Resource from: David Bordwell, ‘The Art Cinema as a Mode of Film Practice’
‘The art cinema motivates its narratives by two principles: realism and authorial expressivity’ (p.57)
In order to explain what he takes to be the main characteristics of art cinema, Bordwell compares it with classical narrative cinema, by which he means the films produced by Hollywood studios between 1920s and 1960s (roughly). In terms of filmmaking conventions, classical Hollywood cinema has laid the groundwork for much of today’s mainstream cinema and constitutes a distinct mode of film practice from art cinema.
Bordwell first analyses the idea of causation and argues that, unlike in Hollywood cinema, where characters’ motivations (goals, desires) are clear and neatly driving the action, in art cinema these motivations are harder to decipher or deliberately obscured. The art cinema’s realism often translates into a sense of psychological complexity or into a commitment to representing both subjective and objective states.
Bordwell also notes the importance of the author (usually the director) in art cinema as the ‘overriding intelligence’ of the film, whose ‘personal vision’ is communicated through the film. Stylistic trademarks associated with particular directors are interpreted as proofs of this centrality of the author.
According to Bordwell, the art film typically presents us with problems of interpretation (often taking the form of narrative ambiguity/uncertainty). These problems can be seen as a reflection of ‘life’s untidiness’ (realism) or as a sign of the author’s particular view of the world (authorial expressivity).