There are many ways to think historically about narrative cinema. There is the history of storytelling itself, from presenting a train pulling into a station to the rise of the classical realist film, the modern art cinema, and the thousands of alternative individual filmmakers working to challenge the limits of mainstream narrative. But there is also the intricate history of how film criticism and theory have addressed the cinema. Strangely, within the debates over realism, artifice, personal expression, and cultural determinations, certain directors return over and over as examples. Two of the most important filmmakers, for a wide range of narrative critics, have been Alfred Hitchcock and Jean-Luc Godard. No other directors figure so prominently in narrative theory of the past fifty years. Hitchcock's masterful narration provides many of the most canonical scenes for analysis from any perspective, and Godard's work has systematically challenged both commercial narrative cinema norms and film criticism's vocabulary. The heart of narrative film is still the cinematic practice that makes defining story, narration, and the role of the spectator so fascinating. The history of narrative film remains forever inter-twined with the history of film production, film criticism, and the theorizing of the spectator, whose glorious task remains to perceive, decipher, and finally comprehend the stories generated by those still, two-dimensional images flashing upon the movie screen.
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