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Book Details

  • Paperback
  • December 2003
  • ISBN 978-0-393-97868-1
  • 8 × 10 in / 1120 pages
  • Territory Rights: Worldwide

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  1. Film

A History of Narrative Film

Fourth Edition


David A. Cook (Author, Emory University)

Overview | For Instructors

Sophisticated in its analytical content, current and comprehensive in its coverage of all aspects of film and filmmaking, and informed throughout by fascinating historical and cultural contexts, A History of Narrative Film is widely acknowledged to be the definitive text in the field.

The Fourth Edition adds an entire chapter on computer-generated imaging, updates filmographies for nearly all living directors mentioned in the text, and includes major new sections that both revisit old content and introduce contemporary trends and movements.

Comprehensive Coverage

  • Important Filmmakers—includes all major directors from cinema’s beginnings to the present—from D. W. Griffith, Sergei Eisenstein, and John Ford to Akira Kurosawa, Jean-Luc Godard, and Jane Campion.
  • International Scope—discusses the major movements in international cinema, including Expressionism, film noir, das neue Kino, the French "New Wave," and Dogme95, and covers a wider range of national cinemas than other books.
  • Analytical Depth—provides sophisticated analysis of the monumental touchstones of world cinema, among them The Birth of a Nation, Intolerance, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Battleship Potemkin, October, Citizen Kane, Bonnie and Clyde, The Wild Bunch, and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Solid, Current Scholarship

Both an outstanding textbook and a trusted reference, A History of Narrative Film contains up-to-date filmographies, a thorough bibliography, an extensive index, and a complete glossary of cinematic terms, making it the best resource for serious students of film history.

Cultural and Historical Contexts

The Fourth Edition analyzes specific films, directors, and trends within broad cultural and historical contexts, discussing, for example, the following:

  • the relationship between Soviet montage and Marxist dialectic
  • the social context surrounding D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation
  • Hollywood during and after the House Committee on Un-American Activities investigations
  • Nazi Germany and cinematic propaganda
  • student uprisings in France in 1968 and the emergence of the "New Wave"
  • the Vietnam War and the portrayal of violence in 1970s cinema
  • the dawn of the personal computer and its impact on film’s production, distribution, and consumption
  • the economics of filmmaking

New Chapter on CGI

Chapter 21, "Hollywood Enters the Digital Domain," offers a thorough and fascinating account of the origins and development of computer-generated imaging and its implications for the future of filmmaking.

    1 Origins

    Optical Principles

    Series Photography

    Motion Pictures

    Projection: Europe and America

    The Evolution of Narrative: Georges Méliès

    Edwin S. Porter: Developing a Concept of Continuity Editing

    2 International Expansion, 1907–1918

    The United States

    1. The Early Industrial Production Process
    2. The Motion Picture Patents Company
    3. The Advent of the Feature Film
    4. The Rise of the Star System
    5. The Move to Hollywood
    6. The New Studio Chiefs and Industry Realignment
    7. The “Block Booking” Dispute and the Acquisition of Theaters
    8. The Rise of Hollywood to International Dominance

    Expansion on the Continent

    1. The Empire of Pathé Frères
    2. Louis Feuillade and the Rise of Gaumont
    3. The Société Film d’Art
    4. The Italian Superspectacle

    3 D. W. Griffith and the Development of Narrative Form

    Formative Influences

    The Beginning at Biograph

    Innovation, 1908–1909: Interframe Narrative

    Innovation, 1909–1911: Intraframe Narrative

    Griffith’s Drive for Increased Film Length

    Judith of Bethulia and the Move to Mutual

    The Birth of a Nation

    1. Production
    2. Structure
    3. Impact


    1. Production
    2. Structure
    3. Influence and Defects

    Griffith after Intolerance


    The Importance of Griffith

    4 German Cinema of the Weimar Period, 1919–1929

    The Prewar Period

    The War Years and the Influence of Scandinavia

    The Founding of UFA

    Das Kabinett des Dr. Caligari

    The Flowering of Expressionism

    1. Fritz Lang
    2. F. W. Murnau and the Kammerspielfilm

    The Parufamet Agreement and the Migration to Hollywood

    G. W. Pabst and “Street” Realism

    Down and Out

    5 Soviet Silent Cinema and the Theory of Montage, 1917–1931

    The Prerevolutionary Cinema

    The Origins of Soviet Cinema

    Dziga Vertov and the Kino-Eye

    Lev Kuleshov and the Kuleshov Workshop

    Sergei Eisenstein

    1. The Formative Years
    2. From Theater to Film
    3. The Production of Battleship Potemkin
    4. The Structure of Potemkin
    5. Eisenstein’s Theory of Dialectical Montage
    6. October (Ten Days That Shook the World, 1928): A Laboratory for Intellectual Montage
    7. Eisenstein after October

