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Film History (2008) - Play as Experiment in 1920s British Cinema




This essay explores a space in British filmmaking in the interwar years that is neither formally avant-garde, nor alternative in any politically radical sense, nor, very often, self-consciously experimental. It argues instead that cinema in Britain offered a space of transition within both its historical moment and cultural context, a space characterised by 'play'. Precisely because the 'playful' strategies of much 1920s British filmmaking emerged from culturally ingrained practices, their engagement with cinematic form indirectly registered processes of cultural change, suggesting the encounter with the 'new' which cinema offered to certain actors, writers and would-be cineastes of the time.