Author: David Parkinson
David Parkinson’s attractively presented overview of the development of modern cinema takes a fairly liberal approach to fulfilling the brief promised by the title.
For example, did anyone really come up with the idea of the “movie mogul”? And does “slapstick” count as an idea that changed film, or is it more a survivor of music hall theatre that has inspired a genre of film? On the other hand, Parkinson makes a great case for their inclusion, and has a great time creating genealogies for his 100 ideas. So “the chase sequence” has its birth in Mack Sennett’s Keystone Kops cycle and reaches its apotheosis in Harrison Ford’s sprint from the giant rolling boulder in Raiders of the Lost Ark. These chase scenes cast actors as ‘human props’, while car chases confirm “the younger generation’s need for speed and spectacle”.
Unlike many of these glossy coffee table books, with their beautifully reproduced full-colour, full-page stills and glorious black and white glamour shots (which this book has in spades), Parkinson is wholly unafraid of blinding with science. Tracking shots, mise en scene and even the finer points of shooting in contemporary monochrome are all discussed with equal parts depth and brevity; no mean feat.
Casual film buffs will love looking at the pictures, film school students and graduates will appreciate its value as a reference book and cineastes with gaps in their knowledge will dig being able to drop in a few high-brow lines from it as if they’re their own over their next bout of wine and cheese. The perfect gift!