Film d'art


Film d'art
Art film
   Film d'art or art film is a theory or category of film that considers film as very closely tied to and perhaps an extension of the literary arts, specifically, theater and the novel. Prior to the development of film d'art, the cinema was a largely popular, almost purely diversionary medium, driven by spectacle, and while there was a move toward narrative from the very beginning, and even an effort to link cinema to art, it was film d'art that represented the most serious effort to tie cinema to high culture forms like literature and the theater. The term comes from the name of a short-lived studio and production company, Studio Film d'art, which specialized in the genre. Film d'art was not the only studio, however, to develop the film d'art. Pathé, which had been one of the investors in Studio film d'art, also started up a film d'art division, called Société Cinématographique des Auteurs et des Gens de Lettres (SCAGL).
   The investment in film d'art helped elevate the status of cinema, especially in France, where the form is considered "the seventh art." It pushed early cinema firmly in the direction of narrative cinema (as opposed to the cinéma d'attractions) and created a demand for more developed storylines and certainly for better costumes and scenery, which lead to escalating production costs. It also had one other, probably unintended, consequence. Since films based on theatrical productions created an appetite for well-known theater actors, Pathé and the other studios which were engaged in the production of films d'art began to advertise the presence of well-known stage actors in their films, and it was this practice that led to the much more widespread practice of listing credits for performances and technical contributions in film production. Prior to the development of film d'art, nearly all performances and technical contributions were anonymous.
   Early examples of films d'art include André Calmettes and Charles Le Bargy's L'Assassinat du Duc de Guise (1907), Calmettes's La Duchesse de Langeais (1910) and La Dame aux Camélias (1912), and Albert Capellani's Notre-Dame de Paris (1911) and Les Misérables (1913). Several of Abel Gance's films, including Napoléon (1927) and Lucrèce Borgia (1935), are also in the film d'art tradition. The influence of film d'art may be seen in later directors including Christian-Jacque in films such as Nana (1955) and Madame Sans-Gêne (1962) and Claude Autant-Lara in films such as Le Rouge et le noir (1954) and Le Comte de Monte Cristo (1961). Heritage films such as Claude Chabrol's Madame Bovary (1991) and Claude Berri's Germinal (1993) also follow in the tradition of film d'art.
   In contemporary film terminology, film d'art signifies something quite different from high-production costume dramas, which is essentially what the term signified in the beginning. It is now more closely associated with independent, experimental film than with high-profile stars and large studios. French films such as the more recent films of directors Jean-Luc Godard and Eric Rohmer are examples, and films by directors such as Marguerite Duras and Agnès Varda also represent this type of cinema. For many around the world, French cinema in any form is associated with film d'art, since the films that France exports tend to reflect either the heritage or experimental tendencies.

Historical Dictionary of French Cinema. . 2007.

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