An Essayby David Thomson
In the early 1960s, there was confusion over what to call this transaction—was it film, the movies, or cinema? You could tell a person’s taste and agenda by the word he used most often. Cinema meant the history, and the suggestion that it had been superior then; film was the essential function, and might be covering an urge to make the stuff; while movie usually meant America and fun. In preparing Jaws, Steven Spielberg told Richard Dreyfuss, “I don’t want to make a film, I want to make a movie.” The choice of words was especially delicate in a surprising new area. For the transaction had caught the attention of academia. But if it was going to get traction there, how could it be managed without the correct language and a reading list on the cinema of existential disquiet? You couldn’t use movie in that context.