French production was also hampered by disunity. Before World War I two big companies, Pathe and Gaumont, controlled the French film industry. After the war, both cut back severely on production, the riskiest sector of the industry, and concentrated instead on surer profits from distribution and exhibition.
Thus the largest French firms backed off from vertical integration just as vertically integrated firms were strengthening
the Hollywood industry. France's production sector consisted of a few large and medium-size firms and of many small companies. The latter often made only one or a few films each and then disappeared. This artisanal production strategy offered little hope for successful competition with America.
Why were there so many small companies in France? The answer lies partly in domestic business traditions. In the 1920s, French business was still dominated by small companies; the move toward mergers and big corporations in other industrialized countries had not yet caught hold. During this decade, between 80 and 90 percent of French cinemas were owned by individuals. Because it was easier to make money in distribution and exhibition, people investing in the film industry usually put their money into one of these areas, avoiding the risks of production. As a result, the French tendency toward small production companies persisted.
The interests of the three sectors of the industry-production, distribution, and exhibition often conflicted. Most important, small exhibitors had no stake in French production. They wanted to show whatever would bring them the most money - usually American imports. Responding to the demands of theater owners, distributors provided Hollywood films. Moreover, it was often cheaper to purchase a foreign film than to produce a French film.
Producers repeatedly called for the government to limit imported films. Inevitably, however, the more powerful distributors and exhibitors, who made most of their money on imports, opposed any quota, and they typically won out. Despite some minor measures to limit importation in the late 1920s, a strong quota was not passed until the 1930s. Not only did the government fail to protect producers from foreign competition, it also assailed the industry with high taxes on movie tickets. During the 1920s, these taxes ran anywhere from 6 to 40 percent, depending on a theater's size and income. Such taxes hurt every level of the industry, since exhibitors could not risk losing patrons by raising admission prices and hence they could not pay as much to the distributors and producers of the films.
To make matters worse, technical facilities were outdated. As in other European countries, French producers depended on the glass studios built before the war. The lack of capital investment hampered companies in reequipping these studios to catch up with the technological innovations American firms had made during the 1910s, particularly in lighting. As a result, French filmmakers were unaccustomed to using artificial lighting extensively. French filmmakers would typically start with sunlight and block off parts of the light to create dark patches within the set. American filmmakers had more flexibility, eliminating sunlight altogether and creating exactly the effects they wanted with artificial light.
There were some attempts to bring this kind of control to French filmmaking. In 1919 director Louis Mercanton rigged up portable lighting equipment to take on location for his realist filmmaking. For the epic Les trois mousquetaires (1921), Henri Diamant-Berger installed American-style overhead lighting in a studio at Vincennes, which thus became one of the earliest studios in France to be so equipped. Modern lighting technology became increasingly available during the 1920s, but it remained too expensive for widespread use.
Although some new studios were built, few had extensive backlots of the sort owned by the larger American and German producers. Most studios were in the Parisian suburbs, surrounded by houses rather than by open space. Large sets often had to be constructed in rented studios. Partly as a result of this and partly through a desire for realism, French filmmakers went on location more often than did their counterparts in Germany or the United States. Chateaux, palaces, and other historic landmarks appear as the backdrops of many French silent films; filmmakers also made a virtue of necessity by using natural landscapes and scenes shot in French villages.
Major Postwar Genres
Despite foreign competition, industry disunity, lack of capital, government indifference, and limited technical resources, the French industry produced a variety of films. In most countries, serials declined in prestige during the late teens, but in France, they remained among the most lucrative films well into the 1920s. Big firms like Pathé and Gaumont found that a high-budget costume drama or literary adaptation could make a profit only when shown in several parts. Because moviegoers regularly attended their local theater, they were willing to return for all the episodes.
Some French serials of the postwar era followed the established pattern, with cliffhanger endings, master criminals, and exotic locales, as in Louis Feuillade's Tih Minh (1918). But social pressures against the glorification of crime and perhaps also a sense that the formula was becoming stale led to changes. Feuillade, whose films were now virtually Gaumont's sole output, turned to serials based on popular sentimental novels with Les deux gamines (The Two Girls, 1921) and continued in this vein until his death in 1925. Diamant-Berger's epic adaptation of The Three Musketeers was among the decade's most successful films. Henri Fescourt directed Mandrin (1924), whose twelve episodes continued the traditions of kidnaps, disguises, and rescues - but presented them as swashbuckling feats in an eighteenth-century setting.
Whether made in serial format or not, many prestigious and expensive productions were historical epics. In many cases film companies economized by using French monuments as settings. Such films were often intended for export. Le miracle des loups (The Miracle of the Wolves, 1924, Raymond Bernard) was the most lavish French historical film yet made; while its interiors used sets, many scenes were shot in the medieval town of Carcassone. The film's producer, the Societe des Films Historiques, gave it a gala New York run, but, as often happened with such attempts, no American distributor purchased The Miracle of the Wolves.
A modest genre was the fantasy film, and its most prominent practitioner was René Clair. His first film, Paris qui dort (Paris Asleep, aka The Crazy Ray, 1925), was a comic story of a mysterious ray that paralyzes Paris. Clair used freeze-frame techniques and unmoving actors to create the sense of an immobile city. Several characters flying above the city escape the ray and proceed to live luxuriously by looting whatever they want; soon they track down the source of the problem and set things moving again. In Clair's Le voyage imaginaire (The Imaginary Journey, 1925), the hero dreams that he is transported by a witch to a fairyland, created with fancifully painted sets. Such fantasies revived a popular tradition of the early cinema in France, drawing upon camera tricks and stylized sets somewhat as Georges Melies and Gaston Velie had done.
