Monday, December 04, 2006

Rise of the feature film and film as art

The standard length of a film remained one reel, or about ten to fifteen minutes, through the first decade of the century, partly based on producers' assumptions about the attention spans of their still largely working class audiences.
Australia's The Story of the Kelly Gang (also screened as Ned Kelly and His Gang) is widely regarded as the world's first "feature length" film. Its 80 minute running time was unprecedented when it was released in 1906. In 1906 Dan Barry and Charles Tait of Melbourne produced and directed 'The Story of the Kelly Gang.' It wasn’t until 1911 that countries other than Australia began to make feature films. By this time Australia had made 16 full length feature films.
Soon Europe created multiple-reel period extravaganzas that began to push the envelope of a film's length further. With international box office successes like Queen Elizabeth (France, 1912), Quo Vadis? (Italy, 1913) and Cabiria (Italy, 1914), the feature film began to replace the short as the cinema's central form.
Leading this trend in America was director D.W. Griffith with his historical epics The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Intolerance (1916). Unprecedented in scale, they also did much to fix the developing codes of editing and visual storytelling that remain the foundation of mainstream film grammar. The former film was also notable as perhaps the first to inspire widespread racial controversy.
Along with a boom in high-toned literary adaptations, these trends began to make the movies a respectable diversion for the middle class and gain them recognition as a genuine art form with a secure place in the emerging culture of the twentieth century.

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