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Art film


Art film

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Art film encompasses moving image compositions created with largely expressionistic intent, and may refer to individual efforts in the category. The term is typically used to describe works that are unity, although films so described may be experimental.

More often, this term is attributed to narrative films with stylistic uniqueness, usually owing to the author(s)'s vision or technique. These are often called "arthouse films" and may include foreign-language films ("foreign" from an American point-of-view, that is), independent and non-mainstream films, as well as documentaries and short films. The producers of art films seek a niche audience rather than mass appeal and usually present their work at specialty theatres and film festivals in large urban areas. Art film provides similar kinds of cinematic illusion that one finds in classical Hollywood cinema as well as allusions to previous periods in cinematic history. However, by loosening the ties between its style and narrative concerns, it allows for increased subjective realism and authorial expressivity.

The term "art film" has become a catch-all term for films that do not adopt the main Hollywood conventions of the industry. Therefore, a great number of films, which were presented to a mass audience in countries such as Italy and France, may simply be deemed as "art films" by an average American viewer. This further explains the reason why it is not usually considered as an interpretative term outside the U. S..



Often produced on small budgets, these films lack the lavish advertising campaigns of films in wide release. With small initial investment costs, art films only need to appeal to a small portion of the mainstream viewing audiences to achieve huge financial success. Many major motion picture studios have special divisions dedicated to these films, such as the Fox Searchlight division of Twentieth Century Fox, the Focus Features division of Universal, and the Sony Pictures Classics division of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

The most successful American producer and distributor of art films is Miramax, which began in 1979 as a studio for the distribution of independent films which were deemed commercially unviable at the major studios. In 1993, Miramax was purchased by Disney and subsequently expanded its library to include more commercial films such as She's All That, A View from the Top, and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Miramax continued, however, to emphasize less mainstream films, and produced more genre-oriented films like Scream and Spy Kids through its Dimension Films label. When Miramax founders Harvey Weinstein and Bob Weinstein left Miramax in September 2005 to found The Weinstein Co., however, they took the Dimension label with them.

Narrative structure

In the classical Hollywood form, narrative dictates film style. Every event portrayed advances the narrative forward. All characters act as causal agents for the narrative. Additionally, classical films use familiar images, verbal expressions, archetypal characters, and symbols to convey the story to the audience in a short time period. This artificial construction of reality includes nothing that does not clearly help the viewer understand the events of the story.

Art film rejects this as unrealistic. It attempts to portray real life situations and characters where things happen that do not always have a clear meaning or purpose, but instead are vague and even mysterious. Therefore, art films do not clearly explain how plot elements, characters, or events fit together. Any causal gaps that appear in the narrative of an art film are often permanent.


Art films do not always explain themselves; they often have episodic or meandering plot lines. A character might wander off, encounter something, or do something for no clear reason and no definite explanation provided in the film. Instead, things remain ambiguous to the very end. These films prove challenging to viewers who are accustomed to the classical style, because the final scene of an art film does not tie up loose ends the way classical Hollywood films do.

Objective and subjective realism

Art film deals with realistic social problems in both objective and subjective ways. This genre can more effectively portray its characters true to life by showing their inner psychological state with subjective realism. Therefore, the characters have complex behaviors and relationships.

Classical Hollywood films are also able to portray social issues, but only within the bounds of the narrative. Therefore, this film genre looks at social issues only objectively, from the outside.

Authorial expressivity

Freedom from the restraints of narrative concerns gives filmmakers authorial expressivity to experiment with a style or some other personal peculiarity. Often these filmmakers are called auteurs.

See also

Home | Up | Alienation effect | The American Crowd | Apparatus theory | Art film | Auteur | Auteur theory | Cinematic genre | Cinesexuality | Diegesis | Feminist analysis | Feminist film theory | Final girl | Formalist film theory | Gaze | Intellectual montage | Magic realism | Marxist film theory | Melodrama | Mise en scène | Narrativity | Psychoanalytical film theory | Queer literary interpretation | Structuralist film theory

Movies, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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