Comedies continued to be popular after the war. Max Linder, who had been lured briefly to Hollywood, returned to make comedies in France, including one of the earliest comic features, Le petit café (1919, Raymond Bernard). Linder played a waiter who inherits a large sum of money but must go on working to fulfill his contract; comic scenes follow as he tries to get himself fired. The film's witty touches made it a surprise hit and helped give the comic genre more respectability in France. Other important comedies were made by Clair, whose Un chapeau de paille d'Italie (The Italian Straw Hat, 1928) brought him an international fame that would grow in the sound era." 
"The boulevard melodrama continued to serve as an important asset to the industry for several years after the war. Tristan Bernard's plays, for instance, helped to secure his son Raymond's initial reputation as a film-maker. The more 'artistically' inclined film-makers also continued to work within the bourgeois milieu of the domestic melodrama, extending the advances made during the war, often by means of original scenarios, in what Dulac was the first to call 'impressionist films'. In J'accuse! (I accuse, 1919) and La roue (The wheel, 1923), Gance experimented further with elliptical point-of-view shot sequences, different forms of rhythmic montage (including rapid montage), and patterns of rhetorical figuring through associational editing. Germaine Dulac did likewise in a series of films which focused predominantly on women, from La cigarette (1919) to La mort du soleil (The Death of the Sun, 1923) and especially La souriante Madame Beudet (The Smiling Madame Beudet, 1923), whose central character was inescapably trapped in a provincial bourgeois marriage. Perhaps the high point of this experimentation came in L'Herbier's 'exotic' El Dorado (1921), which deployed a remarkable range of framing and editing strategies (along with a specially composed score) to evoke the subjective life of a Spanish cabaret dancer, Sybilla (Eve Francis), and culminated backstage in a stunning 'dance of death'.
By the middle of the decade, the bases for film melodrama had shifted from the theatre to fiction, and across several genres. Some followed the path ofL'Atlantide, drawn from a popular Pierre Benoit novel, by adapting either 'exotic' Arabian Nights tales or stories of romance and adventure in the French colonies, usually in North Africa. The latter were especially popular in films as diverse as Gastyne's La châtelaine du Liban (Milady of Liban, 1927) and Jean Renoir's Le bled (The Wasteland, 1929). Others exploited the French taste for fantasy, particularly after the success of 'Series Pax' films such as Léon Poirier's Le penseur (The Thinker, 1920). These ranged from Ivan Mosjoukine's satirical fable Le brasier ardent (The Burning Brazier, 1923) or Marcel L'Herbier's modernist fantasy Feu Mathias Pascal (The Late Mathias Pascal, 1926), to refurbished femes, René Clair's Le fantôme du Moulin-Rouge (The Ghost of the Moulin Rouge, 1925), or tales of horror, Jean Epstein's La chute de la maison Usher (The Fall of the House of Usher, 1928).
The major development in the melodrama genre, however, was the modern studio spectacular, a product of the cultural internationalism which now characterized the urban nouveau riche in much of Europe and a new target of French investment in international co-productions. According to Gerard Talon, these films represented the 'good life' of a new generation and helped establish what was modern or it la mode in fashion, sport, dancing, and manners. Perfectly congruent with the ideology of consumer capitalism, this 'good life' was played out in milieux which tended to erase the specificity of French culture. Elements of the modern studio spectacular can be seen as early as Léonce Perret's Koenigsmark (1923), but the defining moment came in 1926 with a return to theatrical adaptations in L'Herbier's Le vertige (Vertigo) and Perret's La femme nue, with their fashionable resorts and chic Paris restaurants. Thereafter, the modern studio spectacular came close to dominating French production. Yet some films cut against the grain of its pleasures, from L'Herbier's deliberately 'avant-garde' extravaganza, L'inhumaine (The Inhuman One, 1924) to his updated adaptation of Zola, L'argent (Money, 1928), whose highly original strategies of camera movement and editing helped to critique its wealthy characters and milieux. A similar critique marked Epstein's Six et demi onze (6 x 11, 1927) and especially his small-budget film La glace à trois faces (The Three-Sided Mirror, 1927), which intricately embedded four interrelated stories within just three reels.
The 'realist' melodrama, by contrast, sustained its development throughout the decade and remained decidedly 'French'. Two things in particular distinguished these films. First, they usually celebrated specific landscapes or milieux, as spatial co-ordinates delineating the 'inner life' of one or more characters and, simultaneously, as cultural fields for tourists. Second, those landscapes or milieux were divided between Paris and the provinces, privileging the picturesque of certain geographical areas and cultures, often tinged with nostalgia. The Brittany coast provided the subject for films from L'Herbier's L'homme du large (The Man of the High Seas, 1920) and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0056334/'s Pêcheur d'Islande (Iceland Fisherman, 1927) to Epstein's exquisite 'documentary' Finis terrae (1929), and Jean Gremillon's extraordinarily harrowing Gardiens du phare (Lighthouse Keepers, 1929). The French Alps dominated Jacques Feyder's exceptional Visages d'enfants (Children's Faces, 1925), while the Morvan provided a less imposing backdrop for Julien Duvivier's Poil de carotte (Ginger, 1925). Barge life on French canals and rivers was lovingly detailed in Epstein's La Belle Nivernaise (The beautiful Nivernaise, 1924), Renoir's La fille de l'eau (Water girl, 1925), and Gremillon's Maldone (1928). The agricultural areas of western, central, and southern France were the subject of Feuillade's Vendémiaire (1918), André Antoine's La terre (The Land, 1921), Robert Boudrioz's L'âtre (Tillers of the Soil, 1922), Louis Delluc's L'inondation (The Flood, 1924), and Léon Poirier's La Brière (1924).
