British Cinema History

James Curran

This is to say no more than that the units of information about characters which we are given in fiction are necessarily larger and more discrete than the continuous elements of which actual people are constituted, since, contrary to artistic cant, it is art which is short and life which is long.
This history is a compilation that goes chapter to chapter, from fascinating and readable, to lists-of-statistics, to absolute arcane academica*.No broad overview here, nor timeline or general context to frame the individual articles, all by different authors.Perhaps best as a textbook for some unseen Cine-course, this is a collection of in-depth topics spread out like a buffet table; with no screenings attached, the going is slow and factoid-dense.

A lot of the early focus is on the business end of the Film Business in Britain in the twentieth century, necessarily covering the finance, production, distribution and exhibition aspects— with a microscope.Perhaps the future film financier would find this to be interesting, but the history here seems served up with tweezers.Maybe a Uk film student would find obvious conclusions to be drawn but it doesn't quite strike the outside reader as flowing or comprehensive.

In the middle chapters we get the foundations that created Brit cinema, from theestablishment of the Quota system to the documentary movement of Grierson and his legacy; there are the origins of thelarge studios of Gaumont-British and Rank;there is a discussion of film societies and labor movement film groups, neither of which has much equivalent in American cinema, but all of which went into the mix that created the explosion of Brit film in the postwar era.

There is a good discussion of wartime propaganda integration and the uneasy relationship with the American film studios thereafter.There are nice chapters on the evolution of female roles in Brit cinema, colonial filmmaking adventures, the working-class rising in film, the Carry On series, the exquisite Ealing Comedies and the horrors of the Hammer studios.Even a kind of postconstructionist James Bond series detour (maybe more horrifying in earnest textparsing, 80's style, than Hammer could envision).

Throughout this book we feel that we are in the merciless pages of a sociology case-study of some kind, rather than in a discussion of a popular medium that had enormous reach and influence throughout its first century.

Overall, flawless in its grasp of the microdetail, for which, presumably, the professor in charge of this course has grand conclusions in store.Perhaps I'd just like to be reading a more simplified rendition, but overall, there needs to be more of the Overall here.

* ..."Without the use of synecdoche (whereby the part must be read as the whole) and metonymy (whereby character is read from associated objects and surroundings), there can be no fictional recognition."
And Bob's your uncle.

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