Monday, July 18, 2016

Brooks on Books: Filmish

"Filmish: A Graphic Journey Through Film" by Edward Ross is an amazing read. The Scottish writer/artist uses a graphical storytelling format (it's like a comic book!) to explore film theory. It's like all the highbrow parts of your college Intro to Film Study but with a ton of kick-ass illustrations.

Actually, I am being way too flip describing the book like that. This is a compelling and enlightening work with much to appeal to novices and scholars alike. Ross provides a clever structure by looking at the medium through 7 distinct aspects, each one given its own chapter: eye, body, technology, sets, time, power and ideology, and voice and language. The non-chronological approach is a great way to dive into the possibilities of the medium.

"Filmish" reminds me of Scott McCloud's seminal works on comic books--a narrator whom we see in the pages takes us through the "story" and offers much food for thought while explaining the foundations of film theory. Ross covers everything from Hollywood to Nollywood and includes a broad range of cinematic works in his panels. He scatters interesting bits of trivia throughout as well. There is meticulous documentation for everything so that we not only see where the quotes come from, but if we don't recognize a shot or person in the artwork, we can easily find out its origin.

I think even serious cineastes who know the works cited here will appreciate the way Ross synthesizes all this material. Newcomers should get a real kick out of it. I found the chapter on power and ideology particularly provocative. Ross doesn't try to force his own opinions through, but he does ask many questions while challenging the reader to consider all sorts of issues that are easy to overlook when sitting in front of the tube with a bowl of popcorn.

I should emphasize, though, that while the book covers some serious ground with its discussion of issues like sexism and racism, and it draws on many academic perspectives, it's a lot of fun. I highly recommend "Filmish" to lovers of movies, comics, and especially both.

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