Tony Judt, film noir, and American movies in Europe
"Only intellectuals were likely to be sufficiently moved by Sergei Eisenstein's depiction of Odessa in the Battleship Potemkin to translate their aesthetic appreciation into political affinity, but everyone--intellectuals included--could appreciate Humphrey Bogart."I'm not sure how historically valid it is to compare a silent film from 1925 (Potemkin) with a talkie-era star who made his first well-known film only in 1934 (The Petrified Forest) and whose real stardom came in the 1940s. Still, the suggestion that intellectuals could appreciate Bogart provokes thought, if only because its perspective is unusual in discussions of American popular culture.
The very next page offers this, on the American.film industry's business practices after World War II:
"(W)hen European governments after 1949 took to taxing cinema receipts in order to subsidize domestic film producers, American producers began investing directly in, foreign productions, their choice of European Venue for the making of a film or group of films often depending on the level of `domestic' subsidy then available."Among other things, Judt suggests, American domination of European movie markets meant that U.S. movies of the time can be better guides to European viewers' experience than domestic movies are. In addition, he writes, it was Europeans who were likelier to make escapist movies in this period while American directors and producers were turning out the melodramas the French would later call film noir. I suspect most of us would say American movies took over the world merely because they were more glamorous or better made (Judt recognizes the latter possibility). But the idea that American movie makers were better judges of European taste that were European movie makers is a good deal more exciting and opens the door to all sorts of interesting questions.
Your thoughts, please.
© Peter Rozovsky 2014