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Global Cold War tensions increased as political turmoil turned to violent conflict in developing Third World nations. Responding to all of this, cinema became politicized on a scale not seen since World War II. The Third World was at the forefront of revolutionary cinema as filmmakers in those countries treated cinema as a tool of social change and a weapon of political liberation. This use of film as a social and political force emerged first in Latin America and spread to Africa and China, while also emerging in the First World countries including the U.S.S.R. and United States. The counterculture and the New Left were examples of an international politics of youth that focused on opposition to American involvement in Vietnam, critique of post-World War II capitalist society, and social-protest movements focused on equality of diverse groups.

Eventually, radical leftism declined in the mid-1970s, but engaged filmmaking remained central to the micropolitics of the era. A June 1979 alternative-cinema conference in New York assembled over 400 political activists working in film and video in the United States. In some countries, government liberalization led to funding for militant film. The new Labour government in Britain assisted Liberation Film and Cinema Action, while the regional Maisons de la Culture allotted money for local media groups in France. Some parallel distribution and exhibition circuits proved successful in promoting films about nuclear power, day care, ethnic rights, and similar issues.

In the United States and Great Britain, feminist filmmaking pioneered the turn to issue-centered, grassroots problems. By 1977, 250 women’s films had been produced in the United States alone. As the international women’s movement grew, films on rape, self-defense, and housekeeping were paralleled by explorations of women’s history, which are epitomized in the U.S. films Union Maids (1976) and With Babies and Banners (1978) by the Women’s Labor History Project. Women’s filmmaking groups emerged in other countries as well, with France’s Musidora, Italy’s Feminist Film Collective, and Australia’s Sydney Women’s Film Collective being among the most active.

Techniques employed by engaged cinema filmmakers included many of the techniques established by Direct Cinema documentary, such as spontaneously shot reportage, staged interviews and “talking heads”, street footage of demonstrations, and “radical scavenging” of mainstream news-footage, which was pioneered by Emile De Antonio. The innovations of postwar modernist filmmaking were melded with the new radical-left orientation to create a political modernism that made commercial cinema experimental to a degree comparable to the avant-garde movements of the 1920s.

Please view the film Union Maids to see an example of this technique.

By the mid-1970s, many revolutions had failed—as in Latin America—or had revealed a repressive side, like in Vietnam, Cambodia, and China. Filmmakers began to imagine a “micropolitics” that would promote social change at a grassroots level within institutions. The extreme tendencies of political modernism waned in commercial 35mm productions; filmmakers developed less challenging approaches to storytelling and style. Even the Third World, home of the most militant alternative cinemas, began to produce films for an international audience and to work in widely accessible forms. Political modernism hung on somewhat longer in the avant-garde sector, but, by the end of the 1980s, 16mm and super-8mm filmmakers had largely returned to variants of “purer” modernism or had embraced “postmodern” modes of experimentation.

As the 1970s waned, Direct Cinema continued, but in a more subdued form that merged with more traditional methods. Experimental film turned inward as a more reflexive and form-centered movement known as Structural Film emerged. In addition to—or, more precisely, in opposition to—Structuralism, other new experimental tendencies manifested themselves in the 1970s and 1980s. Some filmmakers revisited narrative. Others turned experimental techniques toward political criticism or theoretical debate. Still others embraced a harsh and passionate personal expression. Structural Film, especially in North America, had been dominated by men, but the reactions to the Structural movement were led by women. This tendency paralleled the growth of feminist documentary and feature filmmaking during the 1970s. During the next decade, minority women also played an increasing part in the changes in experimental cinema in the United States and Great Britain.

