Christine Strelan - Between the Covers
Cinema Year by Year 1894-2005
Edited by Robyn Karney
Dont be put off by the glitzy celebs clutching Oscars on the cover; this massive book is a comprehensive history of 110 years of cinema. In the foreword, David Thomson (my favourite film critic in the world) describes movies as a very strange mixture of art, business, science and entertainment. These four ingredients are given equal coverage here. Film is a recent artform, and is the only one in which finance has been a factor right from the start. Even in the early days of nickolodeons and two-reelers, considerable amounts of money were needed to buy the equipment to produce and screen movies. Grubby legal battles were fought over patents as all this technology was newly invented. Once cinema took off as a form of mass entertainment, the finance became serious. This is probably why films can range from sublime creative art to brain-bending stupidity. As an artform it has the potential for outstanding cultural expression. As a money-maker it incites lowest-common-denominator philistinism of the worst kind. And youll find both types of film discussed in this book. Its not wall-to-wall Hollywood either; foreign and independent films are given equal space. Thank God. The usual excellent D-K reference format makes it easy to dip into, or get lost in, trivia heaven. Each year is covered separately, in short articles written like imaginary newspaper reports. This gives it a kind of breathless immediacy, as if its all happening right now, and also shows how world events affected film production. If you find todays manufactured blockbusters cynical excuses for merchandising, youll dig the comparative quaintness of the earlier industry. Folks once got hugely excited about things like SOUND! and COLOUR! And only in 1911 could you find a straight male actor promoted as The Dimpled Darling. Only in 1953 would you get a headline like Delicate Deborah Startles in Sex Scene. In 2004 we have Alexander Flops. And I sorely wish they still made films with titles like The Sagebrush Phrenologist, The Hun Within and The Madness of Dr Tube.
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