Non-Fiction  > History, Science, Religion & Politics


Filmish Filmish Filmish

Filmish back

Edward Ross


Page 45 Review by Jonathan

"You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? Then who the hell else are you talking... you talking to me? Well I'm the only one here."

Eh dear, I do amuse myself sometimes. Right, got my Travis Bickle moment out of the way, let's try that again.

"As film-making evolved and narrative cinema developed, the nature of performance changed. Legend has it that film-making pioneer D.W. Griffith invented the close-up to better reveal the beauty of his leading lady. The implications of this were enormous. No longer shot only at a distance, the subtlest facial movements were now as important as grand gestures, and actors were forced to become "maestros of their facial muscles and eye movement."

Which as we all know reached its zenith with Roger Moore's eyebrow...

In years to come, when someone does a graphic novel entitled Comicish, I suspect Edward Ross and this work will rate a substantial mention in the first-person talking-head non-fictional comics-as-means-of-explanation chapter. Pioneered by Scott UNDERSTANDING COMICS / MAKING COMICS / REINVENTING COMICS McCloud, more recently championed by Darryl PSYCHIATRIC TALES / SCIENCE TALES / SUPERCRASH Cunningham and Steve Haines & Sophie Standing's PAIN IS REALLY STRANGE / TRAUMA IS REALLY STRANGE , this is as in-depth a treatise on a topic as any prose work could be. And just like Darryl's SUPERCRASH this is far more entertaining and dare I say it, clear, than any prose equivalent could ever possibly be.

After all, cinema, like comics, is a visual medium. The only real differences between the two these days are the scale of ridiculous expense and armies of people that seem to be required to make a film. Although judging by how many artists often seem to be credited on a single volume of a DC superhero title - I have seen upwards of twenty artists which for six issues is frankly baffling - that perhaps isn't 100% true. And clearly, there are still some independent film makers doing it on a shoe string with aplomb and getting the plaudits they rightly deserve.

But like comics, film for the masses has undoubtedly gone through an extraordinary evolutionary process, from its very humble beginnings back in the late 19th century to the sophisticated, nigh-on fully immersive medium it is today. Edward breaks down this journey into seven elements or themes: The Eye (camera work), The Body (specifically film's approach to the human body itself), Sets and Architecture, Time, Voice and Language, Power and Ideology, Technology and Technophobia, and explores how each has developed, citing various examples of ground-breaking leaps forward and key moments in cinematic history.

Many of these choices, with the scenes illustrated exactly as on the big screen, albeit in Edward's lovely clear, black-and-white art style, with his sage head inserted, will be familiar to even the casual cinephile, which I think is one of the great pleasures of this work. You'll be nodding your head knowingly in recognition at the scene in question, before Edward then goes on to explain the relevance of his selection in cogently making his technical point. Obviously, many of the late 19th and early 20th century choices are completely unfamiliar except to those who have studied film extensively, as Edward has to Ph.D. level, but his exposition is so clearly delivered, it's just a pleasure to let him educate you on the rich history of early cinema as well. You can see just how much hard work has gone into this, and I think it succeeds admirably on every level.