By the end of the decade, the French cinema industry seemed to evidence less and less interest in producing what Louis Delluc would have called specifically French films. Whereas the historical film was frequently reconstructing past eras elsewhere, the modern studio spectacular was constructing an international no man's land of conspicuous consumption for the nouveau riche. Only the 'realist' film and the comedy presented the French somewhat tels qu'ils sont - if not as they might have wanted to see themselves-the one by focusing on the marginal, the other by invoking mockery. With the development of the sound film, both genres would contribute even more to restoring a sense of 'Frenchness', to the French cinema. Yet would that 'Frenchness' be any less imbued with nostalgia than was the charming repertoire of signs, gestures, and songs that Maurice Chevalier was about to make so popular in the USA?" 
An extended article on French Impressionism can be found here.
Gerrmany: Post-War Ferment
'German Cinema' recalls the 1920s. "Expressionism, Weimar culture, and a time when Berlin was the cultural centre of Europe. For film historians. this period is sandwiched between the pioneering work of American directors like D. W. Griffith, Ralph Ince, Cecil B. DeMille, and Maurice Tourneur in the 1910s, and the Soviet montage cinema of Sergei Eisenstein, Dziga Vertov, Vsevolod Pudovkin in the late 1920s. The names of Ernst Lubitsch, Robert Wiene, Paul Leni, Fritz Lang, Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, and Georg Wilhelm Pabst stand, in this view, for one of the 'golden ages' of world cinema. helping - between 1918 and 1928 - to make motion pictures an artistic and avantgarde medium.
Arguably, such a view of film history is no longer unchallenged, yet surprisingly many of the German films from this period are part of the canon: The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari, Robert Wiene, 1920), The Golem (Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam, Paul Wegener, 1920), Destiny (Der müde Tod, Fritz Lang, 1921), Nosferatu (F. W. Murnau, 1922), Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler (Fritz Lang, 1922), Waxworks (Das Wachsfigurenkabinett, 1924), The Last Laugh (Der letzte Mann, Murnau, 1924), Metropolis (Lang, 1925), Pandora's Box (Die Büchse der Pandora, G. W. Pabst, 1929). Even more surprisingly, they have also entered popular movie mythology and now live on, parodied, pastiched, and recycled, in very different guises, from pulp movies to post-modern videoclips. In their time, the films were associated with German Expressionism, mainly because of their self-conscious stylization of decor, gesture, and lighting. Others regarded the same pre-eminence of stylization, fantasy, and nightmare visions as evidence of the inner torment and moral dilemmas in those for whom the films were made. Equivocation was not confined to the films: did the films reflect the political chaos of the Weimar Republic, or did the parade of tyrants, madmen, somnambulists, crazed scientists, and homunculi anticipate the horrors that were to follow between 1933 and 1945? But why not assume that the films, even in their own time, look back, cocking a snook at Romanticism and neo-Gothic? The standard works on the subject, Lotte Eisner's The Haunted Screen (1952) and Siegfried Kracauer's From Caligari to Hitler (1947), resolutely do not consider this last possibility, but opt, as their somewhat lurid titles indicate, for seeing the films as symptoms of troubled souls." 
The German Situation after WWI
"Although Germany lost World War I and suffered severe economic and political problems as a result, it emerged from the war with a strong film industry. From 1918 to the Nazi rise to power in 1933, the German film industry ranked second only to Hollywood in technical sophistication and world influence. Within a few years of the armistice, German films were seen widely abroad, and a major stylistic movement, Expressionism, arose in 1920 and continued until 1926. The victorious France could not rejuvenate its film industry, so how did Germany's become so powerful?
The German industry's expansion during World War I was due largely to the isolation created by the government's 1916 ban on most foreign films. The demand by German theaters led the number of producing companies to rise from 25 (1914) to 130 (1918). By the end of the war, however, the formation of the Universum Film Aktiengesellschaft (Ufa) started a trend toward mergers and larger companies.
Even with this growth, if the government had lifted the 1916 import ban at the end of the war, foreign films might have poured in again chiefly from the United States. Unlike the situation in France, however, the German government supported filmmaking throughout this period. The ban on imports continued until December 31, 1920, giving producers nearly five years of minimal competition in their domestic market. The expansion of the war years continued, with about 300 film production companies forming by 1921. Moreover, by 1922, most anti-German sentiment in enemy countries had been broken down, and German cinema became famous internationally.
Ironically, much of the film industry's success came while the nation underwent enormous difficulties stemming from the war. The war officially ended with the signing of the infamous Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919. Rather than attempting to heal the rift with Germany, Great Britain and France insisted on punishing their enemy. A "war guilt" clause in the treaty blamed Germany as the sole instigator of the conflict. The Allies expected Germany to pay for all wartime damage to civilian property, in the form of money and goods.
In the short run, these reparations gradually pushed the German financial system into chaos. The reparations arrangement required that Germany regularly send high payments in gold and ship coal, steel, heavy equipment, food, and other basic goods to the Allies. Although Germany was never able to fulfill the amounts demanded, domestic shortages soon developed and prices rose. The result was inflation, beginning at the war's end and becoming hyperinflation by 1923. Food and consumer goods became scarce and outrageously costly. In early 1923, the mark, which had been worth approximately 4 to the dollar before the war, sank to about 50,000 to the dollar. By the end of 1923, the mark had fallen to around 6 billion to the dollar. People carried baskets of paper money simply to purchase a loaf of bread.
It might seem at first glance that such severe economic problems could not benefit anyone. Many people suffered: retirees on pensions, investors with money in fixed-rate accounts, workers whose earnings lost value by the day, renters who saw housing costs spiral upward. Big industry, however, benefited from high inflation. For one thing, people had little reason to save, since money lost its value sitting in a bank or under a mattress. Wage earners tended to spend their money while it was still worth s omething, and movies, unlike food or clothing, were readily available. Film attendance was high during the inflationary period, and many new theaters were built.
