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A History of Narrative Film (Fourth Edition) Paperback – December 5, 2003

30 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0393978681 ISBN-10: 0393978680 Edition: 4th

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

David A. Cook is a Professor in the Department of Media Studies at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. He is the author of Lost Illusions: American Cinema in the Shadow of Watergate and Vietnam, 1970-1979 (University of California Press, 2002).

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 1120 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 4th edition (December 5, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393978680
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393978681
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 1.8 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,876 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

81 of 85 people found the following review helpful By Robert Jordan on April 24, 2004
Format: Paperback
I've been teaching college film studies courses for about twenty years and I have been using Cook's book that whole time. It's an amazing effort which covers over a century of cinema from virtually every corner of the globe. Each edition has become larger and more exhaustive. So now we come to the fourth edition and I start to wonder when do we get TOO large and exhaustive?
The book is over 900 pages long. There are twenty-one chapters. Too much for a semester-length course - probably too much for two courses! I'd estimate there are ten thousand names (film titles and filmmakers). As an instructor, I look at it all and ask myself where do I even begin cutting to make it manageable for my classes? As a student, I'd guess you would ask, "how much of what I'm paying for am I going to actually read and learn about?" Seventy dollars isn't too bad compared to other college books of this length, but if you only read a third of it...?
A lot of film classes, sadly, my own included, tend to give you the greatest hits - the same fifty or so classics and nothing more. Cook rejects this and offers you literally hundreds of films that sound fascinating and make you want to see them. However, he seems so concerned not to exclude anything, that he name-drops. He'll devote a section of the book to films from a particular country and you get the impression, he's never seen them himself. He's just including them so the book won't be incomplete. There's no easy answer. He could ignore that country's cinema entirely and someone would criticize that decision. Instead he goes on and on about films you'll never see and won't be learning anything about.
I have a few personal criticisms of the new edition.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Robert Jordan on November 27, 2011
Format: Paperback
Honestly, I didn't expect my San Diego State custom text to come up on Amazon, but since it is, I'll outline the edits. The book is used for a class that does NOT include any American cinema - I have also limited the chapters on 3rd world cinema and Asian cinema. I tried to reduce sections that were on films and filmmakers who you have never heard of and will never see. Is it biased? Yes, but I felt it was more important to show 8 1/2 than Blood of the Condor - sorry.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Thelonious on May 2, 2012
Format: Paperback
I did not buy this book for a class, but simply to read for pleasure - I found it quite readable and informative. I bought an older edition on the cheap and am quite pleased with my purchase.

Cook covers many important aspects of the film industry, from the beginnings up through the modern era (different editions naturally leave off at different points - I think mine is from the 90's). He discusses the technical, business and artistic aspects of the film industry and their interactions in some depth. For example, the discussion of competing sound technologies, the business decisions involved in the transition to sound and how those factors influenced what sorts of pictures got made was quite fascinating to me.

As someone with a fairly wide, but scattershot experience of films I found this book to be just about perfect in terms of the level of detail it goes into. It allowed me to place many of my favorite films into a broader, more structured context and to see their relation to film history much more clearly.

I would actually have appreciated it if the book were not limited to narrative film, since many of the earliest films were not narratives and the interplay between avant-garde and mainstream film would be covered in much more detail if non-narrative films were included.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By L. Mahayni on April 5, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book has a ton of information; but I challenge you to extract that information without pulling your hair out first. It was a required text for class and I dreaded every assignment from it. It has pages that are well organized and communicate information and interest very well. But, it also has pages and pages and pages that read like a first draft or outline, complete with unexplained tangents. The author and his editors have such a thorough knowledge of the subject that they miss the numerous and illogical side trips they make in the text. Side trips would be fine if the core message were clear. To be a truly effective teaching tool or an efficient reference, this book needs to be overhauled, restructured, redesigned, and re-indexed.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Terrific scholarly survey of narrative film, exploring developments around the world during different periods, touching on science, technology, technique, critique, business, social context, politics, and more. References a lot of names (people and films), expanding on those which hindsight has shown to be influential, otherwise listing names to illustrate the impact of that which came before (and with regards to 1990s and later, tentatively identifying patterns and potential sources of inspiration onwards). It is by no means a complete listing of even film titles though; as a history, the narrative of each chapter still comes first, so while the author makes breathless use of citations they are still chosen to support the topic and rough chronology of each chapter.

Note the publishing year though, not only can you not tell the scholarly history of something that hasn't happened yet, but there is also the dual problem of even recent events being too soon to put into a solid historical context, but also the problem of having so much more material to even attempt doing so. The book does a good job telling what it doesn't know, however (and it's a kind of fun to read about DVD as a last medium before the rise of internet distribution, or filmmakers still pretty much being the first generation/class to think of CGI as and integral tool as a physical camera (as opposed to seeing CGI as an add-on effect)).

It wouldn't make sense to say there can every be one definitive history of something as broad as narrative film, but if you could only have one book, this would be a great choice. If you can have more than one book, well, this is one you'd want included. If you're just doing casual research, add imdb and a few good books on whatever particular aspect of the field you're looking into--and don't forget access to a film library to see works firsthand!
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