Customer Reviews: The Major Film Theories: An Introduction (Galaxy Book; Gb450)
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on January 12, 2004
My main issue with this book is that the title ("An Introduction") implies that the book is for anyone with an interest in film theory. However, the author sometimes goes into nearly-impenetrable technical jargon. I would disagree with the assertion that this book is easy to understand.
For instance, from page 57 comes the sentence: "In Piaget's terms, he [Eisenstein] wanted cinema to become or to produce a 'global syncretism of individual transductive inferences.'" And this is supposed to be an introduction? (You may be able to view page 57 through's "Search inside the book" feature.) I found myself re-reading paragraphs a few times to try to comprehend what was being said. I would recommend this book as a good survey of film theory for readers who have already had exposure to film theory and have some background in philosophy, psychology, and linguistics.
Another problem is that the book was published in 1976, so roughly 25% of film theory history is missing. An updated or revised edition is needed. It would be interesting to see if/how the recent Dogme 95 movement fits into film theory history.
This book might be valuable to film students or film geeks who've read other books about film theory, but for the average reader, this isn't the best "introduction" on the subject.
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on January 25, 2002
J. Dudley Andrew covers the ideas of 10 major theoreticians of film in this readable introduction (Hugo Munsterberg, Rudolf Arnheim, Sergei Eisenstein, Bela Balazs, Siegfried Kracauer, Andre Bazin, Jean Mitry, Christian Metz, Amedee Ayfre, Henri Agel). It is great for readers who are interested in the development of film theory and want a manageable book that follows it through in a structured way, and discusses each person's views in the context of previous thinkers'. Each chapter considers four topics of each theorist: The basic material of film, the process that gives the material significance, the forms, and the purpose or value of film. It doesn't cover much beyond the 1970s, but as an introduction, it sufficiently covers giant figures like Eisenstein, Kracauer, and Bazin.
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on June 16, 2001
D.Andrew has done an excellent job explaining the major film theories that have helped legitimize film as an art form. Not only does he explain the different ideological camps of the early twentieth century, but most importantly he clearly connects them to contemporary structural french theorists. it is an excellent introduction for the film theorist novice.
I also strongly recommend reading "The subject of Semiotics" by Kaja Silverman and "Superstructuralism" by Richard Harland. Both of these books will help understand why cinema is probably the most powerful medium through which art and mass consumerist culture are able to collide effectively thereby creating a powerful arena to experience meaning.
It is truly an essential book that should be read by anyone who is interested in thinking, period.
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on March 4, 2006
First, the strengths: Andrew gives intelligent summaries and discussion of some major historical film theorists, with chapters on Munsterberg, Arnheim, Eisenstein, Balazs, Kracauer, Bazin, Mitry, Metz, and Ayfre, and Agel. He focuses on the debate between the formalists (who believe film art is defined by its formal properties including editing, framing, mise-en-scene, lighting, and etc.) and the realist tradition (who believe that film art is defined by its basis in photography, a physical impression of its subject). The highlight is undoubtedly Andrew's excellent discussion of the great French critic Andre Bazin, which is not surprising since Andrew's Ph.D thesis was on Bazin. The weaknesses: This was published in 1976, and so it completely ignores the vast body of criticism published since then, especially feminism, and the influence of Lacan and psychoanalytic theory. Still, this is not a bad starting point for students of film theory.
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on July 24, 2003
For people interested in the theory and psychology of cinema, this is a great starting point and is a must have in any collection. J. Dudley Andrew breaks down the theories of Mitry, Metz, Arheim, and Bazin, among others, into easy to understand chapters without losing the essense of the theories. This book and the material are both so interesting that this will have you hooked on film theory. Instead of purchasing the individual books by each theorist, Andrew's book is the way to go in more ways than one. It is very easy to understand, which some books on film theory aren't, and he uses great quotes from each of the theorists. Andrew followed this up with "Concepts in Film Theory" which is the opposite of this book. It is much more difficult to understand and follow so beware.
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on February 28, 2006
Just as the book states, this is an introduction to film theories; and as such it fulfills its promise. The explanations and discussions are almost always clear, at times somewhat rarefied, but overall an authentic book.
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on August 21, 2002
A great book, does exactly what it says on the cover, admittedly thirty years or so old, it still grapples sipmly with the theorie's you'd want to be introduced to if you've no idea what you're doing by looking at different theorists' views and counterviews. This book won't tell you what to think, it'll give you a set of arguments and let you decide where you go with it . . . in my humble opinion . . .
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