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Cinema Year by Year (1894 - 2004)

Review by Jack Foley

BILLED as 'the definitive record of the modern age's most influential art form', Cinema Year by Year (1894-2004) comes pretty close to realising its ambition, providing film buffs with a fascinating illustrated guide to a century of great cinema.

Presented in a newspaper-style to cover the key events, facts and figures from each year, for ease of reference, the book provides a visually compelling guide to most of the key moments in cinema, from the first moving pictures from the Lumiere brothers, through to Peter Jackson's epic triumph, The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The newspaper style ensures that each entry is eye-catching and easy-to-read, providing many a fascinating insight into some of the reactions from the time.

Highlights include the 1973 section on The Cannes Festival being rocked by controversy (and a great still of Gene Hackman and Al Pacino from Scarecrow), to a piece entitled 'The Hollywood Western comes of age with Ford's Stagecoach'.

Needless to say, there are some surprising omissions and not everyone will agree with what's been included (or left out). Clint Eastwood's seminal A Fistful of Dollars appears at the expense of both For A Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, while Dirty Harry (a film which revolutionised the cop genre), is reduced to a footnote in the 1971 section.

But there is still plenty to enjoy, with much space devoted to classics such as The Godfather, Apocalypse Now and Spartacus, as well as some of the key moments in movie news, such as the death of Marilyn Monroe.

For the real purists, there are plenty of terrific movie posters to pick through, while the book is positively crammed with stunning stills, studio portraits and behind-the-scenes photographs.

As such, it's little surprise to find iconic images such as the Trevi Fountain scene from La Dolce Vita, or a blood-stained Paul Newman and Robert Redford from the final moments of Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid.

Steve McQueen features prominently, from The Magnificent Seven to Bullitt (although, curiously, there is no image of his iconic motorcycle leap from The Great Escape), as do the likes of Audrey Hepburn, James Bond and Al Pacino.

And world cinema also gets a look-in, especially in terms of the way in which it regularly contributes to breaking many of Hollywood's taboos, both sexual and in terms of violence (see French cinema for much of the sex, and Japanese cinema for extreme violence and horror).

With over 1,000 pages to explore and a foreword from noted film critic, David Thomson (who also wrote Hollywood A Celebration!), Cinema Year By Year provides a veritable feast for anyone who has ever shown any interest in film-going.

It serves as both a near-perfect introduction to cinema and a welcome reminder for seasoned fanatics, who should take equal delight in the many well-considered anecdotes it also serves up.

If nothing else, it ought to have film buffs scampering towards their DVD/video collections to catch up with a forgotten classic, or running to the nearest retail shop to discover something they may have missed.

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