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An illustrated love letter to the wonder of film.

Why do films matter? What is it about them that fascinates, horrifies, saddens or fills us with joy? They are a ubiquitous source of entertainment, sure – and in today’s world you can watch them seemingly anywhere anytime, we’re no longer restricted to the cinema screen – but they are so much more than that. So much more powerful than the simple label of ‘entertainment’ can conjure. Edward Ross’s FILMISH: A Graphic Journey through Film delves beneath the surface of the movies, flitting between various genres, time periods and theoretical approaches (sometimes even on the same page of panels!) to create an imaginative and enjoyable study – no, love letter is a more appropriate way to describe this book – to film.Filmish_coverThis is a great introductory text for all film students and cineastes. The simply yet perfectly drawn black-and-white illustrations on each of the panels are brimming with detail, and feature scenes and shots from films as varied as the early artistic wonders of George Méliès (A Trip to the Moon), modern political films such as Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, twenty-first-century low-budget horrors such as Pontypool and modern masterpieces that ponder the nature of humanity in a society that is forging increasingly intimate relationships with technology (Spike Jonze’s Her). These four titles name just a select few of the vast list of films that Ross chooses to depict in this fantastic, lovingly written and illustrated book.Filmish_3While it would have been fun in itself to just read a graphic history of film as a sequence of images from our favourite movies – and certainly in this book you can spend countless minutes poring over each panel to try and guess how many films you can spot – this is not what FILMISH is. Ross uses film theory to enrich his study of cinema history, providing probing insights into the nature of the medium’s power to manipulate audiences – and therefore dictate behaviour or impose a heteronormative lens on the world, for example – or also, more positively, to educate audiences, with film-makers able to compel people to search out and discover more about the world they inhabit. Even FILMISH’s Endnotes are fascinatingly detailed and provide interesting tidbits of film trivia beyond the pages’ panels.

FILMISH is a non-chronological journey through film, taking different thematic and theoretical dimensions and dissecting and elaborating upon them in each chapter. Each spread is full of a mix of films, across genres and time periods, all tied together by the fascinating questions Ross discusses: Why does an industry founded upon technology create narratives concerned with ‘technological terror’? What do Star Wars set designs tell us about the characters themselves? How significant is an actor’s vocal performance for characters as varied as Seven’s John Doe or Heath Ledger’s Joker?Filmish_2This is a concise, enjoyable ‘graphic journey through film’ that will enhance your understanding of the world of cinema and the secrets of film-making. The only problem with it is I wish it was longer, with so many films out there I’m now hoping Ross and the publishing team at SelfMadeHero consider bringing out a Volume 2! In this fluid voyage through the different features of film and the power of film-making – the power and ideology section a particular highlight – Edward Ross creates a wonderfully rich entry into cinema theory and criticism, using a myriad sources from every genre imaginable along the way; in other words, FILMISH is the perfect companion for any film lover, storyteller or pop culture geek.

★★★★★

Filmish: A Graphic Journey Through Film is published by SelfMadeHero on 12 November 2015. 

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