From Publishers Weekly
Even those who don't know Italian Neorealism from French New Wave will appreciate Balio's wonderfully thorough survey of foreign films on American screens. Balio takes readers through nearly 30 years of international film history, from the end of WWII to the '70s, arguing that foreign films were then at the peak of their popularity in the United States in large part because of what they offered: sexy, uncensored alternatives to Hollywood fare (restricted under the Hayes Code, which sanitized domestic product). A decade-long Hollywood recession starting in 1947, leading to studio cutbacks, the production of fewer films, and the need for theaters to seek new content contributed to the renaissance, and a new generation of young filmgoers, especially university students, eager for challenging experiences, were ready to take the seats no longer being filled by their parents. Balio also examines the marketing dynamics of certain films (Laurence Olivier's Hamlet, for example, was billed as "the greatest ghost story of them all") and allows critics of the era to discuss Fellini, Godard, Bergman, Truffaut, Kurosawa, Antonioni, Ray, and other directors at the heart of the movement. At times the proceedings cry out for a contemporary context, but film buffs and historians will find much here to enjoy.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* During World War II, American interest in foreign movies virtually disappeared. Then, in 1946, a small Italian film, Open City, was booked into a New York cinema and played for more than a year and a half. It was the beginning of the postwar renaissance of foreign movies, and the launch of the art-film movement. Balio, a noted film historian, explores the various aspects of American interest in foreign films: the appeal of Italian neorealism and the British Ealing comedies; the influence of Japanese cinema (which produced both Akira Kurosawa and Godzilla); the French New Wave, with directors like Truffaut and Godard (and, let’s not forget, the birth of the auteur); the British New Cinema; and, in the 1960s, a new crop of Italian directors (Fellini, Antonioni, Visconti). American audiences were so taken with foreign films, the author notes, that the major Hollywood studios began financing their production, hoping to snag a piece of the profit pie. A relaxing of Hollywood’s Production Code, too, allowed American filmmakers to push the boundaries of violence and subject matter, resulting in such movies as Bonnie and Clyde and Midnight Cowboy. The American studios were now, in essence, making their own versions of foreign films. For movie buffs, this is an indispensable and deeply fascinating book; a follow-up, looking at the post-1973 years, would be most welcome. --David Pitt