Defining Third World Revolutionary Cinema

Three essays set the agenda for Third World political filmmaking: Rocha's "Aesthetics of Hunger" (1965), Espinosa's "For an Imperfect Cinema" (1969), and Solanas and Getino's "Third Cinema" manifesto (1969). The authors all subsequently reconsidered their ideas. Espinosa explained that he conceived "imperfection" not as clumsiness, but as an acknowledgment of the filmmaker's political position (Julio Garcia Espinosa, "Meditations on Imperfect Cinema...Fifteen Years Later," Screen26, nos. 3–4 [May–August 1985]: 94). Solanas explained that not all big productions were necessarily First Cinema, just as not all auteur-based films were necessarily Second Cinema. Third Cinema did, however, support anticolonialism and social change (quoted in "L'Influence du 'Troisième Cinéma' dans le monde," Revue tiers monde 20, no. 79 [July–September 1979]: 622). Writing later in the 1970s, Getino noted ruefully that "the force and cohesion of the popular movements in these countries—and in Argentina—were not as strong as we had imagined" (Octavio Getino, "Some Notes on the Concept of a 'Third Cinema,'" in Tim Barnard, ed., Argentine Cinema [Toronto: Nightwood, 1986], p. 107).

Most expansively, in a 1971 essay entitled "The Aesthetics of the Dream," Rocha defined three types of revolutionary art: that which is useful for immediate political action (e.g., The Hour of the Furnaces), that which opens up political discussion (e.g., most of Cinema Nôvo), and that which is a revolutionary art based on the people's dreams, as reflected in magic and myth (quoted in Sylvie Pierre, Glauber Rocha [Paris: Cahiers du Cinéma, 1987], pp. 129–30). This art of the dream had been ignored by the traditional left, Rocha claimed, although he glimpsed it in the 1968 youth revolutions.

As the force of Third World cinema was waning, film scholars began to study the phenomenon extensively. Some took the position that there was an international Third Cinema linking disparate countries, which was characterized by recurrent political themes and formal conventions. The most extensive argument for this view is set forth in Teshome Gabriel's Third Cinema in the Third World: The Aesthetics of Liberation (Ann Arbor, Michigan: UMI Research Press, 1982). A condensed statement of his position is found in "Towards a Critical Theory of Third World Films," in Jim Pines and Paul Willemen, eds., Questions of Third Cinema (London: British Film Institute, 1989), pp. 30–52. The view is criticized by Julianne Burton in "Marginal Cinemas and Mainstream Critical Theory," Screen 26, nos. 3–4 (May–August 1985): 2–21. Gabriel replies in "Colonialism and 'Law and Order' Criticism," Screen 27, nos. 3–4 (May–August 1986): 140–47.

May ’68 and Cannes: Curtains for the Festival

In May 1968, strikes, marches, and demonstrations brought France to a standstill. Virtually every facet of business and government shut down. Three million workers were on strike. Meanwhile, the Cannes International Film Festival was scheduled to continue as usual. Soon, however, filmmakers pushed for the festival to shut down in solidarity with the students and workers.

One of the most notable moments occurred at the start of a screening of Peppermint Frappé. Truffaut, Godard, the film's star, Geraldine Chaplin, and the film's director, Carlos Saura, rushed onstage and grabbed the curtain to keep it from rising. "The whole thing was very funny," Roman Polanski recalled. "The curtain was huge, and there must have been a very powerful motor, because they were hanging off it like grapes.”

The festival closed five days before it was scheduled to end, but Gilles Jacob, long-standing director of the festival, credits the 1968 edition with establishing a new agenda. In 1969, Cannes established the "Directors Fortnight," a sidebar for major films not in competition. Soon after that, Jacob recalls, competition films were selected by the festival staff, not nominated by the countries that produced them. This put more power in the hands of the festival team and, indirectly, the international press, who took responsibility for promoting films that might otherwise have been overlooked.

Film Studies and the New Film Theory

The era this chapter surveys witnessed the enormous growth of academic film studies in Britain, Europe, and North America. The political movements of the late 1960s influenced many film courses; instructors and students often analyzed the ideological implications of mainstream Hollywood film and considered critical political films as "oppositional" cinema.

Along with these developments went major changes in film theory. Building on semiological ideas of the early 1960s (see Notes and Queries, Chapter 20), film theorists in the wake of 1968 sought to explain how cinema functioned politically while providing pleasure. The newly radicalized editors of Cahiers du cinémaproposed a taxonomy that distinguished films wholly in the grip of dominant ideology from those that use political critique opportunistically. The editors left a space for committed works, for modernist efforts, and for those mainstream films that could be read "symptomatically," as if they were "splitting under an internal tension" (see Jean-Luc Comolli and Paul Narboni, "Cinema/Ideology/Criticism," in Bill Nichols, ed., Movies and Methods, vol. 1 [Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976], p. 27). Another early theoretical effort, drawing upon current psychoanalytic ideas, was Jean-Pierre Baudry's 1970 essay "Ideological Effects of the Basic Cinematographic Apparatus." Baudry suggested that the very technology of film—camera shutter, screen, light beam—manifested a bourgeois worldview.

