The mode - as in the work of John Byrne - is caustic soda mixed with the far less corrosive sensibility of a folk history curator. When characters recall old acquaintances, they always do so with a little vignette of period detail ("ginger hair, liked Trini Lopez" or "dress with Hermans Hermits on") which cannot help but sound a bit cute or calculatedly charming. It's something of a surprise, then, when the mood turns despairing rather than just sardonic, more so because there never seems any particular emotional logic to the suffering. Ruffian Hearts ended beautifully - with an improbably good blues version of "Che Sera, Sera" playing on the soundtrack and the hopelessness of some of the preceding scenes softened by a new and more heartening romance, but you couldn't help feeling that the characters and their fates might have been shuffled in any number of other variations without disruption.
It is clear from the credit sequence that The Other Hollywood is going to fly the flag for European cinema - a Marianne figure, all flowing robes and heroic locks, waves a banner of celluloid above her head. Aux barricades. Les Americains arrivent! The title itself betrays the mood of sulky resentment but it gets worse still. "Europe lead the world until the First World War," explains the voiceover, "then she was second to America ... but artistically second to none." Occasionally, you wonder why they didn't just call it Bloody Yanks Hogging All the Limelight as Usual, and finally set their minds at rest.
We have been here before this year, with The Last Machine, a thoughtful and ingenious account of the pioneer days of cinema. The Other Hollywood is nothing like as cerebral - it's structure is a chronological tramp through a treasure-house; little more, for the most part, than "Here's another amazing bit we found." But the footage is wonderful, restored with a priestly devotion so that it makes its own case heard even above the chippy special pleading of the script. You were offered glimpses of Piccadilly Circus in 1896 (tantalisingly brief) and early sound movies using synchronised gramaphones, as well as evidence of the artistry of early directors. It was a curious era - a combination of striking innocence (two-minute films about dogs rescuing babies were international blockbusters) and startling sophistication - and The Other Hollywood does it justice.Reuse content