Basil Wright, one of England's oldest and most talented documentary film makers has written an intrepid, highly personal, panoramic study of the movies. His pages burst with enthusiasm, memories of primitive beginnings, happy days at the Vitagraph. Both a fan and a professional, he apologizes to no one, is not afraid to say ""and the tears come to your eyes,"" to call Rebecca Hitchcock's ""best film,"" to wax eloquent over such kitsch as Drums Along the Mohawk, to toss up strange, beguiling analyses of product that must seem obscure to even the buffs who haunt the local cinematheque. Wright calls his bright baggy monster of a book ""the record of a love affair with the film medium which began in 1913."" It is, in a sense, ids autobiography. And that's what's so ingratiating: we don't hear the computer-hum of the academic but the distinct sound of an actual human voice, sharing with us his idiosyncratic pleasures and displeasures. And when the animadversions become too much, as they do with Bergman and Antonioni, silence reigns. These are directors Wright simply does not ""understand."" Elsewhere, though, his discussions of Eisenstein and Dovshenko, Olmi and Resnais, Bresson and Dreyer could not be bettered. Wright has an eye for design and composition, a feeling for flow and rhythm, story and characterization; he is aware, as so many other historians are not, of how much emotion can be generated between the frames of even the slightest opus. His canvas is large, full of facts and figures, cross-references and cross-theorizing -- and always alive.