Thursday, May 02, 2013

BOOK REVIEW! A HISTORY OF FILMS by John L. Fell (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1979)

Naw it ain't exactly like I'm whatcha'd call an avid reader of film histories (especially those posing as college textbooks), but considering how this 'un's been more or less a constant doody-time read for the past six months (don't wanna soil my NANCY books with human fecal remains) I will admit that it comes in handy when the move to movement may occur.

Like I said, this one just hadda've been created solely for classroom text fodder because well, it sure reads like it. And even with all of the expected points of view and failures that come with such tomes, A HISTORY OF FILMS does have its little bits of worthiness that make this at least a tad desirable.

The pre-moom days are adequately described, and the dawn of film proper is good enough unless you want to consult a specialty book or website for more detailed information. Other'n that this book, despite the expected snobberies, does a rather good job detailing the big names and the wheelings and dealings that went on behind the scenes, and even when the concept of "film as aht" is proudly displayed it ain't like you're exactly wanting to ditch this 'un out the window like you would with a collection of Judith Crist musings.

Nice mini-bios of all the big name directors abound, and even some of the more "outre" figures who you thought wouldn't rate even a paragraph in any other book like say, Luis Bunuel, get hefty coverage. And hey, there's even a chapter devoted to the "alternative" cinema of the early avant garde and underground which I will admit is something that I'd never thought I'd see in a film history book then or especially now for that matter. Makes for an easier time of gathering up pertinent information'n I had inna late-seventies trying to comb reference books for mentions of Kenneth Anger!

Still, you do have to put up with the occasional innerlectual theorizing and mentions of Marxist film critiques and various other dated ideas (not to mention the author actually getting excited over LAST TANGO IN PARIS for reasons other'n looking at Maria Schneider's patch and CITIZEN KANE as if it were somehow superior to any Bowery Boys flick extant ), but the chapters on the early days, Griffith and the development of the film industry both in the USA and abroad are info-packed even if they are condensed even more'n a can of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup. Of course it would have been boffo if a chapter or two was dedicated to the z-films of William Beaudine and Ed Wood Jr. that have been both lionized and mocked these past four or so decades, but even I couldn't hope for something as wonderful as that!

1 comment:

diskojoe said...

You're right, it was a college textbook. I used it in a film history course in college in the early 80s. From what I remember, it was basically what you said it was.