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July 1994


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"Richard J. Leskosky" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 19 Jul 1994 16:26:12 -0500
text/plain (49 lines)
On 19 July 1994, Brian Tanner writes:
>Only in Hollywood is entertainment foremost.  Ever since the beginning of
>film making, politics has had a political undertone.  Look at Soviet Montage
>(e.g. Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin) and socialist realism in the soviet
>cinema endorsed by Lenin and Stalin (who saw the importance of movies as mass
>communication).  There was also the French poetic realism (e.g. Jean Renoir).
> Look at the war-time propaganda films of WWII and at Italiam Neorealism
>(e.g. Rossellini).  There is also the French New Wave (e.g. Rasnais).  Even
>today there is the Third World cinema.  There are many other periods and
>countries and auteurs I haven't mentioned because I don't want to overkill my
>I just wanted to say that it's a mistake to neglect the history of polictics
>in cinema (especially politics as a root of cinema) or the oppurtunity for
>cinema to present political messages to a wide audience.  Cinema is not and
>has never been just for entertainment; at least not outside of Hollywood,
>where it matters more to make a statement than to make a buck.  Entertainment
>is what sells here in the states, and may not be secondary to most people,
>but I feel the reverse is true in other places.  I'm not saying that films
>can't be fun or have to hit you over the head with a political hammer but
>that shouldn't be the primary reason to  make a film.
The reverse certainly is true in other places, but you probably have to
pick your times and places.  The examples cited were good ones, and
probably everything made in Soviet-controlled countries, for example, was
political in intent in one way or another.  But the notion of
cinema-as-political statement in other countries is probably not so
straightforward as it may seem.  First, there are popular films in other
countries made on the American entertainment model which seldom or never
reach this country (say, Jean-Paul Belmondo's action films) because they
simply could not compete in this market.  Second, if you check the box
office figures for the top ten money-making films for any given year in
many foreign countries (well, France <6>, Hungary <10>, England <10>, South
Africa <8>, Spain <10>, Italy <9>, Sweden <6> are the ones I just checked
in the 1994 International Film Guide), you'll find that the majority of
them are American imports.  So American films may have filled the market in
another country for entertainment films and driven out the domestic product
in this particular area, thereby making serious and/or political domestic
films a more viable sort of cinematic alternative for viewers and
producers. Or not.  But obviously, it's more complicated than everyone else
in the world preferring politically oriented films.  Sorry to have turned
your comment into a strawperson.
Richard J. Leskosky                     Only the ephemeral is of lasting value.
Unit for Cinema Studies, UIUC                   --Ionesco
                                        Art is a lie that makes us realize the