Moreover, inflation encouraged export and discouraged import, giving German companies an international advantage. As the exchange rate of the mark fell, consumers were less likely to purchase foreign goods. Conversely, exporters could sell goods cheaply abroad, compared with manufacturers in other countries. Film producers benefited from this competitive boost. Importers could bring in relatively few foreign films, while countries in South America and eastern Europe could buy German films more cheaply than they could the Hollywood product. Thus, for about two years after the war, the German import ban protected the film market from competition, and even after imports were permitted in 1921, unfavorable exchange rates boosted the domestic cinema.
The favorable export situation fostered by high inflation fit in with the film industry's plans. Even during the war, the growth of the industry led to hopes for export. But what sorts of films would succeed abroad? More than any other country in postwar Europe, Germany found answers to that question.
Partly because the German film industry operated in near isolation between 1916 and 1921, there were few radical changes in the types of films being made. The fantasy genre continued to be prominent, typified by films starring Paul Wegener, like The Golem (1920, Wegener and Henrik Galeen) and Der verlorene Schatten (The Lost Shadow, 1921, Rochus Gliese). Directly after the war, the leftist political climate led to a brief abolition of censorship, and that in turn fostered a vogue for films on prostitution, venereal disease, drugs, and other social problems. The widespread belief that such films were pornographic led to the reinstitution of censorship. The same sorts of comedies and dramas that had dominated production in Germany and most other countries during the mid-teens continued to be made. We can, however, single out a few major trends of genre and style that gained prominence in the postwar era: the spectacle genre, the German Expressionist movement, and the Kammerspiel film." 
"Before the war, the Italians had gained worldwide success with historical epics such as Quo Vadis? and Cabiria. After the war, the Germans tried a similar tactic, emphasizing historical spectacles. Some of these films attained a success similar to that of the Italian epics and, incidentally, revealed the first major German director of the postwar era, Ernst Lubitsch.
Spectacular costume films appeared in a number of countries, but only companies able to afford large budgets could use them to compete internationally. Hollywood, with its high budgets and skilled art directors, could make Intolerance or The Last of the Mohicans, but productions on this scale were rare in Great Britain and France. During the inflationary period, however, the larger German companies found it relatively easy to finance historical epics. Some firms could afford extensive backlots, and they expanded studio facilities. The costs of labor to construct sets and costumes were reasonable, and crowds of extras could be hired at low wages. The resulting films were impressive enough to compete abroad and could earn stable foreign currency. When Ernst Lubitsch made Madame DuBarry in 1919, for example, the film reportedly cost the equivalent of about $40,000. Yet when it was released in the United States in 1921, experts there estimated that such a film would cost perhaps $500,000 to make in Hollywood - at that time, a high price tag for a feature film.
Historical spectacles remained in vogue as long as severe inflation enabled the Germans to sell them abroad at prices that no other country's film industry could match. But in the mid-1920s, the end of inflation dictated more modest budgets, and the spectacle genre became considerably less important." 
The German Expressionist Movement
"In late February 1920, a film premiered in Berlin that was instantly recognized as something new in cinema: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Its novelty captured the public imagination, and it was a considerable success. The film used stylized sets, with strange, distorted buildings painted on canvas backdrops and flats in a theatrical manner. The actors made no attempt at realistic performance; instead, they exhibited jerky or dancelike movements. Critics announced that the Expressionist style, by then well established in most other arts, had made its way into the cinema, and they debated the benefits of this new development for film art." 
In Expressionist films, the expressivity associated with the human figure extends into every aspect of the mise-en-scene. During the 1920s, descriptions of Expressionist films often referred to the sets as "acting" or as blending in with the actors' movements. Perhaps the most obvious and pervasive trait of Expressionism is the use of distortion and exaggeration. In Expressionist films, houses are often pointed and twisted, chairs are tall, staircases are crooked and uneven. To modern viewers, performances in Expressionist films may look simply like extreme versions of silent film acting. Yet Expressionist acting was deliberately exaggerated to match the style of the settings.
An extended article on German Expressionism can be found here.
"Another German trend of the early 1920s had less international influence but led to the creation of a number of major films. This was the Kammerspiel, or "chamber-drama" film. The name derives from a theater, the Kammerspiele, opened in 1906 by the major stage director Max Reinhardt to stage intimate dramas for small audiences. Few Kammerspiel films were made, but nearly all are classics: Lupu Pick's Scherben (Shattered, 1921) and Sylvester (New Year's Eve, 1924), Leopold Jessner's Hintertreppe (Backstairs, 1921), F.W. Murnau's Der letzte Mann (The Last Laugh, 1924), and Carl Dreyer's Michael (1924). Remarkably, all these films except Michael were scripted by the important scenarist Carl Mayer, who also coscripted The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and wrote other films, both Expressionist and non-Expressionist. Mayer is considered the main force behind the Kammerspiel genre.
In many ways these films contrasted sharply with Expressionist drama. A Kammerspiel film concentrated on a few characters and explored a crisis in their lives in detail. The emphasis was on slow, evocative acting and telling details, rather than extreme expressions of emotion. The chamber-drama atmosphere came from the use of a small number of settings and a concentration on character psychology rather than spectacle. Some Expressionist-style distortion might appear in the sets, but it typically suggested dreary surroundings rather than the fantasy or subjectivity of Expressionist films. (One Kammerspiel, Erdgeist, also scripted by Mayer and directed by Leopold Jessner, applied Expressionist sets and acting to an intimate, modern drama of lust and betrayal.) Indeed, the Kammerspiel avoided the fantasy and legendary elements so common in Expressionism; these were films set in everyday, contemporary surroundings, and they often covered a short span of time.
