The language problem in European cinema : discourses on 'foreign-language films' in criticism, theory and practice
The thesis describes a range of discourse on language in cinema as they have emerged in film reception, production and exhibition contexts in Europe, and assesses their implications for the critical construction of European cinema. The thesis argues that the ‘problem’ of language is constituted in a number of pervasive but seldom acknowledged discourses which have circumscribed the ways in which the category ‘European cinema’ is understood. The primary sources utilised in the research, which date from the 1920s to the present day, are film magazines and journals, trade journals, policy documents and interviews. The thesis pays particular attention to the exhibition and reception cultures surrounding ‘foreign-language films’ in Britain. It takes a historical approach in addressing the cineaste attitudes promoted in the magazines Close-Up and Sight and Sound, and reflects upon the reaction against the film appreciation tradition communicated by the journal Screen. The thesis also explores the positioning of European cinema at film festivals and contemplates the translation issues therein, including the contemporary correspondence between the practice of subtitling and rhetoric on the ‘original version’ and the culturally ‘authentic’ film. It examines how language is implicated in the argument for a ‘cultural exception’, which was used in defence of European film industries during the 1993 GATT negotiations, and considers how filmmakers in Denmark have attempted in their production activities to test the parameters of this discourse on exceptionality by producing Dogma ’95 and English-language ‘cross-over’ films. The thesis finally looks at the relationship between Scottish cinema exhibitors and the European Commission, organisations which are institutionally linked through the Europa Cinemas network, and suggests that a similar ethics of consumption is articulated by each with respect to European cinema. The thesis argues that while the status of European cinema as foreign-language cinema is rarely addressed, its framing as such nonetheless impinges significantly upon the ways in which European films are consumed.