This witty, informative, and highly browseable book is a riposte to the pseudo-jokey populism which passes for much film reviewing today.
The 100 films selected are not intended to represent the best from each year. Several certainly are; in my view Sansho Dayu (1954), Gertrud (1964), and The Sacrifice (1985) are all among the supreme half-dozen masterpieces of cinema history. But several leading directors are represented by second-rank films; Rope but not Vertigo, Blow Up but not L'Avventura, Rio Grande but not The Searchers. Other great directors are omitted point. Each essay is meant to provide something to think about. I particularly liked Adair's image, in the essay on Gertrud, of young reviewers, obsessed with the notion that cinema only came of age in the 1970s with Scorsese and Coppola and reached its apogee with Pulp Fiction, make this film good, but not that good".
Like all of us Adair has Rossellini over Fellini. He has no time for the fashionable Tarantinos and Oliver Stones of this world, and has a blind spot for Kieslowski. But his insistence that there is a canon, or pantheon, of great cinema creators whose identity can be ascertained by attentive exposure to their work is unyielding.
Particularly interesting are his essays on little-known films which can stimulate a strong desire to see them. For me the main one is No Or The Vainglory of Command (1990), a Portuguese offering which sounds fascinating and which I have been looking out for ever since I bought the book 4 years ago. Needless to say, nobody has seen fit to screen it in this country, although possibly it was screened at a festival after it was made.
A handsome and informative book, highly recommended.