March 24, 2008
Left and Right Cycles as Related to “
Taxi Driver” and “The Battle of Algiers”
In Robert B. Ray's A Certain Tendency of the Hollywood Cinema, 1930-1980
, the author
describes the idea of left and right cycles in the American film industry.
Arising during the 1960's and
lasting through the 1970's, these two film styles contrasted with the old Hollywood model of films, like
“Casablanca” and “The Maltese Falcon”.
The form of traditional Hollywood films could be considered
invisible noted Ray, without the reconciling intervention of the director (eye-level camera angles, good
lighting, cutting at sensible points in action and dialog, etc).
The story is foremost, with style serving
the narrative and the plot is quite linear, one action causing the next.
The audience is able to strongly
identify with the protagonists of classic Hollywood films as there actions are logical and normal.
While there were some aberrations to this general model, it is fair to say this style of film was
prominent through the 1950's.
As television became more prominent in the average person's life,
however, Americans became more familiar with the old movies that were constantly being shown.
This helped to increase the audience's recognition of the models' artificiality.
This fact, along with the
downfall of the vertically integrated studio system, the rise of the counter-culture and social changes in
the 1960's, showed that the old Hollywood film paradigm had become outdated and thus irrelevant to
the time period.
According to Ray, the film going audience could be broken down into two groups, naive and
The naive audience was still satisfied by the classical Hollywood model when the story was
told well; the ironic audience, however, wanted a more realistic and sophisticated film.
Prior to the
1960's, the large majority of people were part of the first group.
Yet judging by the rise in foreign
films and cult films, it was clear that the ironic audience had grown substantially.
From this, the left
and right cycles were born.
Ray notes that the left cycle emerged first.
“Bonnie and Clyde” and “The