About us
Croatian film


Controversies and Trends of a Decade

For film, the nineties were a decade of contradictions in the technological, economic, geographic and poetic sense. It was a decade during which the digital technical revolution moved feature films closer to virtual reality and almost changed the ontological status of film, but it also featured a counter-offensive to this phenomenon as well. The mainstream, represented by the major studios, had its commercial might tested and it came out stronger than ever before. The decade was in part marked by the flowering of postmodernism, and also by its negation. In addition, there was the widespread affirmation of yesterday’s marginal films.

The filmic nineties can be divided into two major sub-periods: the first, crowned by the triumph of Tarantinos Pulp Fiction, is the period of the anti-Hollywood counter-revolution in which American independent film dominated (along with its non-American allies — Kaurismaki, Peter Jackson, Matthieu Kassovitz). The second period featured the return of the domination of the big studios, especially after the Titanic phenomenon. Thus, the nineties have, in a much shorter timeframe, recycled the economic-poetic history of film from the sixties onward, and the success of »small« films like The Blair Witch Project and The Sixth Sense in the last year are indications that the pendulum might be swinging in the other direction once again. However, while the postmodern spirit was still dominating the first generation of independents and their films with their mostly inter-genre and meta-traditional games with expressed nonsensical, complex and populistic components, the second generation of indies was characterized by very serious, downbeat films dealing with difficult subjects (faith, insanity, sexual deviation, death, fanaticism, poverty).
The beginning of the nineties was in the sign of postmodernism.

The directors who were in fashion at the time — Lynch, the Coen brothers, Besson, Almodovar, Burton, Jeunet and Caro, all reflect typical postmodernist tendencies: intermediality, citations, strong intermedial ties to tradition, the use of special effects, illusion and stylization, anti-realism and a narcissistic questioning of media.
The directors at the end of the decade — P. T. Anderson, Von Trier, Korine, Mendes, Solondz, Winterbottom — are the exact antithesis of this, i. e. they are serious and scowling naturalists who have given up stylization and baroqueness for the commonplace.

In the whole of world cinema of the nineties, superpower status was assumed by, at first glance, marginal cinemas. The most exiting was the boom of East Asian cinema, associated with the success of the Hong Kong action film (John Woo, Tsui Hark, Ringo Lam...). This boom was supported to an even greater degree by the so-called »fifth generation« of mainland Chinese cinema (Chen Kaige — The Yellow Earth, The Big Parade, Farewell My Concubine; Zhang Yimouku — Red Rye, Ju Dou, Raise the Red Lantern, The Story of Qui Ju, Not One Less), who have been followed by the »sixth generation« (Zhang Yuan — Beijing Bastards, Eastern Palace, Western Palace, Eighteen). We should also add New Zealand’s Peter Jackson, Lee Tamahori and Jane Campion, and Iran’s Majida Majidi, Mohsen Mokmalbef and Abbas Kiarostami to this list of reigning marginal artists.

The European film crisis is primarily the crisis of its big film industries. From the beginning of the eighties, Italian film has been in an unprecedented slump. Despite some brilliant works (Tornatore, Amelli, Salvatores), the average Italian production is worse and more downbeat than the Croatian. Spanish film remains the most commercially successful (Almodovar, Bigas Luna...), and Alex De La Iglesia and Julio Medem are two of Spain’s up and coming film makers. The veterans of the so-called New German film like Wenders, Herzog and Schloendorff made mostly sterile Euroimage films in the nineties, and the marginal character of German film came to an end only at the end of the decade with emergence of young artists Carloline Link, Wolfgang Becker and Tom Tykwer.

France remains the most productive European film making country by far with a production of nearly 150 feature films annually. The advantage of the French is that their old school is still working (Chabrol, Tavernier, Rohmer, Resnais), and its significance has been enriched by foreign directors (Kieslowski, Kusturica, Paskaljević, Kiarostami, Pintilia, Theo Angelopoulos). Among the big European film makers, the British are in the best position. Their renaissance took place on foundations laid by deserving film makers from the previous decade (Jordan, Figgis, Frears, McKenzie, M. Leigh, Newell). On the one hand, there has been a diversification among the various British film making regions: Scotland and Wales, and on the other hand, there has also been a greater mingling of British and American film capital. At the same time, British film is increasingly leaning more toward the mainstream and enriching it with its own tradition of the social film (Four Weddings and a Funeral, The Full Monty, Brassed Off and The Crying Game).

The last few years of the decade have been in the sign of the budding of European film (along with the British and the success of Dogma 95, there are the New German Independents, the recovery of Czech film and other phenomena) In the spirit of these films, the revolution at the end of the decade was hit by its own counter revolution. The authors who are participating in this European budding are the poetic associates of the new, young gloomy films by US authors Anderson, Korine, Gray and Kimberly Pierce, and by Asian Zhang Yuan.

Jurica Pavičić

The nostalgic Mode of the Postmodern and Nostalgia as a Theme and Symbol of the End of the Century
American Film Postmodernism — A New Epoch or a Delusion
Film Music in the Nineties: The Song and the Score — A Battle for Supremacy?
Conquered Space: The Western of the Nineties
An Encyclopedia of Directors for the 21st Century

View other articles in this edition...


new edition

Web Statistics