"The single most significant fact about the cinema at the turn of the millennium", suggests Gilbert Adair, "is that everyone is now a film buff." Cinema permeates contemporary culture, yet rather than a true diversity of tastes, Adair finds a fixed canon of "classics" and the almost unquestioned dominance of Hollywood. He offers this gloriously diverse collection of writing about the cinema as a "corrective" to this consensus. There is genuinely something here for everyone, whether it is an extract from the autobiography of Akira Kurosawa, Norman Mailer's article on the appeal of Marilyn Monroe or Roland Barthes' essay on Romans in films. In these pages, bad movies rub shoulders with acknowledged classics, avant-garde experiments mingle with Hollywood B-movies and Warner Brothers cartoons stand alongside newsreel footage.
This is a book to savour, a volume to dip into often--but be warned that it is not an easy book to put down. It is packed with fascinating information, from a brief guide to Italian neo-realism, to the revelation that cowboys can often be seen to swear as they mount their horses in silent movies. The variety of source material is astonishing, with space somehow found for Kipling's poetry, an extract from the script of A Night at the Opera and even notes from a script conference for Tarzan, The Ape Man. Scattered throughout the book are a series of memorable quotations on the subject of the cinema and Adair himself contributes an introduction to each piece, providing background information and highlighting questions raised by the text. Both a compiler and a contributor, his presence is felt throughout a book which most of all reflects an exuberant love of the cinema. It is impossible for the reader--whether a cinéaste or an occasional viewer--to finish Movies untouched by this enthusiasm for the magic of the silver screen. --John Oates