New Hollywood: what it is and how it has changed American cinema

Table of Contents

American New Hollywood or often called the Hollywood Renaissance, refers to a film movement from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s which marked the history of films, when a new generation of young directors became prominent in the United States. They influenced the types of films produced, their production, advertising and marketing, as well as the means by which they approached film making. 

In New Hollywood films, the director, instead of the studio, took on an essential authorial role. The definition of “New Hollywood” differs, based on the author, with some defining it as a movement and others as a period. The duration period is also a subject of controversy as some authors, such as Thomas Schatz, claim that New Hollywood contains several assets. The films made in this activity are stylistically identified as their story often differs strongly from classic standards. After the death of the studio system and the rise of television, the commercial success of films was reduced.

New Hollywood blockbusters of the very first era include Bonnie and Clyde, The Graduate, Night of the Living Dead, The Wild Bunch and Easy Rider, Heaven’s Gate and One from the Heart.

Watch Night of the Living Dead

History of New Hollywood

With the end of the ownership of movie chains by movie studios and with the arrival of television (where John Frankenheimer, Paddy Chayefsky and also Sidney Lumet worked in their early years), the typical studio production system was damaged. Technicolor has established even more widespread use, while widescreen processes and even technological improvements, such as CinemaScope, stereo audio, and others, such as 3-D, have been created to keep the target market diminishing and address television. However, these have generally not been successful in increasing profits. In 1957, the Life publication called the 1950s “the terrible decade” of Hollywood.

The 1950s and early 1960s saw a Hollywood dominated by musicals, historical epics, and other films that benefited from larger screens, wider framing, and improved audio. As early as 1957, the era was dubbed a “New Hollywood” and failed attempts to replicate the success of The Sound of Music put a strain on the studies.

As the baby boom generation came of age in the 1960s, “Old Hollywood” was rapidly losing money; the studios weren’t sure how to react to the greatly changed audience demographics. The market shift during the period shifted from a middle-aged higher-educated audience in the mid-1960s to a younger, more affluent, college-educated audience: in the mid-1970s, 76% of all viewers were under 30, 64% of whom had gone to college.

European films, both auteur and commercial (especially the Italian Comedy, the French New Wave, Spaghetti Western), and Japanese cinema were causing a sensation in the United States: the huge market of disaffected young people seemed to find relevance and artistic significance in films like Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow Up, with its oblique narrative structure and all-round female nudity.

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The anxiety the studios felt during this period of financial decline, as well as after losses from costly flops, led to technology and risk-taking, allowing for greater control by younger directors and producers. Therefore, in an attempt to find that target market that identified a link with the “art films” , the workshops employed a myriad of young directors and enabled them to make their own films with reasonably little studio control. 

Some of them, like actor Jack Nicholson and director Peter Bogdanovich, were led by “King of the B movie” Roger Corman, while others such as famed cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond have worked for lesser-known B-movie directors such as Ray Dennis Steckler.was released in 1962 Wild Guitar and also the 1963 horror musical film The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies.

This, coupled with the malfunctioning of the Film Production Code in 1966 and also the brand new classification system in 1968 (mirroring the growing market division) created the ideal situation for New Hollywood.

Bonnie and Clyde

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A pivotal film of the New Hollywood generation was Bonnie and Clyde (1967). Also created and starring Warren Beatty and led by Arthur Penn, his mix of physical violence and humor, as well as his extravagant style of disenchanted youth, has been a hit in target markets. The film won Oscars for Best Supporting Actress (Estelle Parsons) and Best Cinematography.

When Jack L. Warner, the then CEO of Warner Bros., first saw Bonnie and Clyde in the summer of 1967, he hated him. Warner Brothers distribution executives agreed, providing the film with a low-profile premiere and limited release. Their approach appeared justified when Bosley Crowther, the New York Times’ mid-level film critic, gave the film a fierce criticism. 

Following one of the negative reviews, Time magazine received letters from fans of the film and, according to reporter Peter Biskind, the impact of critic Pauline Kael in her positive review of the film (October 1967, New Yorker) led to other critics. to follow his own path and re-evaluate the film (in particular Newsweek and Time).

Kael called attention to the innocence of the characters in the film and the artistic merit of contrasting this with the violence in the film: “In a sense, it is the ‘absence of sadism – it is violence without sadism – that shocks audiences towards Bonnie and Clyde. Kael also noted the audience’s reaction to the film’s violent climax and the potential to empathize with the gang of criminals in terms of naivety and innocence reflecting a shift in expectations of American cinema.

The cover story of Time magazine in December 1967 celebrated cinema and technology in American New Wave cinema. This important article by Stefan Kanfer stated that Bonnie and Clyde represented a “New Cinema” through its obscured category lines, and even neglect of plot aspects and inspiration, that “both in fertilization and in implementation, Bonnie as well as Clyde is an image watershed, of the kind that signals a brand new style, a new fashion. “

Biskind specifies that this review and the change of opinion of some film critics allowed the re-release of the film, thus verifying its industrial success and also reflecting the approach of the New Hollywood. The effect of this film is essential to understanding the rest of the American New Wave, as well as the conditions that were required for it.

These early successes paved the way for the studio to cede virtually complete control to these ingenious young directors. In the mid-1970s, distinctive and shocking films such as Paper Moon, Dog Day Afternoon, Chinatown, as well as Taxi Driver, among others, enjoyed a notable major hit. These successes of the members of the New Hollywood have led each of them successively to make more and more extravagant requests, both in the studio and at some point even in the reference market.

