The term “art cinema” has been applied to many cinematic projects, including the film d’art movement, the postwar avant-gardes, various Asian new waves, the New Hollywood, and American indie films, but until now no one has actually defined what “art cinema” is. Turning the traditional, highbrow notion of art cinema on its head, Theorizing Art Cinemas takes a flexible, inclusive approach that views art cinema as a predictable way of valuing movies as “art” movies—an activity that has occurred across film history and across film subcultures—rather than as a traditional genre in the sense of a distinct set of forms or a closed historical period or movement.
David Andrews opens with a history of the art cinema “super-genre” from the early days of silent movies to the postwar European invasion that brought Italian Neorealism, the French New Wave, and the New German Cinema to the forefront and led to the development of auteur theory. He then discusses the mechanics of art cinema, from art houses, film festivals, and the academic discipline of film studies, to the audiences and distribution systems for art cinema as a whole. This wide-ranging approach allows Andrews to develop a theory that encompasses both the high and low ends of art cinema in all of its different aspects, including world cinema, avant-garde films, experimental films, and cult cinema. All of these art cinemas, according to Andrews, share an emphasis on quality, authorship, and anticommercialism, whether the film in question is a film festival favorite or a midnight movie.
Introduction: Correcting Art Cinema’s Partial Vision
Part One: Art, Auteurism, and the World
Chapter One. Art as Genre as Canon: Defining “Art Cinema”
Chapter Two. No Start, No End: Auteurism and the Auteur Theory
Chapter Three. From “Foreign Films” to “World Cinema”
Part Two: Formats and Fetishes
Chapter Four. Recovery and Legitimation in the Traditional Art Film
Chapter Five. Losing the Asterisk: A Theory of Cult-Art Cinema
Chapter Six. Revisiting “The Two Avant-Gardes”
Chapter Seven. Sucking the Mainstream: A Theory of Mainstream Art Cinema
Part Three: Institutions and Distributions
Chapter Eight. Re-integrating Stardom ( . . . or Technology or Reception or . . . )
Chapter Nine. Art Cinema as Institution, Redux: Art Houses, Film Festivals, and Film Studies
Chapter Ten. Art Cinema, the Distribution Theory
Epilogue. Beyond, Before Cinephilia
Andrews is an independent scholar who has published widely on issues related to art cinema and cult cinema. He is the author of Soft in the Middle: The Contemporary Softcore Feature in its Contexts.
David Andrews homepage
Google Scholar page
“This book is a significant contribution and largely because it develops its argument without the sense of special pleading for a specific version of the art cinema. This is a book that is not written by a defender who wants to privilege one version over all, but genuinely wants to look at the phenomenon in its many different versions. It therefore has a real sense of scope and perspective that is immensely refreshing.”
—Mark Jancovich, Professor of Film Studies, University of East Anglia, and coauthor of The Place of the Audience: Cultural Geographies of Film Consumption, and coeditor of Defining Cult Movies; Quality Popular Television: Cult TV, the Industry and Fans; and Film Histories: An Introduction and Reader
"Andrews remains acutely attuned to both potential criticisms in his logic by addressing them head-on, while never sliding into overtly academic-speak or rhetoric that could obscure his points, which makes Theorizing Art Cinemas a thrilling revelation from front to back….Andrews provides readers not just with an intricate explanation for various art cinemas, but how such scholarship can best be performed going forward….Andrews clears up complicated, much-debated issues with relative ease."
—Clayton Dillard, Slant magazine