Sunday, September 23, 2018

Kristin Thompson, David Bordwell: Film History. An Introduction. Fourth Edition (2018) (a book)

Kristin Thompson, David Bordwell: Film History: An Introduction. Fourth Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2018. 780 p., 28 cm, ISBN: 9781260084856.

Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell's Film History, originally published in 1994, is now in its fourth edition, thoroughly updated. It tells the full story from early cinema (and pre-cinema) to the latest digital developments. A U.S. bias is obvious and transparent, but this is a genuinely global story, paying attention to all film-producing continents.

I will not have read all these large 780 pages any time soon, but I register the amazing update of a reliable textbook. I have consulted our library copy and will need to acquire a personal copy probably in the loose leaf format (130 USD) which I then will need to put into a binder.

David Bordwell is one of my favourite commentators on the digital revolution. Pandora's Digital Box (2012) is one of the key overviews of the great change. I take a liberty of copying a sample from Film History, in the belief of acting fairly, as this is the excerpt published by Thompson & Bordwell themselves in their blog Observations on Film Art:

Kristin Thompson, David Bordwell: Film History Fourth Edition (2018), p. 723: "Digital convergence worked hand in hand with global­ization and the power of the American studios. The top Hollywood pictures were successful in most countries, and they could be delivered on many platforms. But in the swift media churn, with new formats coming up all the time, would traditional filmmaking die?"

"Evidently not. For one thing, the number of feature films was surging. In 2002, the world made over 4,000 fea­ture films. In 2016, that number was over 7600. This vast output included blockbusters, modest independent films, and every form in between. The boom took place in the face of home video, cable, satellite, DVD, Blu-ray, VOD, and streaming. It happened despite the fact that a handful of American blockbusters ruled nearly every national market."

"But perhaps theaters, the public side of film culture, were in danger? Just the opposite. Screen growth was robust through the 2010s. In 2016, the world had over 163,000 screens. Even without counting the millions of television monitors, computers, and mobile devices, there were far more movie screens than ever before. And plenty of people wanted to visit them. The year 2015 set a record high in worldwide attendance, 7.4 billion admis­sions. This amounted to about one ticket for every man, woman, and child on Earth."

"Digital convergence, boosted by globalization, encour­aged the spread of cinema. Personal computers, the Inter­net, mobile phones, game consoles, tablets, and portable music devices initially could not display films, but all were eventually adjusted to do that. Film wriggled its way into every media device that came along. From broadcast tele­vision and videotape to DVD and streaming, films spread beyond the theater. They entered our living rooms and went with us anywhere. Today, more people are watching more hours of motion pictures than at any other time in history. As newer technologies emerge, we suspect that they too will serve the cinematic traditions that have devel­oped over 120 years."
Kristin Thompson, David Bordwell: Film History Fourth Edition (2018), p. 723

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