Sunday, April 23, 2006

Book Corner, April 23 2006

I've picked up a fun little book called A short history of the movies; by Gerald Mast. A cursory bit of research indicates it's out of print;I guess that means I got a good deal on it at 75 cents in a used bookshop in nyc.

It's always fun to read a history by someone with an axe to grind, and Mast definitely has a strong point of view. What's so amusing is that's he's completely unafraid to call a film,(or even a director) crap.

I'm only about a third of the way through right now, but the early part of the book covers the creation of film as an industry in very thorough detail. It's a story that should be pretty familiar to anyone who pays attention to the development of the internet, and I'm sure many other industries...essentially, the early years are characterized by numerous attempts to control the entire market - monopoly, patent battles, collusion, vertical integration, industry "coalitions" designed to keep everyone else out. Big players spending years locked in court battles while small players eat their bacon and leave them behind...

[I work for Paramount, indirectly, and the Paramount Corporation was there right in the very beginning, a descendent of a company called "Famous Players in Famous Plays" - an "independent" company, not a signator to the "trust" which required theater owners to only get films from trust members..... so whatever complaints we may have at the office, the staying power of the company can't be denied.]

I've been reading a lot about D.W.Griffith in the last fifty pages or so...I knew about Birth of a Nation and Intolerance but I didn't realize Griffith had worked as a hired hand for Edison pictures for a few years, first as an actor and the director. As a director he made a new, single reel film EVERY WEEK. He used that time essentially as a lab to figure out how motion picture storytelling worked, and in the process created many of the conventions we still use today. One of his features was called Broken Blossoms. The title is extremely similar to Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers, but just from the descriptions I've read I don't immediately cotton the connection.

I'll add more once I finish the book, right now it's just making me want to line up everything made before 1930 you can get from Netflix.

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