'The (West) European cinema has, since the end of World War II, had its identity firmly stamped by three features: its leading directors were recognized as auteurs, its styles and themes shaped a nation’s self-image, and its new waves signified political as well as aesthetic renewal. Ingmar Bergman, Jacques Rivette, Joseph Losey, Peter Greenaway, neo-realism, the nouvelle vague, New German Cinema, the British renaissance – these have been some of the signposts of a cinema that derived legitimacy from a dual cultural legacy: that of the 19th century novel and of the 20th century modernist avant-gardes. Both pedigrees have given Europe’s national cinemas a unique claim to autonomy, but they also drew boundaries between the work of the auteur-artists, representing the nation, high culture and realism, and the makers of popular cinema, representing commerce, mass-entertainment and consumption.
These distinguishing features were also identity constructions. They helped to mask a continuing process of self-definition and self-differentiation across a half-acknowledged presence, namely of Hollywood, and an unacknowledged absence, namely of the cinemas of Socialist Europe. Since , such identity formations through difference, exclusion and otherness, are no longer securely in place. Cinema today contributes to cultural identities that are more inclusive and processual, more multi-cultural and multi-ethnic, more dialogical and interactive, able to embrace the ‘new Europe’, the popular star- and genre cinema, as well as the diaspora cinemas within Europe itself. It has meant re-thinking as well as un-thinking European cinema. Has it made cinema in Europe an anxious art, seeking salvation in the preservation of the “national heritage”? Many times before, European cinema has shown itself capable of re-invention. This time, the challenge for films, filmmakers and critics is to be European enough to preserve Europe’s cultural diversity and historical depth, as well as outwardlooking enough to be trans-national and part of world cinema.
The essays brought together in European Cinema: Face to Face with Hollywood present a cross-section of my writings on these topics over a period of some thirty-five years. They re-examine the conflicting terminologies that have dominated the discussion, including the notion of “the nation” in “national cinema”, and the idea of the artist as creator of a unique vision, at the heart of the “auteur-cinema”. They take a fresh look at the ideological agendas, touching on politically and formally oppositional practices and they thoroughly examine European cinema’s relation to Hollywood.'