The narratives of the Kammerspiel films concentrated on intensely psychological situations and concluded unhappily. Indeed, Shattered, Backstairs, and Sylvester all end with at least one violent death, and Michael closes with the death of its protagonist from illness. Because of the unhappy endings and claustrophobic atmospheres, these films intrigued mostly critics and highbrow audiences. Erich Pommer recognized this fact when he produced The Last Laugh, insisting that Mayer add a happy ending. This story of a hotel doorman who is demoted from his lofty post to that of lavatory attendant was to have concluded with the hero sitting in the rest room in despair, possibly dying. Mayer, upset at having to change what he saw as the logical outcome of his script's situation, added a blatantly implausible final scene in which a sudden inheritance turns the doorman into a millionaire to whom all the hotel staff cater. Whether this ludicrously upbeat ending was the cause, The Last Laugh became the most successful and famous of the Kammerspiel films. By late 1924, however, the trend ceased to be a prominent genre in German filmmaking." 
Major Changes in the Mid- to Late 1920s
"Despite these early successes, the German industry could not continue making films in the same way. Many factors led to major changes. Foreign technology and style conventions had considerable influence. Moreover, the protection afforded the industry by the high postwar inflation ended as the German currency was stabilized in 1924. Success also created new problems, as prominent filmmakers were lured away to work in Hollywood. Continued emphasis on export led some studios to imitate Hollywood's product rather than seek alternatives to it. In the middle of the decade, a major trend called Neue Sachlichkeit, or "New Objectivity", displaced Expressionism in the arts. By 1929, the German cinema had changed greatly from its postwar situation.
Unlike in France, German technological resources for filmmaking developed rapidly over the course of the 1920s. Because inflation encouraged film companies to invest their capital in facilities and land, many studios were built or expanded. Ufa, for example, enlarged its two main complexes at Tempelhof and Neubabelsberg and soon owned the best-equipped studios in Europe, with an extensive backlot at Neubabelsberg that could accommodate several enormous sets. Here were made such epic productions a s Lang's The Nibelungen and Murnau's Faust. Foreign producers, primarily from England and France, rented Ufa's facilities for shooting large-scale scenes. In 1922, an investment group converted a zeppelin hangar into the world's largest indoor production facility, the Staaken studio. The studio was rented to producing firms for sequences requiring large indoor sets. Scenes from such films as Lang's monumental Metropolis were shot at Staaken.
Other innovations during the 1920s responded to German producers' desire to give their films impressive production values. Designers pioneered the use of false perspectives and models to make sets look bigger. A marginal Expressionist film, Die Straße (The Street, 1923) used an elaborate model to represent a cityscape in the background of one scene, with a real car and actors in the foreground. Tiny cars and dolls moving on tracks in the distance in The Last Laugh made the street in front of the hotel set seem bigger than it really was. In this area, the Germans were ahead of the Americans, and Hollywood cinematographers and designers picked up tips on models and false perspective by watching German films and visiting the German studios.
Aside from making more spectacular scenes, German producers wanted to light and photograph their films using techniques innovated by Hollywood during the 1910s. Since the Germans were eager to export films to the United States, a widespread assumption arose that filmmakers should adopt the new elements of American style, such as backlighting and the use of artificial illumination for exterior shots. Articles in the trade press urged companies to build better facilities: dark studios in place of the old glass-walled ones, endowed with the latest in lighting equipment.
One German technological innovation of the 1920s became internationally influential: the entfesselte camera (literally, the "unfastened camera", or the camera moving freely through space). During the early 1920s, some German filmmakers began experimenting with elaborate camera movements. In the script for the Kammerspiel film Sylvester, Carl Mayer specified that the camera should be mounted on a dolly to take it smoothly through the revelry of a city street. The film that popularized the moving camera, though, was Murnau's Der letzte Mann (The Last Laugh). There the camera descends in an elevator in the opening shot; later it seems to fly through space to follow the blare of a trumpet to the protagonist, who is listening in a window high above. When he gets drunk at a party, the camera spins with him on a turntable. The film was widely seen in the United States and earned Murnau a contract with Fox. Another film made in the following year, Varieté (1925, E. A. Dupont) took the idea of the moving camera even further. Tracks fastened to the ceiling allowed the camera to swoop a bove the action, as in Murnau's Faust when the hero takes a magic carpet ride over a mountainous landscape (represented by an elaborate model). Such hanging camera movements were rapidly adopted in Hollywood. Many other German films of the mid- to late 1920s contain spectacular camera movements.
Once inflationary pressures ended in 1924, the German film industry could not continue the rapid expansion of its facilities. Most firms cut back between 1924 and 1926. Big-budget films became less common. Still, the new lighting equipment and expanded studios were in place, ready for use in the more modest productions that dominated the second half of the decade. The end of hyperinflation, however, had other, more serious effects on the film industry.
Unfortunately for film producers, stable currency often made it cheaper for distributors to buy a film from abroad than to finance one in Germany. Moreover, in 1925 the government's quota regulations changed. From 1921 to 1924, the amount of foreign footage imported had been fixed at 15 percent of the total German footage produced in the previous year. Under the new quota, however, for every domestic film distributed in Germany, the company responsible received a certificate permitting the distribution of an imported film. Thus, theoretically, 50 percent of the films shown could be imported." 
"Many artists moved away from the contorted emotionalism of Expressionism toward realism and coolheaded social criticism. Such traits were not specific enough to constitute a unified movement, but the trends were summed up as Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity). In the cinema, New Objectivity took various forms. One trend usually linked to New Objectivity was the Strassenfilme (Street Film). In such films, characters from sheltered middle-class backgrounds are suddenly exposed to the environment of city streets, where they encounter representatives of various social ills, such as prostitutes, gamblers, black marketeers, and con men.
Street films came to prominence in 1923 with the success of Karl Grune's Die Straße (The Street, 1923). It tells the simple story of a middle-aged man's psychological crisis. From the safety of his apartment, he sees visions of the excitement and romance that may be awaiting him in the street. Slipping away from his wife, he explores the city, only to be lured by a prostitute into a den of cardsharps and falsely suspected of a murder. Eventually he returns home, but the ending leaves the sense that the denizens of the street lurk threateningly nearby.
