The Birth of Criticism

In 1919 Louis Delluc published Cinéma et Cie, soon followed by Photogénie, Charlot, Drames de Cinéma, which may be considered as the first books on the aesthetic of the cinema. Ricciotto Canudo founded the Club des Amis du Septième Art. From 1920 to 1925, Delluc, Canudo, Moussinac, René Clair, Robert Desnos, Jean Tédesco, Pierre Henry, Jean Mitry, Emile Vuillermoz, Lucien Wahl and others drew the attention of the intellectuals to the cinema's possibilities. But this art--if art it is--had soon turned its face away from adventure, and of all the roads stretching before it"-at its birth had chosen only one--a sorry imitation of the theatre.

The critics in opposition refused to accept this road as the right one, and awakened memories of the boldness of the pioneers ( Méliès, Zecca, Jean Durand, etc.), a boldness that was often naïve and sometimes involuntary, but full of courage all the same. They drew attention to the good film-making that still went on in France (some adventure serials, notably by Feuillade) and emphasized that it was now due chiefly to a few Hollywood directors, Ince, Griffith, Mack Sennett, Chaplin, Stroheim and others, that the cinema could still hold out some promise and was still capable of discovering such authentic film personalities as Charles Ray and William Hart. The critics also gave a warm welcome to the young German and Swedish, and later on to the Soviet schools as they appeared.

The avant-garde among critics denied then the intrinsic merit of what was done usually, giving importance to what was seldom or no longer done, and thus they affirmed all that might be accomplished if those who had chosen the cinema as their career would but consent to learn its language, acknowledge its magic, and offer this means of expression to those who had faith in it.

No comments: