This new addition to the library of books dedicated to European cinema and aimed explicitly at students and their tutors adopts the familiar blend of introductory material written by the editors and individual case studies written by others. The introduction sets out the book's parameters and is followed by two useful discussions of economics and politics and ideology, aesthetics and style.
However, the introductory section/case studies format is inherently contradictory, proposing a cohesive critical framework that is inevitably undermined by the diversity of the case studies. As if aware of this, European Cinema handles the discrepancy commendably by ensuring that many of the case studies make direct reference to general historical and theoretical issues outlined in the introductory sections. The Lodger , for instance, is treated as a European film rather than an example of early Hitchcock, its more common pigeonhole. There exist, however, queries about how this book approaches European cinema. Its authors outline the significant tenets of their approach. The first is that, despite academic interest in national cinemas, there has been little engagement with questions of what constitutes European cinema. It is revealing that, despite this claim, European Cinema falls into the same trap because the case studies discuss a single national cinema. The argument for an inclusive European cinema is not convincingly made.
Art cinema versus popular cinema is another issue chewed over in the introduction. There is a rumbling dissatisfaction that European cinema has suffered unduly through being cast in opposition to popular Hollywood and that there is more to Italian cinema than neo-realism.
But the choice of individual films, with the exception of Good Morning Babylon , does little to dispel the view of European cinema as arty and auteurist. Thus, Derek Duncan analyses the first feature (Ossessione) of one of film studies' favoured arthouse auteurs, not an Alberto Sordi comedy from the 1970s.
The problem is that, while arguments may be mounted against the conventional manner in which European cinema has been perceived, a textbook is inevitably going to concentrate on art cinema and canonical texts because they are what is commercially available and hence what students are taught.
Stella Bruzzi is senior lecturer in film, Royal Holloway, University of London.
European Cinema: An Introduction. First Edition
Editor - Jill Forbes and Sarah Street
ISBN - 0 333 75209 0 and 75210 4
Publisher - Palgrave
Price - £45.00 and £14.99
Pages - 216