    Vsevolod Pudovkin

    Alexander Dovzhenko

    Other Soviet Filmmakers

    Socialist Realism and the Decline of Soviet Cinema

    6 Hollywood in the Twenties

    Thomas Ince, Mack Sennett, and the Studio System of Production

    Charlie Chaplin

    Buster Keaton

    Harold Lloyd and Others

    Hollywood Scandals and the Creation of the MPPDA

    Cecil B. DeMille

    The “Continental Touch”: Lubitsch and Others

    In the American Grain

    Erich von Stroheim

    7 The Coming of Sound and Color, 1926–1935




    Fox Movietone

    The Process of Conversion

    The Introduction of Color

    Problems of Early Sound Recording

    The Theoretical Debate over Sound

    The Adjustment to Sound

    8 The Sound Film and the American Studio System

    New Genres and Old

    Studio Politics and the Production Code

    The Structure of the Studio System

    1. MGM
    2. Paramount
    3. Warner Bros.
    4. 20th Century–Fox
    5. RKO
    6. The Minors
    7. “Poverty Row”
    8. Ethnic Cinema

    Major Figures of the Studio Era

    1. Josef von Sternberg
    2. John Ford
    3. Howard Hawks
    4. Alfred Hitchcock
    5. George Cukor, William Wyler, and Frank Capra

    9 Europe in the Thirties

    The International Diffusion of Sound




    The Soviet Union


    1. Avant-Garde Impressionism, 1921–1929
    2. The “Second” Avant-Garde
    3. Sound, 1929–1934
    4. Poetic Realism, 1934–1940
    5. Jean Renoir

    10 Orson Welles and the Modern Sound Film

    Citizen Kane

    1. Production
    2. Structure
    3. Influence

    Welles after Kane

    11 Wartime and Postwar Cinema: Italy and the United States, 1940–1951

    The Effects of War


    1. The Italian Cinema before Neorealism
    2. The Foundations of Neorealism
    3. Neorealism: Major Figures and Films
    4. The Decline of Neorealism
    5. The Impact of Neorealism

    The United States

    1. Hollywood at War
    2. The Postwar Boom

    Postwar Genres in the United States

    1. “Social Consciousness” Films and Semidocumentary Melodramas
    2. Film Noir
    3. The Witch-Hunt and the Blacklist
    4. The Arrival of Television

    12 Hollywood, 1952–1965

    The Conversion to Color

    Widescreen and 3-D

    1. Multiple-Camera/Projector Widescreen: Cinerama
    2. Depth: Stereoscopic 3-D
    3. The Anamorphic Widescreen Processes
    4. The Nonanamorphic, or Wide-Film, Widescreen Processes
    5. Adjusting to Widescreen
    6. The Widescreen “Blockbuster”
    7. American Directors in the Early Widescreen Age

    1950s Genres

    1. The Musical
    2. Comedy
    3. The Western
    4. The Gangster Film and the Anticommunist Film
    5. Science Fiction
    6. The “Small Film”: American Kammerspiel

    Independent Production and the Decline of the Studio System

    The Scrapping of the Production Code

    13 The French New Wave and Its Native Context

    The Occupation and Postwar Cinema

    1. Robert Bresson and Jacques Tati
    2. Max Ophüls

    Influence of the Fifties Documentary Movement and Independent Production

    Theory: Astruc, Basin, and Cahiers du Cinéma

    The New Wave: First Films

    The New Wave: Origins of Style

    Major New Wave Figures

    1. François Truffaut
    2. Jean-Luc Goddard
    3. Alain Resnais
    4. Claude Chabrol
    5. Louis Malle
    6. Eric Rohmer and Jacques Rivette
    7. Agnès Varda, Jacques Demy, and Others

    After the Wave

    French Cinema in the 1980s and 1990s

    The Significance of the New Wave

    14 New Cinemas in Britain and the English-Speaking Commonwealth

    Great Britain

    1. Postwar British Cinema and Its Context
    2. The Free Cinema Movement
    3. British “New Cinema,” or Social Realism
    4. The End of Social Realism and Beyond

    Australia and New Zealand

    1. Australia
    2. New Zealand


    15 European Renaissance: West

    The Second Italian Film Renaissance

    1. Federico Fellini
    2. Michelangelo Antonioni
    3. Olmi, Pasolini, and Bertolucci
    4. Other Italian Auteurs
    5. The Italian Exploitation Film

