What it is…

A remarkably rich period for Hollywood cinema between the late Sixties and the late Seventies in which classical studio filmmaking gave way to more independent, authorial, subversive and ebullient productions aimed at the youth. This vast movement is generally said to have lasted till the rise of blockbuster filmmaking that has defined Hollywood cinema ever since.

Who its pioneers were...

Increased permissiveness of expression, dwindling of major studios' hold, popularity of European art cinema, technological breakthroughs, a shift in national demographic and, most importantly, an increased politicisation of public life were some of the reasons attributed to the rise of New Hollywood. Major names include Arthur Penn, Martin Scorsese, Robert Altman, Roman Polanski and Francis Coppola.

How it is characterised…

Objectives

Many New Hollywood pictures reflected the popular resentment about Vietnam, the angry mood of the Civil Rights Movement and the general disaffection with nationalist politics. Unlike the safe, uplifting films of the previous era, these films were bathed in cynicism and espoused an ultra-liberal ideology, which attacked American conservative values head on. Likewise, traditional genre films were deconstructed, critiqued and revised. Explicit violence, sex, language and drug abuse were no more taboos to be repressed.

Style

The New Hollywood movies favoured a general tendency towards gritty, rough-hewn realism. Freewheeling, handheld camerawork, location shooting on city streets, staccato editing techniques and scores that were a potpourri of popular music were some of the prominent traits of these films. It was also during this era when Method Acting reached its apex, resulting in the rise of new acting talents such as Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino.

Why it is important...

With the rise of the blockbuster, coupled with Reaganomics, authorship and artistic merit became words that were seen with scepticism in Hollywood. However, one could argue that New Hollywood played a key role in the rise of New American Independent Cinema in the 1990s, where there was a renewed interest in making small-scale, personal and highly cinema-informed films amidst the money-spinners that the studios were churning out.

Where to find it...

Robert Altman's Nashville (1975) is set in the eponymous city during a week where the nation gets ready to celebrate the 200th year of its independence. Altman's sprawling, delirious portrait of a chaotic America is at once an incisive, fertile description of the state of the union and a hysterical send-up of what was then being passed as American values.

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