On December 28, 1895, the first public cinematographic projection was organized by the Lumière brothers, thanks to the development of a new device: the cinematograph. The following year, the Lumière brothers went on tour to promote their invention. They concede some licenses of exploitation throughout this tour but, until 1903, the cinema remains a simple attraction.
It is in 1902 that the cinema knows its first successful movie, when Georges Méliès realized A Trip to the Moon. The first feature film in the history of cinema, The Story of the Kelly Gang, directed by Charles Tait, follows closely in 1906.
In 1908, when cinema was finally recognized as an art, the first cinematographic genre was created thanks to actors such as André Deed and Max Linder: the burlesque. The language of cinema was developed between 1908 and 1913 by D. W. Griffith. It then unfolded from 1917, following the October Revolution, thanks to the new cinematographic grammar developed by the Soviet filmmakers, led by Dziga Vertov and Sergei Eisenstein.
At the same time, two other avant-garde movements were born: Impressionism in France and Expressionism in Germany. The first began in 1916, but expanded from 1921, to continue until the late 1920s. The second was established in 1919, with the film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari by Robert Weine. It was also during the 1920s that American burlesque, also known as “slapstick,” became one of the most popular cinematographic genres with Charlie Chaplin’s famous character.
The first talking film, The Jazz Singer, was produced in 1927. The transition from silent to talking cinema was not done without pitfalls; many of the great ones have seen their star fade unable to adapt themselves, and the silent cinema died definitively in the 1930s.
With the arrival of talking pictures, a new genre was developed in France: poetic realism. Thanks to directors such as Jean Renoir and Jean Gabin, this era is known as the golden age of French cinema. At the same time, the American distribution network was expanding, settling and remaining in the international film scene.
During the 1940s, after the Second World War, Italy also quietly settled there, with the construction of Cinecittà studios by Mussolini, but also thanks to the resistance of several directors to the censorship of the Duce. Italian neo-realism, born of this protest, began properly speaking with Luchino Visconti’s Ossessione, in 1942. Other directors, such as Vittorio de Sica and Roberto Rossellini, also allowed Italian cinema to shine through this movement.
Then, in the early 1950s, a group of French directors also broke with tradition by creating the New Wave. François Truffaud’s 400 Blows (1959) and Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless (1960), are two exemplary films of this movement.
During the 1960s and 1970s, a more engaged cinema took the center of the stage. It is also at this moment that one can locate the beginning of the various national cinemas.