What's new about New Cinema History?
In their introduction to a recent collection of essays by British film historians, James Chapman, Mark Glancy and Sue Harper (2007: pp. 1, 8) suggest that what differentiates film history from other types of historical investigation is that its primary source document, and simultaneously the central object of its enquiry, is Uthe film text". Their account is conventional in its medium-specificity: the film historian, they argue, needs to understand "that films are cultural artefacts with their own formal properties and aesthetics," and therefore has to acquire "skills of formal and visual analysis that are specific to the discipline". These are the methods that we have so far used for two purposes. The first has been to construct film history as a curatorial history of films and their production. Secondly. we have juxtaposed and contrasted film and history, in accounts of films as either representing or interpreting a set of extrafilmic phenomena identified as "history", or else as impacting on extra-cinematic conditions identified as "society". Film history of either stripe has compartmentalised accounts of particular types of films - national cinemas or genres, for example - in a way that is often historically sensitive to the time and place of their production, but detaches them from the equally specific circumstances of their consumption.
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