Steven Peterson's Reviews > Film

Film by Ronald Bergan
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Jun 24, 2009

really liked it
Read in May, 2008

Ronald Bergan is a film historian and critic. In this volume, part of the Eyewitness Companions series, he looks at film. The book begins with a brief history of movies, from Thomas Edison and Henry Reichenbach to the Lumiere Brothers to D. W. Griffith and onwards. During the discussion of the history of cinema, one interesting feature is the list of box office hits for each decade, from the beginning to the present. Did you know that "The Big Parade" was the top box office hit in the 1920s? I surely did not!

The next section focuses on how movies are made, from pre-production to post-production. After that, a not fully satisfying review of genres and examples of each. Some don't really sound like genres to me; each is so brief that you don't get a real sense of what is at stake. Following this is a section entitled "World Cinema," in which various countries/areas with a substantial movie industry are profiled, from Africa to India, from Russia to Central America.

The penultimate section explores the world of Directors. There are profiles and "filmographies" of whom the author sees as the greatest 200 directors of all time. Take one example to get a flavor for the discussion. I randomly flipped to a page and saw the discussion of Joseph Mankiewicz' body of work. The entry noted which of his movies one might wish to watch (e.g., The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, All about Eve, Julius Caesar, Guys and Dolls. . . .). The entries are quite brief, but they provide pretty decent coverage of major directors (although one can always quibble about inclusion and exclusion--but sometimes that's a part of the fun with encyclopedic works such as this).

Finally, the top 100 movies of all time (with the stipulation that no director can have more than one on the list--perhaps a criterion that leaves out masterpieces of prolific and excellent directors such as Alfred Hitchcock or Stephen Spielberg or to the detriment of this section.

Anyhow, a typical work in this useful series of books.
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