Introduction to Film Studies

November 8, 2012

Introduction to Film Studies

Editor: Jill Nelmes

Edition: Fifth

Publisher: Routledge/Taylor and Francis

Pages: 536

Price: £80.00 and £26.99

ISBN: 9780415582575 and 2599

In the 16 years since it was first published, Routledge's Introduction to Film Studies (edited throughout by Jill Nelmes) has established itself as one of the most comprehensive and accessible guides on the subject, reappearing in new editions every three or four years. It has expanded less than one might expect. From the 466 pages of the first edition, the second jumped to 522; but this latest edition, the fifth, runs only slightly longer at 536. (The page size and typeface - the ever-readable Helvetica - haven't changed.)

The contents, though, have metamorphosed a good deal - some of them, anyway. In Part V, now called "Cinema, nation and national identity", Mark Joyce's chapter on "The Soviet montage cinema of the 1920s" has remained a permanent fixture, virtually unchanged since the first edition. But "The New German cinema", present in the first two editions, had vanished by the third; "The French new wave" came and went, as is the way of waves; "Latin American cinema" makes a triumphal entry in the latest edition; and both "British cinema" and "Indian cinema" have undergone multiple revisions and updates.

Elsewhere in the book, it's good to see Hayao Miyazaki introduced as a case study in Paul Wells' chapter on animation, even if it's meant the loss of The Ren and Stimpy Show. (Chuck Jones fans can relax: Duck Amuck is still here.) Patrick Phillips' chapter 1 on "Rediscovering film studies" in the fourth edition has been relegated to chapter 3 and reworked as "Before getting to the bigger picture". And the nervous, popularising sentence with which Nelmes began her first-edition introduction, "We all enjoy watching films, whether in the cinema or on TV", has long since been replaced by the more forthright "Introduction to Film Studies is more than a guide to studying film, it is a celebration of the medium and our desire to understand this complex form".

But enough of comparisons. What will this year's tyro film studies students, the book's most likely buyers or borrowers, find in the latest edition? Good, lucid, jargon-free prose, for a start. A clear, accessible layout and a generous helping of stills. A wide and imaginative range of examples, from Christopher Harris' experimental Reckless Eyeballing (2004) to Brian de Palma's Mission Impossible (1996), from Alexander Dovzhenko's Arsenal (1929) to James Cameron's Avatar (2009). Intelligent, open discussions that come at their subject from multiple angles without talking down, all intended to arouse enthusiasm and spark curiosity. A comprehensive 21-page glossary and an equally extensive bibliography. And, no less valuable, links to the book's own website and numerous other online resources, encouraging students to explore further. Altogether, Nelmes' volume remains as informative, stimulating and invaluable as ever.

Who is it for? Film studies students, especially, although not exclusively, those in their first year.

Presentation: Clearly laid out, lucidly written and accessible.

Would you recommend it? Every first-year film student should be encouraged to buy a copy.

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