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.