In 1995, cinema celebrated a distinctly ambivalent centenary, with most activity occurring at the intersection of Europe’s cinematheques, universities, and state-funded production centers. The collective commemoration yielded renewed scholarship on early cinema and even a few productions, such as the omnibus Lumière et compagnie and the BFI-commissioned ‘Century of Cinema’ documentary series. (Stateside, we made due with Chuck Workman’s nine-minute clip show ‘100 Years at the Movies,’ endlessly replayed on Turner Classic Movies and elsewhere.) Here’s to the next century!
The bureaucratic anniversary stirred a few notes of dissent, notably Susan Sontag’s widely-published think piece about the decline of film culture. Almost entirely absent from these discussions, though, was the possibility that cinema would radically transform itself over the next fifteen years.