    Contemporary Widescreen Technologies and Styles

    Scandinavian or Nordic Cinema

    1. Ingmar Bergman
    2. Swedish Cinema
    3. Finland
    4. Denmark and Dogme95
    5. Norway and Iceland


    1. Luis Bunùel
    2. New Spanish Cinema

    Germany: Das neue Kino

    1. Postwar Origins
    2. Young German Cinema
    3. The New German Cinema
    4. Volker Schlondorff, Alexander Kluge, and Margarethe von Trotta

    International Stature: Fassbinder, Herzog, Wenders, and Others

    1. Rainer Werner Fassbinder
    2. Werner Herzog
    3. Wim Wenders
    4. Hans Jürgen Syberberg and Others
    5. Jean-Marie Straub and Marxist Aesthetics

    16 European Renaissance: East


    1. The Polish School
    2. The Second Generation
    3. The Third Polish Cinema
    4. Solidarity and the Polish Cinema

    Former Czechoslovakia

    1. The Postwar Period
    2. The Czech New Wave
    3. “Banned Forever”


    1. Three Revolutions
    2. Andrés Kovécs
    3. Miklüs Jancsü
    4. Gaél, Szabü and Mészéros
    5. Other Hungarian Directors

    Former Yugoslavia

    1. Partisan Cinema and Nationalist Realism
    2. Novi Film
    3. The “Prague Group”



    Other Balkan Countries

    17 The Former Soviet Union, 1945–Present

    Stalinist Cinema

    Cinema during the Khrushchev Thaw

    Sergei Parajanov and Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors

    Cinema under Brezhnev

    Cinema of the Non-Russian Republics

    Baltic Cinema

    1. Lithuania
    2. Latvia
    3. Estonia
    4. Moldavia (Moldova)

    Transcaucasian Cinema

    1. Georgia
    2. Armenia
    3. Azerbaijan

    Central Asian Cinema

    1. Uzbekistan
    2. Kazakhstan
    3. Kirghizia (Kyrgyzstan)
    4. Tadjikistan
    5. Turkmenistan

    Soviet Russian Cinema

    Glasnost, Perestroika, and the Collapse of the Soviet Union

    18 Wind from the East: Japan, India, and China


    1. The Early Years
    2. Sound
    3. War
    4. Occupation
    5. Rashomon, Kurosawa, and the Postwar Renaissance
    6. Kenji Mizoguchi
    7. Yasujiro Ozu
    8. Offscreen Space
    9. The Second Postwar Generation
    10. The Japanese New Wave
    11. Japanese Filmmaking after the New Wave
    12. Decline of the Studios


    1. Satyajit Ray
    2. Parallel Cinema
    3. Regional Cinemas


    1. The People’s Republic of China
    2. Hong Kong
    3. Taiwan (Republic of China)

    19 Third World Cinema

    Latin America

    1. Mexico
    2. Brazil
    3. Argentina
    4. Bolivia, Peru, and Chile
    5. Venezuela, Colombia, and Central America
    6. Cuba and the New Latin American Cinema


    1. North Africa
    2. Sub-Saharan Africa

    The Middle East

    1. Iran
    2. Israel

    The Pacific Rim

    20 Hollywood, 1965–1995

    The New American Cinema

    1. The Impact of Bonnie and Clyde
    2. 2001: A Space Odyssey
    3. The Wild Bunch: “Zapping the Cong”
    4. End of a Dream

    Hollywood in the Seventies and Eighties

    1. Inflation and Conglomeration
    2. New Filmmakers of the Seventies and Eighties
    3. The American Film Industry in the Age of “Kidpix”
    4. The Effects of Video

    21 Hollywood Enters the Digital Domain

    Origins of Computer Animation, 1962–1988

    Industrial Light & Magic

    1. From The Abyss to Death Becomes Her
    2. The Impact of Jurassic Park, 1993–1996
    3. Digital Domain and Titanic

    Particle Animation, 1996–1997: Twister, Independence Day, and Starship Troopers

    A New “New Hollywood,” 1997–1998

    The Digital Manipulation of Color: What Dreams May Come, Pleasantville, and Beyond

    A New Aesthetic for a New Century

    1. The Martian Chronicles
    2. Bread and Circuses
    3. Millennial Visions

    The State of the Art, circa 2002: Moulin Rouge and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

    Digital Technology and the Future of Cinema: Three Pearl Harbors, 1953–2001


    Selective Bibliography


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