Alfred Hitchcock, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, Derek Jarman, Ken Russell, Horace Ové, Joseph Losey, John Krish, Humphrey Jennings, Nicolas Roeg, and lesser-known artists such as Enrico Cocozza and Sarah Turner. There are new essays on the British New Wave, the 1980s, poetic realism and social realism, the producer Don Boyd, the Black Audio Film Collective, films about Shakespeare, and the work of the Arts Council in the aftermath of World War Two.
and artists painted pictures’ and that films ‘could be personal creative statements […] by Bergman, by Fellini’. 11 Secondly, art films tend to be structured around psychological problems and intellectual themes, or what Neale called ‘the interiorisation of dramatic conflict’, 12 as opposed to classical Hollywood’s preference for following the actions of goal-orientated characters. The third related characteristic is art cinema’s approach to narrative. As Peter Greenaway, one of the doyens of contemporary British and European art cinema, provocatively put it
This book offers a startling re-evaluation of what has until now been seen as the most critically lacklustre period of the British film history. It includes fresh assessment of maverick directors; Pat Jackson, Robert Hamer and Joseph Losey, and even of a maverick critic Raymond Durgnat. The book features personal insights from those inidividually implicated in 1950s cinema; Corin Redgrave on Michael Redgrave, Isabel Quigly on film reviewing, and Bryony Dixon of the BFI on archiving and preservation. A classic image from 1950s British cinema would be Jack Hawkins in The Cruel Sea, the epitome of quiet English integrity. Raymond Durgnat's A Mirror for England: British Movies from Austerity to Affluence, which deals extensively with British films of the 1950s, was written in the mid-1960s and was published in 1970. In a 1947 article called 'Angles of Approach' Lindsay Anderson delivered a fierce attack on contemporary British film culture, outlining a model for a devoted politics of creation, well in line with what we would later understand as auteurism and art cinema aesthetics . The war films of the 1950s together constitute the assented-to record of the emotions and moral judgments called upon to set in order those disorderly events. The book also talks about the Festival of Britain, White Corridors, and four Hamer's post-Ealing films: The Spider and the Fly, The Long Memory, Father Brown and The Scapegoat. A number of factors have contributed to the relative neglect of the 1950s as a decade in British cinema history.
In a European country like Britain you would normally expect the most interesting films to be produced within the area of art cinema.
Alan Lovell 1
Art cinema, as a significant historical element of a national film culture and a counterbalance to the international power of the American cinema, has a secure place, established very firmly in the 1920s, in the histories of the major European cinemas, and represented, in particular, by the films of France
The importance of films in the cultural and social life of both Britain and the United States has long been recognized. Although radio survived in Britain more or less intact, by 1960 it too had taken second place to television as the prime domestic medium. This book begins by analysing the very different relationships between cinema and radio that emerged in Britain and the United States. It moves on to examine the ways in which cinema adapted radio programmes in the fields of comedy and detective fiction and then how radio dramatized films. When radio first took off in the United States in the late 1920s, it was regarded by the film industry as a rival, something to keep people at home and away from the cinema. But during the 1930s, Hollywood began to appreciate the value of radio in publicizing and promoting its films. The British broadcasting service was set up in 1922 with a monopoly and finance from a licence fee following negotiations between the Post Office, which controlled the air waves, and the radio industry, which manufactured the equipment. Radio in wartime was informational and inspirational. It provided news, entertainment, and propaganda. The book concludes with a look in detail at the ways in which the two media have dealt with three popular fictional characters, the Scarlet Pimpernel, Tarzan and Sherlock Holmes.
What is British art cinema? Finding the answer to this question is far from easy. Other nations seem to have found the task simpler; one of the earliest French production companies called itself Film d’Art and was dedicated to making ‘cultural films’. 1 By the early 1920s a group of international avant-garde artists, including Man Ray and Fernand Léger, were settled in Paris pursuing their creative interests through the comparatively new medium of cinema. Yet when Erik Hedling wrestled with the term for The BritishCinema Book (2009
television industry. As has been noted, ‘Amateurism has produced many of Britishcinema’s most notable mavericks’, including Norman McLaren, Ken Russell and Peter Watkins. 3 Indeed, the amateur film festival network has enabled numerous film-makers to present their early works to appreciative public audiences. However, during the late 1950s there was some concern that filmmakers in Britain were being distracted from the true calling of the amateur:
To my mind, the production of ugly monstrosities in the name of the avant-garde (whatever that
.’ ( Radio Times , 23 July
If radio drama was comparatively uninfluenced by cinema, Britishcinema was willing to cash in on the popularity of radio plays by producing
cinematizations of pre-sold properties with name recognition. Philip Wade’s
romantic drama, Wedding Group , the story of a young Scottish girl who
follows her army officer lover to the Crimea and becomes one of Florence
Nightingale’s nurses, reached the screen in 1936 within a
Writing in 1969, Alan Lovell observed that Britain apparently lacked the kind of stylistically self-conscious art cinema characteristic of other European countries. 1 If Britain had an art cinema, he argued, it had taken the form of the documentary film which had characteristically subordinated aesthetic experiment to educational and ideological purposes. 2 By the 1980s, however, it had become much easier to identify a recognisably British ‘art cinema’ and to see it as a significant strand of
The application of the concept of ‘art cinema’ to British film production in the 1960s immediately poses certain problems of definition. If we adopt Steve Neale’s institutional perspective, highlighting how the concept was used in France, Italy and Germany to foster indigenous national cinemas that could resist the threat posed by Hollywood by emphasising the cultural value of film, 1 then the evidence suggests a rather different set of priorities in the case of Britain. For the UK film industry