Feminists also posed theoretical questions about film's role in promoting patriarchal values. Journals like Camera Obscura and frauen und film took as part of their task the elaboration of a feminist film theory. The most influential essay in this direction was Laura Mulvey's "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" (1975), which generated a vast range of comment. By the end of the 1970s, not only had film study established itself as a discipline, but women's cinema found an audience among feminists.

These and other important essays can be found in Nichols, ed., Movies and Methods, vol. 1 (cited above) and Movies and Methods, vol. 2 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985); Philip Rosen, ed., Narrative, Apparatus, Ideology: A Film Theory Reader (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986); Constance Penley, ed., Feminism and Film Theory (London: Routledge, 1988); and Nick Browne, ed., Cahiers du cinéma 1969–1972: The Politics of Representation (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990). Historical overviews can be found in introductions to the above volumes, as well as in Christine Gledhill, "Recent Developments in Feminist Film Theory," in Mary Ann Doane, Patricia Mellencamp, and Linda Williams, eds., Re-Vision: Essays in Feminist Film Theory (Frederick, MD: University Publications of America, 1984), pp. 18–48; and David Bordwell, Making Meaning: Inference and Rhetoric in the Interpretation of Cinema (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989), pp. 43–104.

Rethinking Documentary

Direct Cinema, the documentaries of the 1960s and 1970s, and the more reflexive works of the period triggered a burst of interest in the history and practice of documentary cinema. Wiseman generated an enormous amount of attention, while certain films—Salesman, A Married Couple, Gimme Shelter, and Hearts and Minds (1974)—became focal points of controversy. Alan Rosenthal's The New Documentary in Action (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971) and The Documentary Conscience (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980) present interviews with influential practitioners. Rosenthal's anthology, New Challenges for Documentary (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), gathers useful essays.

As documentary practice was changing from pure Direct Cinema to a more synthetic form derived from the work of De Antonio and others, film academics turned their attention to matters of style and structure. Scholars built taxonomies, distinguished trends, noted rejections of tradition, and explored questions of practice (reenactment, continuity editing) and ethics (the exploitative dimensions of Direct Cinema). For examples, see Bill Nichols, Ideology and the Image (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1981), and Representing Reality: Issues and Concepts in Documentary (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992); Thomas Waugh, ed., "Show Us Life": Toward a History and Aesthetics of the Committed Documentary (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1984); Noël Carroll, Theorizing the Moving Image (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 224–252; and Willem De Greef and Willem Hesling, eds., Image Reality Spectator: Essays on Documentary Film and Television (Leuven: Acco, 1989).

The Idea of Structure

Structural Film was one manifestation of a growing interest in film form during the 1960s and 1970s. But the label Structural has diverse sources in the social sciences and the fine arts.

The wide-ranging intellectual movement known as Structuralism originated in France in the 1950s. Its proponents, such as the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss and the linguist Émile Benveniste, argued that human thought is patterned somewhat similarly to languages. Consciousness and all its products—myth, ritual, and social institutions—were traceable not to individual minds but to collective "structures" manifested in language or other cultural systems. Although as a philosophical position Structuralism had largely collapsed by the late 1960s, its influence in the arts grew. Structuralist studies led film theorists to examine mythical patterns in Westerns and other genres. Examples of this approach are Jim Kitses, Horizons West: Studies of Authorship within the Western (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1970), and Rick Altman, The American Film Musical (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987).

At about the same time, the issue of structure was broached by a competing tradition stemming from experimental music. Serial composition, as initiated by Arnold Schoenberg and Anton von Webern, posited that the artist could control all "parameters"—melody, harmony, rhythm, and so on—by devising a single generative system. This serial conception of structure was elaborated more generally in Umberto Eco's La Struttura assente (1968) and was applied to film in Noël Burch's Theory of Film Practice, translated by Helen R. Lane (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1973; originally published 1969). Whereas the mythic approach emphasizes the organization of social meanings, the serial approach stresses the "purer" process of sheer pattern making.