The style of New Hollywood

This new generation of Hollywood directors was very significantly, from the point of view of the studios, young, consequently able to reach the target market of the young people they were losing. This group of young directors – actors, directors and writers – called the “New Hollywood” by the press, briefly transformed the business from the producer-driven Hollywood system of the past.

Todd Berliner actually wrote some unusual storytelling techniques. The 1970s, says Berliner, mark Hollywood’s most significant formal improvement. New Hollywood films deviate from timeless narrative standards more than Hollywood films of any other era or movement. Berliner argues that five principles control the narrative strategies characteristic of 1970s Hollywood films: 1970s films reveal a propensity to integrate, by incidental narrative means, short story details and stylistic tools that are detrimental to the film’s necessary narrative goals.

Hollywood directors of the 1970s often place their filmmaking practices between those of classic Hollywood and those of art cinema European and AsianThe films of the seventies trigger reactions from viewers that are more disheartening and uncertain than those of the more normal Hollywood movies. The narratives of the 1970s place an unusual focus on insolvency, particularly the climax or epilogues, when the more standard Hollywood films resolved outstanding issues.

The cinema of the seventies hinders narrative linearity as well as energy and sinks its possibilities to create suspense and even fun. Thomas Schatz points to another difference with the Golden Age of Hollywood, which deals with the relationship between the characters and the plot. He argues that the plot in classic Hollywood films (and in some early New Hollywood films such as The Godfather) “tended to emerge more organically as a function of the drives, desires, motivations and goals of the central characters.”

During the heyday of the studio system, films were practically made purposely on set in isolated studios. The content of the films was limited by the Film Production Code, and although directors of the Golden Age found technicalities in its guidelines, the most forbidden scenes in the films were limited. The shift to “brand new realism” was made possible when the Motion Picture Association of America film soundtrack system was introduced and acquisition was becoming much more feasible. New York City was a favorite place for this brand new generation of filmmakers due to its lively atmosphere.

Due to innovations in film technology (e.g. the Panavision Panaflex camera, introduced in 1972), New Hollywood filmmakers were able to shoot 35mm film outdoors with relative ease. Documentary films by DA Pennebaker, Maysles Brothers and Frederick Wiseman, among others, also influenced directors of this era.

In editing, New Hollywood directors adhered to realism more liberally than most of their classic Hollywood predecessors, often using editing for artistic purposes rather than continuity alone, a practice inspired by European art films. and classic Hollywood directors such as DW Griffith e Alfred Hitchcock.

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Completing the production code allowed New Hollywood films to present anti-establishment political themes, making use of rock-and-roll, as well as sexual freedom considered “countercultural” by the studios. The youth movement of the 1960s turned antiheroes like Bonnie and Clyde as well as Cool Hand Luke into pop culture idols, and Life magazine called Easy Rider “part of the main fundamental myth of the late 1960s counterculture. ’60 “. 

Easy Rider also influenced the method the studios wanted to reach the youth market. The success of Midnight Cowboy, despite its “X” rating, was proof of interest, as well as revealing the weakness of the rating system and even the division of the target market.

What is New Hollywood?

For Peter Biskind, the new wave was foreshadowed by Bonnie and Clyde and started in earnest with Easy Rider as well. The Easy Riders and Raging Bulls publication states that the New Hollywood movement marked a notable shift towards separately produced and avant-garde from a new era of filmmaking, but that this shift began to reverse as the industrial success of Jaws and Star Wars led to studios’ awareness of the importance of independent films, marketing and production control.

Writing in 1968, film critic Pauline Kael argued that the significance of The Graduatewas in its social importance to a new young audience, and also in the duty of media, as opposed to any kind of fanciful element. Kael said that even the undergraduate understanding of The Graduate was no different from the audience that included the characters from the drama films of previous years.

John Belton indicates the group in transformation towards even younger and more conservative target markets in the mid-1970s (50% aged 12-20) and the transfer to less politically subversive motifs in mainstream cinema, which saw the mid and late 1970s with the decline of art cinema activity as substantial industry pressure with its peak in 1974-75 with Nashville and Chinatown.

According to author and film critic Charles Taylor, he said that “the 1970s remain the third and last formidable period in American films”. Author AD Jameson stated that Star Wars was New Hollywood’s best achievement that in effect symbolized the characteristics of “major and innovative adult films”.

Criticism of New Hollywood

This era of American cinema has also been criticized for its extreme decadence and also for the misadventures on the set. Even Steven Spielberg, who co-directed / co-produced 1983’s Twilight Zone: The Movie with John Landis, was so ashamed of the latter’s handling of the dangerous helicopter crash that led to the actor’s death. Vic Morrow and the young Myca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Chen, who broke all relationships. When contacted by the press about the incident, he said: “Nobody deserves to die in a movie. I think people are much more opposed now than ever to directors and producers who ask too much. If something isn’t risk-free. , it is the right as well as the obligation of every star or participant of the staff to shout: ‘Cut!’

New Hollywood heritage

The films of Steven Spielberg, Brian De Palma, Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola influenced both the Poliziotteschi genre in Italy and, a year later, also the Cinéma du look activity in France.American Cinema was influenced by this era. Both traditions have similar themes and narratives of existentialism and the need for human interaction. By comparison, eccentric American cinema does not have a distinct context, its films show characters who are very individualistic and their concerns are about their own personality.

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