THE STORY OF CINEMA: A Complete Narrative History from the Beginnings to the Present by David Shipman

THE STORY OF CINEMA: A Complete Narrative History from the Beginnings to the Present

Email this review


Though almost twice as long and more than twice as expensive, this 1250-page history of film is in many respects inferior to David A. Cook's A History of Narrative Film (1981)--especially for even mildly serious readers. Shipman takes a strictly movie-by-movie approach--cramming in 5000 films (the titles in bold print), many of them of negligible historic interest; Cook concentrates on the most innovative, influential, and enduring films--sometimes going too far in the auteur/film-school direction, perhaps, but providing considerable depth as well as breadth. Typically, Cook offers 40 pages (including illustrations) on Eisenstein's 1920s landmarks while Shipman offers five; also typically, Cook gives British films of the Thirties two pages--in contrast to Britisher Shipman's 28. Throughout, in fact, and especially in recent decades, Shipman covers Hollywood and Britain in vast--sometimes unwarranted, often superficial--detail. (On the other hand, he also provides more detail than Cook on many international figures of the post-WW II period--from Bergman to Satyajit Ray.) And, while Cook's critical commentary usually seems sophisticated and shrewdly balanced, Shipman's is largely chatty and shallow, frequently idiosyncratic and misleading: on Hitchcock's Rear Window and Vertigo, for example, he's glibly dismissive, failing to reflect (or even hint at) the critical consensus (at least in the US). As a quick reference, then, especially on US and UK titles, this immense, conscientiously researched compilation has clear value--and could replace David Robinson's The History of Worm Cinema (1973) in some cases. For the history of cinema, however, particularly in the pre-WW II period, students will find Cook's study more substantial, more readable, and far more generously, informatively illustrated.

Pub Date: Nov. 28th, 1984
Publisher: St. Martin's