Inspired by an article at Wikipedia called political cinema, some research I did on social realism, some films by Godard and a search at Google consisting of “social realism” “political cinema” , I found this article by Mark Cousins (The Story of Film (2004) [Amazon.com]) with the title Cinema Gets Real which was published in prospect-magazine.co.uk in June 2006. It deals with the concept of realism in film.
… The remarkable success of Brokeback Mountain showed that leftfield American filmmaking can do well at the box office and begin to form its own liberal mainstream. Brokeback missed out on the best picture Oscar, … the point remains that Brokeback Mountain is a new high-water mark of success in political cinema.
… Mention of Michael Winterbottom brings up another, unrelated area in which recent cinema has become, in a sense, more real. Despite showing genital close-ups, erections and ejaculation, his film 9 Songs was passed for an 18 certificate in Britain. When Patrice Chéreau’s British film Intimacy, which also featured explicit sex, was given a similar rating, it felt as if the new millennium had ushered in a more tolerant attitude to explicit consensual sexual activity on screen, and so it had. Encouraged by French films like Baise-Moi and Anatomy of Hell, both made by women, the taboo on showing erections in mainstream cinema just seemed to fade away.
… Life did feel like a disaster movie in the days after 9/11, prompting Belgian ultra-realist directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, who have won the Cannes Palme d’Or twice, to observe: “Today’s paradox is that the aestheticisation of reality requires the de-aestheticisation of art.” And it is not only realist directors who feel this. Michael Haneke, who had a recent art-house hit with Hidden, explains the intensity of his work by saying that reality is losing its realness.
… the very thing that the earliest filmmakers fell in love with—a camera’s ability to hoover up reality and re-project it in motion and detail on a big screen—is not quite as valuable as it once was. The best European filmmakers today—Haneke, Lars von Trier, Bruno Dumont, Claire [Claire Denis?] —are equally sceptical about film as a medium of social realism.