The most celebrated German director of the mid-1920s, G.W. Pabst, rose to fame when he made the second major street film, Die freudlose Gasse (The Joyless Street). Another major example was Bruno Rahn's Dirnentragödie (Whore's Tragedy, aka Tragedy of the Street, 1927). In it the enduring Danish star Asta Nielsen plays an aging prostitute who takes in a rebellious young man who has run away fro m his middle-class home; she dreams of making a new life with him. He returns to his parents in the end, and she is arrested for murdering her pimp. The film used dark studio sets, a moving camera, and close framings to create the oppressive atmosphere of back streets and dingy apartments.
Rahn's premature death and Pabst's move into other subject matter contributed to the decline of the mainstream street film in the late 1920s. In general these films have been criticized for their failure to offer solutions to the social ills that they depict. Their gloomy images of the streets suggest that the middle class could find safety only by retreating from social reality.
A number of factors led to the decline of New Objectivity in the cinema. For one thing, the increasing domination of German politics by extreme right-wing forces in the late 1920s and early 1930s resulted in a wider split between conservative and liberal factions. Socialist and Communist groups made films during this era, and to some extent these provided an outlet for strong social criticism. Moreover, the coming of sound combined with greater control over the film industry by conservative forces to create an emphasis on light entertainment. The operetta genre became one of the most prominent types of sound filmmaking, and social realism became rare." 
"The Soviet cinema was officially born on 27 August 1919, when Lenin signed the Council of People's Commissars of the RSFSR Decree "On the transfer of the photographic trade and industry to Narkompros (The People's Commissariat of Education)" nationalizing private film and photographic enterprises. But the struggle for power in film had already begun in 1917, when film workers banded together in three professional organizations: the OKO (a federation of distributors, exhibitors, and producers); the Union of Workers in Cinematographic Art (creative workers - the 'film aristocracy'); and the Union of Film Theatre Workers (the grass roots or proletariat, largely projectionists). The last of these, asserting workers' control over cinemas and film enterprises, soon came to determine the line taken by the Moscow and Petrograd Cinema Committees, which had been set up in 1918 and had already begun nationalizing parts of the film industry. By the end of 1918 the Petrograd Committee had nationalized sixty-four non-functioning cinemas and two film studios abandoned by their previous owners, while in Moscow, where most film enterprises were concentrated, a process of nationalization was carried out between November 1918 and January 1920.
In this early phase only large companies were subject to nationalization, and the biggest film studio (that of the Khanzhonkov Company) had no more than 100 people on its staff, so during the first years of Soviet cinema private and state film companies coexisted. The basis of Soviet film production was therefore laid by half a dozen film enterprises, which after nationalization came under the Photography and Film section of Narkompros. New studios also began to be constructed, of which the first was Sevzapkino in Petrograd (later Leningrad).
The process of restructuring continued throughout the 1920s. The former Khanzhonkov and Yermoliev studios were merged in 1924, then in 1927 construction began in the village of Potylikha outside Moscow of new premises for this studio, which it was decided should become the largest in the country. Construction continued until the beginning of the 1930s and in 1935 the new combined studio became known as Mosfilm.
In 1924 a group of filmmakers, led by Sergei Eisenstein and Lev Kuleshov, came together in Moscow to form the Association of Revolutionary Cinematography (ARC). The objective of ARC (whose members came to include Vsevolod Pudovkin, Dziga Vertov, Grigory Kozintsev, Leonid Trauberg, Georgi and Sergei Vasiliev, Sergei Yutkevich, Friedrich Ermler, Esfir Shub, and many other leading film-makers) was to reinforce ideological control over the creative process. Branches were formed in practically every studio, and the organization had its own publications, including the weekly newspaper Kino and (later) the magazines Sovietsky ekran and Kino i kultura. In 1929 ARC was renamed ARRC (Association of Workers of Revolutionary Cinematography). At the end of the decade, the All-Russian Association of Proletarian Writers (RAPP) had a strong influence on ARRC, and a new aim was adopted of "100 per cent proletarian ideological film", as part of the 'cultural revolution' being imposed throughout the arts." 
Soviet Cinema Under the New Economic Policy (NEP)
"By 1920, the hardships caused by the civil war and the disorganization of the new government had created a severe famine in parts of the USSR. Faced with this crisis, Lenin formulated the New Economic Policy (NEP) in 1921, which allowed a limited and temporary reintroduction of private ownership and capitalist-style dealings. As a result, hoarded raw stock reappeared, and film production by private firms and government groups increased.
In early 1922, Lenin made two statements that helped determine the course of Soviet filmmaking. First, he issued the so-called Lenin proportion, stating that film programs should balance entertainment and education though not specifying how much of each type of film should be shown. He also declared, "Of all the arts, for us the cinema is the most important." Lenin probably meant that the cinema was the most powerful tool for propaganda and education among a largely illiterate population. In any event, his statement focused attention on the cinema and has been quoted innumerable times as an indication of the Bolshevik government's reliance on the new medium for propaganda.
In late 1922, the government attempted to organize the feeble film industry by creating a central distribution monopoly called Goskino. All private and government production firms were to release their films through Goskino, which would also control the import and export of films. The attempt failed, since several companies were powerful enough to compete with Goskino.
This was no small matter. During the NEP, the Soviet film industry became reliant on imports. In the early years after the October Revolution, the USSR had been cut off from the rest of the world, partly by the civil war and partly by the refusal of most countries to deal with a communist government. In 1922, the Treaty of Rapallo opened the way for trade between Russia and Germany. The treaty was a breakthrough for the USSR in its relations with the West, and Berlin became the main conduit for films going into and out of the USSR during the 1920s. Eager to beat their competitors into the vast new Soviet market, German film firms sold on credit, and lighting equipment, raw stock, and new films flowed into the USSR.
