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REVIEW: Filmish

A cliché of post-graduates is that they remember university in the same way everyone else remembers school. The friends, the independence, the nights-out and the ensuing hangovers make one feel watery in the eye with nostalgia. What they aren’t so keen to remember is the work. The lectures that would start first thing in the morning, scribbling out essays with no real clue as to what exactly your scribbling and lecturers clumping together deadlines on the same dates. For me, I miss a bit of everything noted above, which makes me even more mournful that I couldn’t have had Edward Ross‘ wonderful Filmish on my recommended texts.

Filmish is Ross’ idiosyncratic take on the basics of film, a guide that takes the reader from the earliest stages of film-making as both a form of art and a form of technology right up to the present day. On the surface, Filmish acts as no different to any other introductory book-length text on the subject of film, but what separates Ross’ book from every other text (trust me, I burdened myself with studying creative writing with film for three years, I’ve read ALL those bloody brick-like texts!) is the manner in which Ross exudes his enthusiasm for the subject.

Split into seven chapters, “The Eye”, “The Body”, “Sets and Architecture”, “Time”, “Voice and Language”, “Power and Ideology” and “Technology and Technophobia”, Ross utilizes illustrations of key films as references to back up his muscular, confident description of the individual aspects of film. It’s as if Ross wrote this as a word-only book, and then took it to another level thanks to his vivid yet economical graphics.

I recall my brain turning to slush in those early days of university, when page after page from book after book on film would blend together into an incoherent jumble of academic ramblings. Filmish is something of an antidote to that jumbling. Ross’ elegant, black and white illustrations illuminate his teachings and stay fresh in the mind, meaning that Filmish is an effective read as both an educational piece of work as well as a joyous read for film buffs in general.

In true academic fashion, Filmish‘s back pages contain a multitude of texts that expand on Ross’ initial points, furthering the books’ educational credentials. But beyond being a book that would serve any film studies fresher extremely well, Filmish is a thoroughly handsome love letter to film in all its elements. Ross clearly has an indestructible understanding of the ins and outs of film in its many forms. He elaborates eloquently on film as a developing form of technology, a form of creative expression, a tool for propaganda, an enforcer of ideology and a prediction of the future.

Filmish is light enough to work as a serious academic text and a quick-footed tumble down the rabbit hole of film, but either way, this is definitely something I encourage my old uni to consider sticking on the curriculum.

Does Filmish send you scurrying to your film collection, or does it wish you’d never chosen to study the subject? Let us know in the comments section below or send us a Tweet!

About the author

Fred McNamara