Film History: An Introduction, 3rd Edition
Around the world, at any instant, millions of people are watching movies. They watch mainstream entertainment, serious “art films,” documentaries, cartoons, experimental films, educational shorts. They sit in air-conditioned theaters, in village squares, in art museums, in college classrooms, in their homes before a television screen, in coffee shops before a computer monitor. The world’s movie theaters sell 8 billion tickets each year. With the availability of films on video— whether broadcast, fed from cable or satellites or the Internet, or played back from DVD or on cell phones— the audience has multiplied far beyond that. Nobody needs to be convinced that film has been one of the most influential media of the last hundred years. Not only can you recall your most exciting or tearful moments at the movies, you can also probably remember moments in ordinary life when you tried to be as graceful, as selfless, as tough, or as compassionate as those larger-than-life figures on the screen. The way we dress and cut our hair, the way we talk and act, the things we believe or doubt—all these aspects of our lives are shaped by films. Films also provide us with powerful artistic experiences, insights into diverse cultures, and new ways of thinking.
In this book, we introduce the history of film as it is presently conceived, written, and taught by its most accomplished scholars. Film History: An Introduction is not, however, a distillation of everything that is known about film history. Researchers are fond of saying that there is no film history, only film histories. This partly means that there can be no single survey that puts all known facts into place. The history of avant-garde film doesn’t match neatly up with the history of color technology or the development of the Western or the life of Alfred Hitchcock. For this reason, the enterprise we call “writing film history” is a big tent housing people who work from various perspectives and with different interests and purposes.
So there’s no Big Story of Film History that will list, describe, and explain everything that took place. We think that writing film history involves asking a series of questions and searching for evidence in order to answer them in the course of an argument. When historians focus on different questions, they select different evidence and formulate different explanations. For example, the historian who wants to know how European cinema developed in the Cold War will not pay much attention to why Marilyn Monroe had career problems near the end of her life. For this reason, historians create not a single, infinitely extended history but a diverse set of specific historical arguments.
|September 9, 2017
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