Cinema: The First Hundred Years (1993) – David Shipman

Title: Cinema: The First Hundred Years
Author: David Shipman
Date published: 1993
Publisher: Phoenix
Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
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Describing this book as simply a coffee table book does no credit to the volume of information this book holds. David Shipman is a passionate film connoisseur whose opinionated approach to discussing the most popular films from the years 1893 to 1994 is as informative as it is entertaining. The book’s forward is written by Barry Norman, and he states straight away that even though he was amazed at the little regard Shipman has for Woody Allen films and De Niro’s Raging Bull (1980), there is an acceptance of this as being a part of the film critique game. We are entitled to our opinions and it’s often really refreshing for the more opinionated of us to open our minds to the possibility that there are other people on this planet with justifications to back their opinions.

With that being said I may not have agreed with all of Shipman’s opinions on certain films but I am also aware that this is someone who has very obviously spent a fair amount of time watching and re-watching the 5000 odd films listed in this comprehensive book. Beginning at the very beginning we are given a history of the film industry’s crucial developmental stages. From the first film studio built by Thomas Alva Edison in his backyard, the first scene caught on film (a man sneezing), and the invention of the Kinetoscope (an instrument for viewing film), to the introduction of Technicolour and the infamous Studio System (circa 1930’s to the 1950’s) we are given a brief but informative history before Shipman begins to discuss each year’s most popular (and unpopular) films listed by month.

Having read a lot of books on film this is a comprehensive listing with a difference. Shipman is not merely interested in film’s that were publicly popular or won Academy Awards. In fact, concerning the latter, he admits indifference to the famous awards show, and chooses rather, to discuss films that he personally believes are worthy. With a smattering of celebrity trivia his critiques are fueled by a need to educate the reader in some lesser known film work, and I was grateful to realize that Shipman does not appear biased in terms of genre, though he does tend to favor certain directors and actors/actresses, but don’t we all? It is also refreshing and important to note that Shipman includes films from around the globe, including Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia (and did not simply stick to the usual Hollywood-only fare).

Amidst all this delightful information and the lists of films, the book is FULL of phenomenal photographs of film stills and headshots of some of the most famous people in Hollywood. I personally find the earlier photographs absolutely fascinating. In fact some might say that the quality photographs are well worth purchasing this book on their own, however being a film buff I appreciated the references to all the movies I had not even heard of far more. I now have a very comprehensive list of my own of films I need to make an effort to see, and then write about…

I recommend this book to anyone with even the slightest interest in film, watching films, film history, and a general interest in the techniques, equipment and methods used to create these wonderful things called ‘movies’ in the business they call show.

sdr

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