With the acquisition of raw stock, production of fiction features increased. In 1923, there appeared the first Soviet film that was as popular with Soviet audiences as were imported films: a civil war drama called Tsiteli eshmakunebi (Red Imps). It was directed by Ivan Perestiani for the Georgian branch of Narkompros. The year 1924 saw a further increase in production. Yuri Zhelyabuzhsky, who had gotten his start directing agitki (small agitational works), made Papirosnitsa ot Mosselproma (The Cigarette Girl of Mosselprom, a contemporary comedy in which a street cigarette seller becomes a movie star by accident. Several scenes reflect the Soviet film situation of the day. Another popular film, Dvorets i krepost (Palace and Fortress), was made by the veteran prerevolutionary director, Alexander Ivanovsky. It centered on a revolutionary of the era of Tsar Alexander II who is imprisoned and eventually goes mad. Palace and Fortress became a favorite target of the Montage directors over the next few years as they advocated a new approach to filmmaking.
Members of the Kuleshov workshop of the State Film School also made their first feature in 1924. Neobychainye priklyucheniya mistera Vesta v strane bolshevikov (The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks) is a hilarious comedy about western misconceptions of the USSR. The film exploits the Kuleshov effect by combining newsreel and staged footage. With its playful use of acting and editing, Mr. West can be counted as a marginal Montage film. It brought the Soviet cinema to the verge of a truly avant-garde movement, as a new generation of directors interested in more radical stylistic exploration began working." 
Increased State Control and the Montage Movement
"Because the centralized distribution firm Goskino had proved unable to organize the film industry, the government created a new company, Sovkino, on January 1, 1925. The few production firms that were allowed to keep operating were given a strong incentive to help Sovkino survive: they had to invest in stock in the new firm. Goskino continued on for a time, producing on a small scale; its main contribution was Bronenosets Potyomkin (Battleship Potemkin, 1925), the most famous film of the Montage movement and the first Soviet film to have a major success abroad. A more extensive and long-lived company was Mezhrabpom-Russ. This private firm was owned and financed by a German communist group, and it made a surprisingly large proportion of the most significant Soviet films - including Vsevolod Pudovkin's silent ones - before its dissolution in 1936. Specialist companies also held stock in Sovkino: Gosvoyenfilm made military propaganda until the late 1920s, and Kultkino produced educational films - including some by the major Montage-style documentarist Dziga Vertov. Sevzapkino was based in Leningrad, and it later became simply the Leningrad studio of Sovkino . Working at Sevzapkino were a number of young and talented Montage directors, most notably the team of Grigori Kozintsev and Leonid Trauberg.
Sovkino faced a complex set of government demands. One policy dictated that the firm expand access to films throughout the USSR. Since 1917, the number of theaters had shrunk, due to the lack of films, the breakdown of projectors, the inability to heat the auditoriums, and similar factors. Lenin died in 1924, but his belief that the cinema should serve an educational role continued to influence policy. The government insisted on getting films to workers and peasants in remote regions. Sovkino faced the formidable tasks of opening urban theaters and of sending over one thousand portable projection outfits to the countryside. Moreover, most workers and peasants could afford only tiny entrance fees, so the portable theaters operated at a loss.
How was Sovkino to pay for these portable projection outfits? Not through government subsidies but through its profits on other enterprises. Many such profits would come from foreign films, which Sovkino imported and distributed in the USSR. During the second half of the decade, however, the company was pressured to reduce the number of imported films. Even reedited, as most such films were, they were considered ideologically harmful. A more desirable source of income was domestic production. Soviet films might make money within the USSR. Moreover, if they were sold abroad, they might earn much more. Sovkino thus had a strong incentive to export films. Partly by supporting the young Montage directors, Sovkino produced films that found an audience in the West, and the income that these exports generated bought new equipment and supported the expansion of the industry.
The first triumph a broad was Sergei Eisenstein's Potemkin, which proved enormously popular in Germany in 1926 and went on to show in many other countries. Other Soviet films, such as Pudovkin's Mat (Mother, 1926), soon followed and were exported very successfully. The foreign currency earned, especially by Montage-style films, facilitated the Soviet industry's purchase of foreign production and exhibition equipment.
Another goal for Sovkino was to make films that embodied the new ideals of the Communist government so that they could be conveyed to the country's population. The early Montage films, with their dynamic depictions of Tsarist-period oppression and historical rebellions, were praised for their subject matter. Because these films were successful financially and critically, for a few years a new generation of filmmakers was able to continue experimenting in the avant-garde Montage style.
An extended article on Soviet Montage Movement can be found here.
During the Montage movement's existence, perhaps fewer than thirty films were made in the style. Nevertheless, as in France and Germany, these avant-garde films were prestigious and influential. Many more conventional films contain a few Montage techniques, usually employed in a milder fashion. For example, Protazanov's Belyy oryol (The White Eagle, 1928) begins with several dynamic views of statues against the sky, a device that had become a cliché. Although The White Eagle story is similar to those of some Montage films - the brutal repression of a strike by a provincial Tsarist governor - the rest of the film is done in the modified continuity style typical of European filmmaking in the 1920s.
Non-Montage films covered a wide range of genres. Although Soviet silent comedies are seldom seen today, there were plenty of them. Slapstick comedian Igor Ilinsky, a sort of Russian Jim Carrey, was the decade's most popular star. In Zakroyshchik iz Torzhka (The Tailor from Torzhok) (made by Protazanov in 1925 to publicize the government lottery), Ilinsky plays a tailor frantically seeking a winning lottery ticket he has lost. A light tone also prevails in the crime serial Miss Mend (codirected by veteran filmmakers Fyodor Ozep and Barnet, a Kuleshov alumnus, in 1926). In this fantasy, three American workers from the "Rockefeller" company hear of a plot to poison the Soviet Union's water supply and, in a spirit of class solidarity, foil the villain.
