Why Hollywood Style Films Should Stay in Hollywood

One of the numerous inter-titles from Solanas' and Getino's

One of the numerous intertitles from Solanas’ and Getino’s The Hour of the Furnaces (1968)

While reading Tanner Mirrlees’ Global Entertainment Media: Between Cultural Imperialism and Cultural Globalization I was really struck by the influence Hollywood has over other countries’ film industry and culture. The US really has a cultural monopoly on the style of film that is commercially created. Despite my love of American cinema, I don’t consider this a good thing. By spreading the Hollywood style film globally, we are only creating a shallower gene pool for filmmakers to be influenced by and constricting cinema to a single style.

The dangerous thing about the influence of Hollywood is the way that it limits expression. The filmic language of Hollywood consists of a system of rules. Let’s face it, there are conventions that exist in Hollywood just in terms of how you’re supposed to shoot a film. These rules were created based on what American audiences enjoyed. An example of this is the 180 degree rule, where you can’t move a camera more than 180 degrees, or it will confuse the viewer. You’re also supposed to get conventional coverage of the room so that the audiences understands the layout of the room. You’re supposed to use soft lighting on actors so that they look nice. Of course, all these rules are broken and played with for certain effects, but there is an understanding that you should usually follow these rules if you want the audience to follow your film.

This is great in some ways, but the problem is that when we spread these rules that are established for America cinema, it confines rather than clarifies. Filmmakers from other countries are almost compelled to show things through the lens of what American audiences enjoy. This is a problem because it limits experiences into a box that cannot necessarily contain the meaning or the emotions of a film. Now, you can say, “I don’t really care about appealing to a Hollywood audience so, I don’t have to worry about these rules”, but Hollywood and the US film industry is such a central tastemaker that a film cannot financially succeed without incorporating this Hollywood style. According to Mirrlees, “an entertainment product that is too local, regional, or national will not travel well,” (Mirrlees 171).

Vittorio De Sica's Bicycle Thieves (1948)

Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves (1948)

Ideally, global cinema should challenge the conventions of Hollywood cinema so that it can accurately reflect their own culture. Let me throw out two examples of this. The first is Italian neorealism, a style that came out of post-war Italy in the mid 1940s. During Mussolini’s regime, Italian films were created in the Hollywood style. They were filmed on sets, used lighting, and were far removed from the realities of life. After the war though filmmakers such as De Sica, Rossellini, and Fellini decided that this style not only politically represented the fascist regime that they wanted to distance themselves from, but also did not and could not represent the post-war realities of life in Italy. Instead, the filmmakers started to shoot on the streets of decimated cities documentary-style, they worked with little or no lighting, and they utilized non-actors in major roles. They didn’t follow the Hollywood norms and because of that, you will be hard pressed to find a Hollywood style film with the warmth of Bicycle Thieves (1948) or a war film from the same era with the drama of Rome, Open City (1945).

The second example I’d like to bring up is Third Cinema. The idea of Third cinema was pioneered by Solanas and Getino. The idea was to create something entirely free from the Hollywood style. According to Solanas’ and Getino’s manifesto, Towards a Third Cinema, in Hollywood, “The image of reality is more important than reality itself. It is a world of people with fantasies and phantoms in which what is hideous is clothed in beauty, while beauty is disguised as the hideous” (Solanas and Getino 45). If you have a chance watch their film The Hour of the Furnaces (1968), I can’t tell you that you’ll like it, I can’t tell you that you’ll hate it, but it’s an important experience, especially for someone with a very Western, Hollywood influenced image of film. The film is shot without any regard for the Hollywood rules, it’s a guerrilla documentary that is compartmentalized and meant to be tailored for the audience. It was expected that at screenings people would stop the film and discuss the images being shown. Essentially, if you sought out to make a movie that was the opposite of anything going on in Hollywood, this would be it. Because of this, it’s an emotional experience, that can’t be compared to.

So to sum things up, my fear with the constant spread of Hollywood culture isn’t that it’s present, but that it’s smothering to cinema around the world. And by being so smothering and by forcing filmmakers to work in the same style, it is not only restricting creativity, but also slowly killing itself. Hollywood needs international films that are done differently. Without them, the style never changes and with no outside influences, the style kills itself through monotony.

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