So by 1969, when Sitney dubbed certain American films "Structural," the term had already taken on several meanings. He added yet another. In the Structural film, "the shape of the whole film is predetermined and simplified, and it is that shape that is the primal impression of the film" (P. Adams Sitney, "Structural Film," in Sitney, ed., The Film Culture Reader [New York: Praeger, 1970], p. 327). Here "structure" means neither deep organization of meaning (the French Structuralist concept) nor serialist control of part-whole relations. Other critics found other terms, such as minimalist film and literal cinema, more apt, but Sitney's formulation crystallized the movement in the minds of viewers and filmmakers. Many later films owe as much to his definition as to any films he was describing.

Important recastings of the idea of Structural Film can be found in a 1972 essay by Paul Sharits, "Words Per Page," in Richard Kostelanetz, ed., Esthetics Contemporary (Buffalo: Prometheus, 1978), pp. 320–32, and in two anthologies: Annette Michelson, ed., New Forms in Film (Montreux: 1974), and Peter Gidal, ed., Structural Film Anthology (London: British Film Institute, 1976). Malcolm Le Grice's Abstract Film and Beyond (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1977) tells the history of experimental film from the standpoint of British Structural aspirations.

The Avant-Garde and Postmodernism

Postwar experimental cinema, like the international art cinema, operated under the auspices of modernism in the arts (Film history: An introduction, pp. 357–359). Frampton, for example, often invoked James Joyce's Ulysses as a model for his Magellan project. But the rise of Pop Art led many art historians toward a new tolerance of mass culture and a rejection of the grand ambitions of "high modernism." Artists in all media began to draw upon popular culture, to emphasize fragmentation, to acknowledge the power of the art market in the creation of trends, and to regard all styles of the past as equally available for parody and pastiche. These were some of the traits identified as postmodernism. The term itself, initially applied to a new style of architecture, spread quickly to the other arts and even became a name for the postwar era of "finance capitalism.”

Russell Ferguson et al., eds., Discourses: Conversations in Postmodern Art and Culture (New York: New Museum of Contemporary Art, 1990) includes interviews with many filmmakers, some of whom work under the postmodern label. Noël Carroll argues that postmodernism in film is better understood as "post-Structural Film." (See "Film in the Age of Postmodernism" in Interpreting the Moving Image (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), pp. 300–332. For other views, see Millennium Film Journal 16–18 (Fall/Winter 1986/1987) and J. Hoberman, Vulgar Modernism: Writing on Movies and Other Media (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991). The literature on postmodernism is voluminous, but one of the most accessible accounts is Robert Hughes, The Shock of the New (New York: Knopf, 1981), pp. 324–409. See also Margot Lovejoy, Postmodern Currents: Art and Artists in the Age of Electronic Media (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1992). An important statement is Frederic Jameson's Postmodernism; or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991).

Required Videos:

Please click on the links below to view examples of 1970s experimental films.

Ernie Gehr’s Serene Velocity

Michael Snow’s Wavelength

LovaBerries Much

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...Stress at Work Have you ever had a job or position that left you feeling pressure, anxiety, discontent, or completely disconnected? You are not alone; nearly everyone who is employed has experienced those feelings at one time or another in their life. The world, in which we live, is fast paced and ever changing. Companies have grown increasingly demanding and as a result the workload has increased while the workforce has not. As less people are used in the work force the workload is ever increasing. The stress at work can eventually spill over into all aspects of that person’s life thus causing more damage and further issues. The key is to recognize the stress and the impact it has and use the best way to manage stress while still being able to adapt to a changing working environment. Recognizing the Stress In order to solve any issue, we must first acknowledge the problem and then understand what is causing us to have that problem. Stress can creep up on anyone; it can remain un-detected for quite some time. Our body is a wonderfully constructed marvel of engineering brilliance. More often than not, when something goes wrong, there are warning signs exhibited. While it is very common to have busy days at work, there is a difference between being busy and being stressed. The various signs of stress may include frequent headaches, stomachaches, elevated blood pressure, lack of sleep, depression, and many other symptoms. There are a multitude of things that can......

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