Despite the Montage directors' downplaying of major stars, other films exploited the fame of established stage actors by casting them in dramas. In a few cases, top stars of the famous Moscow Art Theater, established by Konstantin Stanislavsky in 1898 (and considered by many young filmmakers to be a bastion of conservative style), agreed to act in films. Other Moscow Art Theater actors such as Ivan Moskvin and Mikhail Chekhov starred in films, and the only surviving film performance by the great Constructivist stage director Meyerhold is in The White Eagle.
A similar attempt at prestige came with historical epics and literary adaptations. Two popular films of this type were Viktor Gardin's Poet i tsar (Poet and Tsar, 1927), a biography of the poet Aleksandr Pushkin, and Dekabristy (Decembrists, 1927, Alexander Ivanovsky). In a 1927 meeting to discuss the problems of Sovkino, Cubo-Futurist poet Vladimir Mayakovsky dismissed the former film contemptuously: "Take 'Poet and Tsar' for example. The picture is liked - but when you stop to think about it, what bosh, what a monstrosity..." Similarly, Decembrists, with its large ballroom set, looked like a tired version of Russian historical dramas of the prerevolutionary era. The Montage directors found such films conservative and thus diametrically opposed to their own approaches to filmmaking.
A turning point for the Soviet film industry came in March 1928, when the First Communist Party Conference on Film Questions was held. Until now, the government had left film matters largely to the control of Narkompros and other, smaller film organizations scattered through the republics. Now the Soviet Union was instituting the First Five-Year Plan, a major push toward expanding industrial output. As part of the plan, the cinema was to be centralized. The goal was to increase the number of films made and to build equipment factories to supply all the industry's needs. Eventually, it was hoped, imports of raw film stock, cameras, lighting fixtures, and other equipment would be eliminated. Similarly, exportation would not be necessary, and all films could be tailored strictly to the needs of the workers and peasants." 
British Cinema of the 1920s: A New Generation
"By the mid-1920s most of the pre-war production companies in Great Britain had gone out of business, and with them such 'pioneers' as Cecil Hepworth. A new generation of producers or producer-directors entered the industry during this period. Both Michael Balcon (producer) and Herbert Wilcox (producer-director) adopted similar strategies to develop the indigenous industry. One such strategy was the importation of Hollywood stars. This was not a total novelty, but in the past it had met with only limited success. However, Wilcox successfully utilized the talents of Dorothy Gish, and in doing so also established a deal with Paramount. More important was the development of co-production agreements by both Balcon and Wilcox, and other British producers. Co-productions, particularly with Germany but also with other countries such as Holland, would become a significant factor in the development of the British film industry in the mid- and late 1920s. It was as a result of this practice that the young Alfred Hitchcock acquired experience of German production methods when he was sent to work at the Ufa studios in Neubabelsberg early on in his career with Gainsborough.
For Herbert Wilcox, the agreements he signed with Ufa were important not only as a way of opening up the market but also because the contracts gave him access to the better-equipped German studios. His Decameron Nights (1924) was shot in Germany, co-financed by Ufa and by Graham-Wilcox, and employed English, American, and German actors. With its large, well-designed and well executed sets, and story of sexual intrigue, Decameron Nights was a commercial success both in Britain and the United States. However, this success was in large part attributable to spectacle (adequately financed) and the sexual dynamic of the narrative; but Wilcox. unlike Hitchcock and some other young directors, seems to have learnt little from the encounter with German cinema and, from the perspective of film form, Decameron Nights is a film still marked by the relatively long scale of most of its shots and a general lack of scene dissection.
Michael Balcon was an important figure in the British film industry for a number of reasons. Although he produced only a relatively small number of films in the 1920s, most of them, including The Rat (Gainsborough, 1925), were big commercial successes. Further, Balcon's career was a clear signpost to that division of labour that came rather late in the British film industry: that is, between producing and directing, Balcon was a producer rather than a producer-director, and it was only the separation of these roles that allowed the development of skills specifically associated with each function.
Although in the context of British culture film-making was generally held in low esteem. a number of university graduates were to enter the film industry towards the end of this period, including Anthony Asquith, the son of the Liberal Prime Minister. Asquith had not only developed a considerable knowledge of European cinema during his university days, but his privileged background enabled him to meet many Hollywood stars and directors during his visits to the United States. The importance of these factors became evident when he began his film career. On Shooting Stars (British Instructional Films, 1928) Asquith was assistant director, but he had also written the screenplay, and was involved with the editing of the film. Shooting Stars was self-reflexive, in so far as it was a film about the film industry, film-making, and stars, although the reference was more to Hollywood than England, with Brian Aherne featuring as a Western genre hero. The lighting (by Karl Fischer), the use of a variety of camera angles, and the rapid editing of some sequences linked the film more to a German mode of expression. These elementsl, combined with the fact that the screenplay was not developed from a West End theatre production, unlike so many British productions in the 1920s. produced a film that was pure cinema.
By the end of the 1920s the British film industry was transformed. The shift to vertical integration established a stronger industrial base and, despite its negative aspects, the protective legislation introduced in 1927 did also lead to an expansion of the industry. The new generation who entered the industry in the mid-1920s had a greater knowledge and understanding of developments taking place in both European cinema and Hollywood, and this was also to play its part in the transformation of the British cinema, making it better prepared to face the introduction of sound at the end of the decade." 
-  Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, The Oxford History of World Cinema (Oxford University Press, 1996) pp 122, 135-37, 162-63, 192-93
-  Kristin Thompson & David Bordwell, Film History: An Introduction (McGraw-Hill, 2003) pp 85-88, 101-103, 109-15, 123-25, 138-40