Thursday, May 20, 2010

Cinema One Books

A year ago there was a film book meme going around the blogs. [Here, here and here and to link a few]. I intended to do a post of some of my favorites but never got around to it. So figured I would just do one on the Cinema One series, which originated out of England in the late 1960's.

Most of the Cinema One books I have were published in the US by Indiana University Press in association with Sight and Sound and the Education Department of the British Film Institute. Some were also published by Viking Press and just a few I have were actually published in England.

What was cool about the series - other than the well written film analysis - was its uniformity. Each of the little books have a number on the spine: Number 1 was about Godard, Number 2 was Losey, Number 3 was Visconti, and on and on. The idea being that all the major filmmakers of the day [and some of the past] would get one volume dedicated to their work by a renowned film critic in the UK. [Obviously the Auteur theory was in full swing by then]. Each book was paper bound, had around 175 to 195 pages and all had black & white photos to accompany the text. I am not sure how many there ended up being in the series. The highest number I have is 20 and on the back it tells me there was a number 22 on Val Lewton.

With the exception of the Peter Wollen book; 'Signs and Meaning in the Cinema' and the 'Horizon's West' by Jim Kitses [which has been republished] - these are relatively rare books. I've found all of mine at used book stores through the years although I found one on Abe Books last week. And, best of all, I've been able to find most for under $10.00. The exception is the Number 16 'Melville on Melville' by Rui Nogueira, which often goes for $100.00.

Currently, the BFI does do a film book series where by they have one critic write about one film. And each of those books is also a slim volume with good insights. But I really like a more fleshed-out analysis of individual filmmakers and their films like Cinema One did. [True BFI also has done a more recent series of film director books]. But with the poor state of publishing I don't think we'll ever see another series quite like this one. It's worth collecting if you can find them.

The final tally is here.

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