POSTWAR FRENCH FILM THEORY
Postwar Paris saw a revival of theoretical writings about film as art. Some writers suggested that film aesthetics owed less to the theater than to the novel. In her book The Age of the American Novel, trans. Eleanor Hochman (New York: Ungar, 1972; originally published 1948), Claude-Edmonde Magny argued that the work of Hemingway and Faulkner showed strong affinities with the style of American cinema. She also suggested that the camera lens was like the organizing consciousness of the narrator in literary works. Alexandre Astruc spoke of the "camera-pen," la caméra-stylo, and predicted that filmmakers would treat their works as vehicles of self-expression much as writers did (Alexandre Astruc, "The Birth of a New Avant-Garde: La Caméra-Stylo," in Peter Graham, ed., The New Wave [New York: Doubleday, 1968], pp. 17–24).
André Bazin (Film History: An Introduction, p. 358) also pointed out that a "novelistic" cinema seemed to be emerging in France and Italy. In his opinion, films by Bresson, Clément, Leenhardt, and other directors went beyond the theater's depiction of character behavior. These directors either plunged into the depths of psychology or moved beyond the individual to portray, in a realistic fashion, the world in which the characters lived. Many of Bazin's essays are collected in Hugh Gray, trans. and ed., What Is Cinema? I (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967), and What Is Cinema? II (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971); see also Bazin's Jean Renoir, trans. W. W. Halsey II and William H. Simon (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1973).
The comparison of film to literature also called attention to style and narrative construction. Theorists began to reevaluate the traditional analogy between film style and language by developing a notion of écriture cinematographique, or "filmic writing." Bazin revolutionized film criticism by his detailed discussions of how editing, camerawork, and deep-space staging offered expressive possibilities to the filmmaker. He and his peers were also sensitive to how filmic storytelling could create ellipses and could shift point of view. And, by assuming the filmmaker to be a novelist-on-film, the critic could examine even a popular film as the vehicle of a personal vision. There arose debates about whether the filmmaker could be considered an auteur, or author, of his works (see Chapter 19).
At the same time, Bazin and others began to ponder the possibility that cinema might be radically unlike all traditional arts. They argued that the film medium has as its basic purpose to record and reveal the concrete world in which we find ourselves. This line of thought treated cinema as a "phenomenological" art, one suited to capture the reality of everyday perception. For thinkers like Bazin (p. 374) and Amédée Ayfre, the Italian Neorealist films exemplify cinema's power to reveal the ties of humans to their surroundings.
Discussions of the theoretical trends of this era can be found in Dudley Andrew, André Bazin (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978), and Jim Hillier, ed., Cahiers du Cinéma: The 1950s: Neo-Realism, Hollywood, New Wave (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985), especially pp. 1–17. A related development, the academic discipline of filmology, emerged at the same period. For a discussion, see Edward Lowry, The Filmology Movement and Film Study in France (Ann Arbor: UMI, 1985).
THE POWELL-PRESSBURGER REVIVAL
For several years, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger remained marginal figures, but their reputations have risen substantially since the late 1970s.
The team made some films that were widely popular, but much of their work was so eccentric that it earned unfavorable reviews. Their baroque melodramas and fantasies lay outside the realist and documentary tradition long considered the strength of British cinema. After the breakup of their production company in 1956 and the scandal surrounding Powell's Peeping Tom in 1960, most historians treated them as minor filmmakers. British auteurism tended to focus on Hollywood directors and treat English filmmaking as pallid and stodgy. Raymond Durgnat (writing as O. O. Green) presented an intelligent defense in "Michael Powell," Movie 14 (autumn 1965): 17–20 (published in revised form in his A Mirror for England [New York: Praeger, 1971]). This was, however, largely ignored.
By the mid-1960s, Peeping Tom had acquired cult status. The National Film Theatre in London presented a Powell retrospective in 1970, and the National Film Archive and BBC restored a few important films. In 1977, Powell received an award at the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado. American director Martin Scorsese helped fund a rerelease of Peeping Tom, and the film showed at the 1979 New York Film Festival, with Powell in attendance, to a sell-out crowd. See John Russell Taylor, "Michael Powell: Myths and Supermen," Sight and Sound 47, no. 4 (autumn 1978): 226–29; and David Thomson, "Mark of the Red Death," Sight and Sound 49, no. 4 (autumn 1980): 258–62. British historian Ian Christie has helped both in the restoration of Powell and Pressburger's films and in the dissemination of information on the pair. See his Arrows of Desire: The Films of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (London: Waterstone, 1985). See also Christie's "Powell and Pressburger: Putting Back the Pieces," Monthly Film Bulletin 611 (December 1984): back cover, for an account of how their films have been cut and, in some cases, restored. See also Scott Salwolke, The Films of Michael Powell and the Archers (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 1997) and James Howard, Michael Powell (London: B. T. Batsford, 1996).
Powell and Pressburger have influenced Martin Scorsese, Francis Coppola, Brian De Palma, George Lucas, and Derek Jarman. Scorsese on Scorsese, ed. David Thompson and Ian Christie (Boston: Faber and Faber, 1990) contains numerous references to Powell. Powell tells his own story in Michael Powell: A Life in Movies (London: Heinemann, 1986) and Million Dollar Movie (New York: Random House, 1994).