Key Moments in Cinema: The History of Film and Film Makers (2001) – Geoffrey Macnab

Title: Key Moments in Cinema: The History of Film and Film Makers
Author: Geoffrey Macnab
Date published: 2001
Publishers: Hamlyn/Octopus Publishers
Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This is a book that discusses pretty much every aspect of cinema one would expect to find in a book about the film industry, and just a little bit more. I’ve been devouring books on film for years, and sometimes you hope that a little gem of information will appear that you haven’t already committed to memory. This book, though not as thorough as other books about the industry, focuses rather on specific moments that defined certain eras, and particular moments when history was made. As the title suggests these are key moments in an industry that is still evolving and changing today, and will probably always hold a certain allure to those that have dedicated their lives to the motion picture, and its fascinating history.

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The early chapters follow the inventions of the film techniques and various equipment used over the years, and this of course led us to the introduction of the directors, producers, inventors and ‘stars’ that evolved from this new and thriving industry. As the studios and theaters got bigger, so did the production levels and the actor’s egos. The studio system and censorship would eventually die out, and new and more experimental forms of cinema would surface. This of course will include the invention of sound and the end of silent pictures, and the affect that had on the people who could not make the transition.

Unlike other literature I have read on the subject, Key Moments in Cinema is very generous with its in depth information on cinema from all over the world. As opposed to a lot of scholars that tend to group films outside of the United States, as ‘World Cinema’ Macnab beautifully informs the reader that there is quality outside of the US. In fact Scandinavia, Britain, Asia and Europe have been and are responsible for some of the most ambitious films, often defying the censorship boards.

The reader is treated to chapters on the history of horror, the politics of science fiction, the philosophy of westerns and the rise and fall of the musical and its key players. As films advanced and screen writing exploded and quality rather than quantity affected viewer’s experiences it was no longer a simple matter of releasing a film and assuming it would do well. In fact with the invention of the television even massive budgets and new camera techniques could not drag people out of their homes to see an epic. Studios began coming up with new and interesting ways to market their product and so began the cinema experience of popcorn, luxury seating, bigger screens and the massive appeal of merchandising that began with the epic Star Wars, and the intense marketing that happened with Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960).

I particularly enjoyed the chapters on avant-garde cinema, Neo-realism, Surrealism, New Wave and the illusive Dogme film makers. These are aspects of the film industry that are not often discussed in depth, if at all. Some of my favorite mentions include the rise in popularity of sequels, the rare and understated ‘blaxploitation’ films, the strange antics of amateur film makers such as Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda, and the equally strange antics of professionals such as Roman Polanski and Woody Allen. As an avid fan of film I was pleasantly surprised to discover new trivia in each easily digestible chapter.

The book is also filled with beautiful color photographs that complement the vast array of information it contains within a mere 185 pages. As a self-proclaimed film buff I would honestly recommend this book to even the most advanced and well-read film lovers as I am of the opinion Macnab has a few things to say that not everyone has already said.

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0 thoughts on “Key Moments in Cinema: The History of Film and Film Makers (2001) – Geoffrey Macnab”

  1. I love the way you tease the logic out of sometimes illogical subjects – well done Meg. I think your powers of deduction and your grasp of the English language quite astrounding.

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