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The Foreign Film Renaissance on American Screens, 1946-1973 (Wisconsin Film Studies) Paperback – 5 Nov 2010

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A remarkable resource of information, strengthening our understanding of art films as industrial products existing within an economic context and the significant impact they had on the mainstream U.S. industry. "Film Quarterly""

About the Author

Tino Balio is emeritus professor of film studies at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. He is author of Grand Design: Hollywood as a Modern Business Enterprise and editor of The American Film Industry, also published by the University of Wisconsin Press

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
How Foreigners Captured America 21 Dec. 2010
By Rob Hardy - Published on
Format: Paperback
_The Foreign Film Renaissance on American Screens, 1946-1973_
Today's movie audiences, made up as they are of young people, will not remember the heady days of foreign cinema, when if you wanted to view films that stimulated (and not just intellectually), you went to see the newest import from Italy or France. For me this was the sixties and seventies, but that's just because I was young myself then and knew movies were a form of entertainment and art I was going to be devoted to. My generation was not the first to watch foreign movies, of course, and there had been foreign films coming into the country for the entire twentieth century. There was, however, a boom in such films after World War II and into the seventies, and this is the worthwhile subject of _The Foreign Film Renaissance on American Screens, 1946-1973_ (The University of Wisconsin Press) by Tino Balio. Balio is a professor emeritus of film, and obviously loves the movies, but he has not set out to write an explanation of why Truffaut or Bergman are important filmmakers. He has instead described how foreign movies became important in the cinematic life of American viewers, and anyone who wants to understand the influences of money, publicity, film criticism, and sexuality of the times will find much of interest, and if you are like me, a good deal of nostalgia, too.

World War Two interrupted the flow of films from Europe, but in 1946 Roberto Rossellini's _Open City_ began its run in New York. It continued at the World Theater there for over a year and a half; one of the great surprises in Balio's book is that the distribution of films was so different then that movies might stay booked in a theater for such a length of time. _Open City_ is the reason Balio's study begins in 1946. Italian neorealism brought in the audiences, but it took some adjustment for distributors to accommodate the movies. One of them quoted here said, "There is no demand for foreign pictures like there is for Hollywood films... Distributors like me must go out and create a market for each picture, and that is a challenge that is both heartbreaking and fascinating." Foreign movies dealt with sex, and Balio's book covers many censorship problems. Ingmar Bergman's films also dealt with sexual issues, and Balio has a whole chapter describing the tactics of how the Bergman oeuvre was moved into theaters. Bergman's films were far from pornographic, but since his films came from Sweden, and Swedish films were synonymous with soft porn, they had an extra reason to be popular. To see the latest film from the prolific director was, starting in 1959, the mark of a thinking moviegoer. Bergman's films were inherently interesting, personal, and well crafted, but they were also well sold. A year after his first movie was shown here, Janus Films got U.S. distribution rights. They made sure not only that each film got proper advance notice, but that Bergman's life, themes, working methods, enthusiasms, position in Swedish cinema, and so on were fit subjects for newspaper and magazine articles. His screenplays were published in book form. "What emerged from all this press," says Balio, "was a composite portrait of Ingmar Bergman, the auteur - or, stated another way, Ingmar Bergman as a brand name." Janus was careful to control the issue and reissue of the director's work, and increased not only his reputation but that of the art film business.

The foreign film renaissance did not last; there is no foreign director today that comes close to having the enthusiasm of film intelligentsia the way Bergman did. Part of the change was that there were "arty" American films, some even made by the studios, like _Five Easy Pieces_ or _The Last Picture Show_. Youth films made independently had an avid following. Critic Andrew Sarris put his finger on another big reason foreign films faded: "No one on either side of the Atlantic - or Pacific - wants to admit it today, but the fashion for foreign films depended a great deal on their frankness about sex." When the American ratings system was jimmied to allow R pictures to show sex, there was one more reason that the art house screens would pick from American offerings. Balio's tracing of the foreign film movement is full of quotations from critics at the time as they tried to make sense (and help audiences make sense) of these films that were so different from the usual fare. We are still getting foreign films, of course, but in nothing like the quantities described here (not to argue about quality). The renaissance is over, though, and I will give a warning. One of the depressing parts of going through this enlightening book is finding films that were popular in their time and certainly would be worth seeing again, only to find that many of them can't be put on your Netflix list because they have never been put on DVD.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
I could've figured all this out on google 1 Feb. 2013
By Maximus - Published on
Format: Paperback
The contents of this book are 80% plot summaries and other people's opinion. If I wanted a list of every film made during the French New Wave, I could just Google that. Balio constantly relies on the opinions of others in this book, even going so far as to quote people's plot summaries. Come on! If you're going to write about all these movies and claim to be an expert in foreign film, I should hope that you've either seen or heard enough about these movies to come up with your own summaries.

There is barely any information on the actual characteristics of these different movements. A chapter that claims to be about Italian Neorealism will just be a list of 20 neorealist films. After 30 pages, I still had no idea how the movement came about and what made it relevant. Ugh, this book is useless.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A Clear, Well-Researched Delight 24 Feb. 2011
By David A. Andrews - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a treasure-trove of information that is both well-researched and incredibly clear. It is not biased toward any particular taste or auteur, though it is clearly the product of cinephilia--a combination that I find incredibly rare. Too often cinephile books reflect the author's likes and dislikes in a way that is irritating on top of irrational. Not in this case: Balio's cinephilia seems to drive his curiosity, such that he gives us information about all kinds of things that we have never known before. I found his information on art-cinema distributors particularly helpful, and I found his honesty about the role of sex in the success of classic art cinema refreshing. Thank you, Professor Balio.
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