Is cinema a real form of art? What are the relationships that cinema has with theater, literature, music and painting? Which is better between blockbuster, author or poetry cinema? Theoretical and historical as well as philosophers, artists, writers and sociologists debate these questions without finding an unequivocal answer. As regards, specifically, the relationship between cinema and visual arts, a movie can express itself through sequences and frames of high pictorial value and, at the same time, transform magnificent masterpieces or lower artistic results into different images, both as merely tautological quotations and as meaningful narrative expedients.
Since its inception, in fact, the cinema owes some of its major products to the pictorial iconography of the whole history of art. To better understand the relationship between Hollywood cinema and figurative arts, just look at the treatment reserved for museums in these films: they are neat and silent places, in which paintings and strange objects are exhibited, among which there are only grim and pompous guards, snob ladies and poor school children drag along unwillingly.
Things will change, then, from the seventies. This initial gap between cinema and visual arts is motivated by the fact that Americans who arrive in California and decide to make films in the early twentieth century are electricians, drovers, shop assistants or actors who are more interested in the weekly pay rather than the artistic point of view: they saw only a few paintings or none, and above all through the black and white engravings reproduced in newspapers or the hand-colored lithographs.
These lithographs are characterized by realistic illustrations reproducing natural spectacles often seen in person. That's why, when they will need to set up a scene for the next movie, they’ll just reach a place similar to what the illustrator painted, wait for the same sunrise or the same sunset and compete with the illustrator himself in reproducing that box of reality more truthfully. The best American cinema in the silent years is made by those who have the tools to create images, not by those who only copy images from others.
With the advent of sound, paintings and statues did not really serve any purpose: for two decades the inferiority complex against the major arts will completely disappear and the cinema will truly feel an independent form of art from all the others that work for images. The arrival of color seems to bring the cinema on a collision course with painting: citations of famous paintings and famous sculptures reappear, but their sole purpose is to amaze the spectator. In the seventies, the ultimate means of all movie production becomes television. The TV audience is made up mostly of teenagers who have never seen a painting in their life. Today, as in the early twentieth century, the best cinema is always the one that looks directly at reality, at most to its representation, but not to the interpretation that others have given it. In short, painting, sculpture and photography have always been just an obstacle for movie productions.