Magill's survey of cinema, foreign language films /

Other Authors: Magill, Frank Northen, 1907-
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: Englewood Cliffs, N.J. : Salem Press, c1985.
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Review by Choice Review

This companion to the two sets of Magill's Survey of Cinema: English Language Films (1980) and the Magill's Survey of Cinema: Silent Films (1982) is virtually identical to its fellows in format and quality. The mixture of plot summary and critical comment is particularly appropriate for basic reference introductions to a body of work largely unfamiliar to Americans. Approximately 700 foreign films are treated in individual essays of from two to five pages each. The eighth volume consists entirely of indexes-by title, director, screenwriter, cinematographer, editor, art director, composer (called the ``music index''), performer, subject, and country of origin. These indexes should greatly facilitate the study of foreign film from a variety of perspectives. The most serious shortcoming of this set is the omission of any discussion about the criteria for selection of the films reviewed or the qualifications of the reviewers. Such discussion was included in the other Magill sets but here there is only a superficial two-page preface surveying the great films and directors of the world. Nevertheless, the quality of the summary/critiques is equal to that of the other volumes and will serve as a very convenient introduction for the unfamiliar.-W. Miller, Bowling Green State University

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review

With this fourth installment of eight volumes, Magill has completed his cinematic survey series. In all, the four base sets cover almost 2,300 films and are kept up-to-date by the Magill's Cinema Annual, which began in 1982 with coverage of 1981 films. Librarians familiar with other parts of the series (English Language Films, First Series see RSBR, January 1, 1982 and Second Series, four and six volumes, 1980 and 1981, respectively; and Silent Films, three volumes, 1982) will find few surprises in these latest volumes that cover 700 films in languages other than English. As in the other sets, Foreign Language Films presents films alphabetically by title, using the name by which a film is best known, i.e., La Cage aux Folles but Beauty and the Beast, not La Belle et la Bte. For each, country of origin, credits, and principal characters/cast are provided followed by a signed, three- to four-page essay that provides a plot summary and critical comments. The time span covered is from the early 1930s through the early 1980s. As might be expected, France, Germany, Sweden, and Japan are the predominant countries of origin, although there are some unexpected finds, e.g., four films from Senegal. No real indication of selection criteria is presented, but popularity in the U.S. and critical acclaim both clearly played a part in compilation. In other words, most of the ``standards'' are here along with some not-so-familiar movies. Since the essays were written by a total of 180 contributors, some emphasize critical reception over the plot, or camera technique over critical reception, or the reasons for the film's popularity in the U.S., etc. Clearly, some are more interestingly written than others and a few suffer from the kind of hyperbole sometimes found in writing on the arts, e.g., Last Tango in Paris ``is still an ice ax breaking the frozen sea inside us.'' On the whole, though, the commentary gives the reader an idea of the movie and its relative importance. A definite strength is the excellent indexing by title, director, screenwriter, cinematographer, editor, art director, composer, performer, and subject. The separate index volume ends with films by country and by year. All in all, Foreign Language Films provides good coverage of its topic and will be suitable for public and academic libraries.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.