Wednesday, February 15, 2012

CINEMA EUROPE: The Other Hollywood

Lost in the Stacks #1: Hard-to-Find Videos Gems at the Pratt Library

Cinema Europe: Where the art of filmmaking all began

The DVD of edition of this six-part series chronicling the birth and rise of European cinema during the silent era has gone out-of-print due to rights issues, but the three-volume video edition is still available for checkout at the Enoch Pratt Central Library. Produced by British film historians Kevin Brownlow and David Gill and narrated by Kenneth Branagh, each of its six parts highlights a theme and a country (France, Sweden, Britain, Germany, Denmark) to show the enormous contributions they made to cinema in the early days of the movie industry. Viewers are treated to a smorgasborg of footage from early movies - including the work of Abel Gance, Afred Hitchcock, Max Linder, Sergei Eisenstein, Fritz Lang, and G. W. Pabst - along with interviews with film pioneers and luminaries. The finale episode ("End of an Era") looks at Germany, where by 1933 the jig was up as Adolf Hitler came to power and the potential of a Pan-European cinema was squandered with the mass exodus of Jews and freedom-seeking artistic talent to France, England, and the United States. As reviewer Sean Axmaker commented, Cinema Europe "captures a vital period when films readily crossed borders and distinct national cinema styles flourished. It was a cinematic garden in full bloom and it cross-pollinated through ambitious and inspired filmmakers around the world. When the lure of Hollywood and the rise of fascism pulled much the talent from Europe and the coming of sound created new language barriers, the garden went into a frosty winter."

Kevin Brownlow and David Gill previously produced the 13-episode 1980 epic Hollywood: A Celebration of American Silent Film. They had originally planned to make this another 13-part series, but David Gill died shortly after Cinema Europe was completed in 1995.

Used/stock copies of the DVD series list for $450 and up on Amazon; used copies of the video edition go for $65 and up.

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