Art Cinema


In terms of the extended definition of art cinema—a cinema of formal innovation, a cinema aligned with the latest trends in literature and the fine arts, a cinema that targets an audience outside of the typical young adult demographic—the notion of art cinema nearly retains a degree of currency.

Many recent filmmakers from most of the filmmaking countries of the world have made films that explore the potential of cinema to do more than tell simple stories and offer the experience of spectacle; films that do the kinds of things traditionally associated with the world of art; films that premiere at the world's leading film festivals; films that circulate internationally. Pedro Almodóvar (b. 1949), Krzysztof Kieślowski (1941–1996), Ken Loach (b. 1936), Mike Leigh (b. 1942), Michael Haneke (b. 1942), Robert Altman (b. 1925), Wong Kar Wai (b. 1958), Jane Campion (b. 1954), Béla Tarr (b. 1955), and Theo Angelopoulos (b. 1935) have made films that in various different ways carry on the traditions of complexity and formal innovation associated with art cinema. In America, the work of independent filmmakers such as David Lynch (b. 1946) and Jim Jarmusch (b. 1953) achieves a similar complexity while the films of experimental British directors such as Peter Greenaway (b. 1942) and Derek Jarman (1942–1994) have blurred the distinction between the avant garde cinema and the art film.

The pessimistic view of contemporary cinema is that the polarized battle for cinematic hegemony in the early twentieth century was won by entertainment and commerce interests at the expense of art interests. However, a more optimistic view is that artistic influences have infiltrated commercial filmmaking to the extent that the traditional oppositions of "art and commerce" and "culture and entertainment" have less force than previously. Moreover, despite the high profile of spectacular blockbusters, contemporary cinema offers a wide spectrum of experiences. The multiplex cinema is the potential home to films at all ranges of this spectrum because it has the screen capacity to host the latest Hollywood blockbuster as well as the new Almodóvar, in the process making the notion of a separate art cinema venue redundant. If the reality of multiplex programming does not always confirm this possibility, then art cinema in the future may well depend upon television—a major source of art film financing in Europe dating from the 1970s—and on the development of the less expensive methods of digital production and exhibition.

SEE ALSO Exhibition ; Fine Art ; New Wave

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Tom Ryall

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