If you're looking for one small but concise book covering German cinema from its beginning until 2007, I heartily recommend the second edition of 'German National Cinema' by Sabine Hake. I own her fine study about popular cinema during the Third Reich and this one also doesn't disappoint. There's a chapter on different periods (Weimar, Nazi, post-war, East German, etc.) that are examined from historical, cultural, and political points of views and why she explains why certain films and their stars were popular or not with audiences and reviewers. You'll also find material on directors such as Lang, Murnau, Lubitsch, Harlan, Herzog, and others. Hake's writing is not stuffy or overly academic but to the point. You won't find detailed plot summaries or biographies of those who worked in front of and behind the camera, but you'll find enough info in her capsule summaries to help you if you're not familiar with certain films and people. Every type of film (heimat, mountain, expressionist, street, rubble, etc) is identified and their best known examples are cited. She presents more of an overview instead of detailed analyses and good film stills compliment her writing.
There are a few mistakes that need addressing starting with typos or mistranslations. Director Erik Charell of the Weimar classic DER KONGRESS TANTZ is referred to as Eric Charell. The Hollywood disaster film THE TOWERING INFERNO appears as THE FLAMING INFERNO, a funny redundancy that still gives me a good laugh. The American silent THE LAST COMMAND starring Emil Jannings is referred to as HIS LAST COMMAND.
One error Hake makes about Max Ophuls' LIEBELEI is that its English title is LA RONDE; LIEBELEI was made in 1932 and LA RONDE was made in 1950 and in France, two different stories by the same director. She is wrong stating "Murnau completed only two projects in Hollywood - SUNRISE (1927) and TABU (1931) - before his premature death." He also completed FOUR DEVILS (1928), a circus story starring Janet Gaynor and now lost, and CITY GIRL (1930), originally called OUR DAILY BREAD but it was reworked by others and included sound sequences shot after he left Fox Films. A rough cut of his version was discovered in 1970.
Forgetting these small mistakes, Hake's book should find a place in anyone's collection of German cinema books. I bought a good used copy from one of Amazon's sub sellers as I do with most of my film books. Make sure it's the second edition from wherever you purchase it. It's unfortunate these errors from the first edition are still present, but don't let those stop you from ordering it.
Professor Hake's book is part of the Routledge series on "national" cinemas, an attribute either redundant or misleading, especially in the German case. The author does well in not entering a discussion (ab ovo or Herder) in simply writing a history of German cinema.
This is quite a task given the limited space allocated by the series, and the very tight font and typeset further giving it the look of a straightjacket. Counter, for example, to Eric Rentschler's Ministry of Illusion on Nazi cinema. This is actually a plea for a longer, more spread out text and a looser format.
Professor Hake's certainly got both enough material for such a version and a solid analytical base. The way, for example, she analyses the (new) Frauenfilm in the context of the Oberhausner Manifest and follow-ups may not make feminists very happy, but it is undoubtedly an objective assessment.
So plenty of information and explicit opinions - Peter Bondanella's Italian Cinema comes to mind, and the hope that this text, unnecessarily constrained and partly misnomered, may lead to and end up in a similar format. There is enough material and sufficient clarity on facts to warrant such a venture. And new generations wanting to know!
fbus48 - Sabine Hake, German National Cinema, 2008 (2002) - 17/7/2012 `
This is really the first work to review German national film as a whole, rather then discuss the twenties, the forties and then the New German Cinema. This coherent work suffers only from an enormous task at hand and too little space to do it. Her sections on Heimat film bring new ideas to the table and the book is intelligently written.