Although attempts to valorize film began in film's first decades, major advances in the promotion of film's artistic potential occurred through a series of interrelated events that coincided in the United States in the 1950's and particularly the 1960's. In explaining the promotion and diffusion of this idea, the role of a legitimating ideology for film as art merits particular attention. The important development, however, is the popular acceptance of the idea that film can be art and that it has certain recognizable characteristics that justify the honorific title of "art."
Although the idea that film can be art was conceived soon after the advent of the cinema, this idea was not taken seriously by the vast majority of American film critics or American audiences for approximately the first 60 years.
Application of Freudian categories to film study is an old tradition, incorporating as one of its basic forms the notion of film-as-dream. Freudian dream analysis was primarily an analysis of images, mediated through verbal language, which paid close attention to the properties of images as analog codes and to syntactic principles of image construction.
Film, too, is an analog code, a construction of images that appeal to deep-seated sources of pleasure in an audience that might be regarded as voyeuristic.
Inspired by the novelty of this very modern medium, the earliest theorists of film were keen to pinpoint what was different and distinctive about it and thus directed their inquiries at the ontology, the essential nature, of film and also at film's aesthetics. Later theorists expanded ontological concerns into metapsychological studies--explorations of the distinctiveness of film's address to its spectators, of the relationship between the film text and the subjectivity of the spectator. Film theory should help us make sense of film, and films ought to be the grounding and the inspiration for film theory.
Film has been important in Anthropology for some time, beginning with the Torres Strait Expedition 100 years ago, and its role in anthropology has been debated almost as long. One important, if often unstated, function of anthropological film is to show the landscape of the cultures discussed in the film. Film in archaeology has had a some-what different history, as it typically has been used to show excavations in progress. In archaeology, films have long dominated popular perceptions of the subject, ranging from the sensationalism of Indiana Jones to the more responsible popularizing of Michael Wood or John Romer.
One of the most important theoretical questions raised by the research on ascriptive inequality involves the concept of "double jeopardy." Specifically, this concept asserts that devalued ascriptive characteristics may interact with one another with respect to certain outcomes: for example, the effects of gender and race interact in such a way that African-American women earn less than one would expect from the combined direct effects of gender and race. One occupation in which the issue of double jeopardy has been raised in terms of the effects of gender and age on career outcomes is film acting.
In the first quarter of the twentieth century, women drivers of automobiles emerged as signal figures of the 'New Womanhood.' As previous scholars have observed, automobiles figured prominently both in the on-screen exploits of a new breed of action heroines and in off-screen publicity about stars' personal vehicles, from images of 'serial queen' Helen Holmes reparing her own stunt car (infant daughter at her side) to Anita King's highly publicised Paramount-sponsored transcontinental solo journey in 1915. Yet there are even broader parallels between the pioneering women motorists and the women directors, producers, screenwriters and stars who sat, metaphorically, in the 'driver's seat' of so much of the early film industry.
French cinema's "first wave" washed over the colonies as well as the metropole, and filmmakers were soon carting their cameras off to remote corners of the empire to record exotic habitats and peoples for display to audiences at home. Colonial staffs and film crews cooperated in making the documentaries, gravitating toward each other as cobearers of the civilizing mission. Narrative fictional film shot on location in the colonies, cinema's other first wave, arrived in 1921 with L'Atlantide. It's million-dollar budget, surreal plot, hypnotic Saharan scenery, and intrepid Foreign Legion heroes caused a sensation at its Paris premiere.
Because of the newness of the film industry and its working class and immigrant audiences, from the beginning of film's development until 1912, American Indians created films that reflected Native culture and ideology in a way unparalleled until recently, and Native people both inside and outside the film industry used this forum to voice opinions about their representation in the dominant society. A number of films with American Indian characters made before 1912 focus instead on problems caused by racism and assimilation.
Other cities--notably Turin and Milan--were important production centers in the silent era, but from the early 1930's most of Italy's film resources came to be concentrated in Rome. It was less industrialized than the northern cities and less well connected to northern Europe, but the Fascist regime then in power wanted to centralize the communications industries in the Capital.
The launch of the film festival in Venice was an exception to this centripetal trend but the festival was an extension of the existing art Biennale, which had been running since 1895 and had already accumulated great international prestige.
Movies first appeared in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the late 1890's, holding a minor presence in the collective imagination for about ten years before emerging as a mass-consumption product.The short programs were a hit, and within a few years a handful of similar venues were staging film exhibitions on a semi-regular basis. By 1906, Milwaukee had ten theatres devoted exclusively to showing motion pictures. In another decade, there would be over seventy-five.