Cinema Modernisms in Canada and The United States

Authored by: Juan A. Suárez

The Modernist World

Print publication date:  June  2015
Online publication date:  June  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415845038
eBook ISBN: 9781315778334
Adobe ISBN: 9781317696162


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In the English-speaking world, ‘modernism’ became connected to cinema belatedly, in articles American poet H.D. wrote for the British film journal Close-Up in 1930 and 1931. For H.D., ‘modern’ meant a spare aesthetics (‘the lean skyscraper beauty of ultra-modernity’) responsive to contemporary life (H.D. 1998 [1930]: 228). In her view, this definition applied to the expressionist films of the German UFA studios and the Soviet montage films of Sergei Eisenstein and V.I. Pudovkin, abstract films, and the unconventional narratives of James Sibley Watson and Melville Webber – and of Close-Up editor Kenneth Macpherson. H.D.’s application of ‘modernism’ to film never caught on; non-commercial films were instead labelled ‘avant-garde’, ‘experimental’, ‘artistic’, ‘independent’, ‘amateur’, and ‘underground’. 1 Despite this terminological gap, the films referred to by these denominations were regarded by most as part of modernism across the arts.

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