Anthony Asquith by Tom Ryall

By Tom Ryall

In this primary entire serious learn of Anthony Asquith, Ryall units the director's paintings within the context of British cinema from the silent interval to the Nineteen Sixties, and examines the inventive and cultural affects during which his movies might be understood. The luck of Pygmalion and French with out Tears, in line with performs by means of George Bernard Shaw and Terence Rattigan, along with his major contributions to wartime British cinema, made Asquith one in every of Britain's prime movie makers.

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46 The sequence even contains a Hitchcock-like cameo from Asquith which is combined with a cinematic in-joke. The first film on the programme is a Harold Lloyd comedy; Asquith, playing a member of the audience, is wearing a pair of Lloyd’s trademark spectacles, and the point is underlined by two boys staring at him, then at the screen, then back again. 47 As he began his film career British cinema was in the process of redefining itself in a popular film culture dominated by the Hollywood entertainment film with its hold on the imagination of the British audience, and in an intellectual film culture which was responding to the experimental and ‘art’ cinemas coming from Germany, France, and the Soviet Union, with its hold on the imagination of the cultural intelligentsia and the artistic communities.

Its reflexivity is announced in the opening moments. The film begins with a close-up of Mae Feather (Annette Benson) and Julian Gordon (Brian Aherne) kissing in what looks more like the closing shot of a romantic film than its opening. Aherne’s stetson and check shirt, however, clearly indicates that it is a western. Aherne rides away and the camera remains on Benson who has a dove in her hands. The dove pecks her and flies off; she delivers a diatribe in the direction of the camera; then a cut to a film crew reveals the fictional reality – a film is being made.

It was also an era in which a plurality of film forms and styles emerged, a period of film experimentation especially in Europe. It was a period of flux, of instability, with questions raised about the very survival of the indigenous European film industries in the face of Hollywood’s power and influence; it was also a period when the nature and identity of cinema was the subject of intense debate: Was it an art form? Was it ‘merely’ entertainment? What was the social and artistic role of this relatively new medium?

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