Looking at Movies: An Introduction to Film

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Press:W. W. Norton & Company W. W. Norton & Company; Bk&CD-Rom edition (January 1, 2003)
Publication Date:2003-08
Author Name:Richard M. Barsam
Edition:Bk&CD-Rom Edition


In using the work looking in the title of his introductory college-level film text, Barsam (emeritus, film studies, Hunter College) hopes to demonstrate that students need to actively examine relationships of form and content in cinema. 
Primarily focused on introducing film analysis, the text does include some discussion of film history, theory,


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Comment List (Total:7)

  •     Very good beginning text for college film students covering all of the expected topics and modern trends in film and film making.Highly accessible language.
  •     Barsam's is a welcome addition to the field of introductory film texts, superior in many respects to similar entries (Giannatti, Phillips, etc.). The style is reader-friendly but in no way condescending; the examples are generous and representative of classic as well as current developments; the coverage is comprehensive. Indeed, with the accompanying CD-Rom and Website, the text is a virtual encyclopedia of information about the cinema, thereby justifying its slightly higher price. Moreover, this is the first text that begins to realize many of the media-specific qualities of the subject it attempts to illuminate.This is a first edition, and understandably there are problems, some admittedly attributable to individual preferences. A few things I've noticed:1. The website can be "buggy," at least to a Macintosh operating system. Numerous "Java Script" messages are appearing along with failures to play visual and audio files. Even with the misfires, the website is the most impressive I've ever used in conjunction with a text. Because of it, an instructor need have no apologies about using a text that includes discussions of numerous films unknown to students and impossible to screen in class.2. The accompanying VCD contains valuable film examples but unfortunately doesn't include any clips from "Citizen Kane." I would hope that a future edition includes a DVD with Kane and other useful illustrative and instructive materials. Website information and quizzes often have too many technical glitches to make them effective time-savers for a teacher, who now must solve each student's difficulties with the website (the required 8-digit password doesn't help).3. Barsam uses much personal and arbitrary descriptive language that subsequently becomes "reified" in the quizzes about the components of film. As a result, the quiz becomes as much about remembering the specific language of the author and textbook as about the properties of a filmic element (equally true of the book's competitors).4. The order of topics will not appeal to every instructor. For example, the most basic element of film--the shot--isn't addressed until the discussion of photography in Chapter 4. Also, the attention to previously marginalized films and filmmakers can be quite uneven. African-American issues receive considerable space in several chapters in the book and on the website whereas feminist issues receive a couple of paragraphs. Moreover, there is very little consideration of "auteurism," the enabling and prevailing approach of academic cinema studies.5. The author's lack of experience with literary and composition issues is frequently apparent, though to the book's credit ample space is given to student writing. Still, the treatment of point of view in cinema becomes problematic, especially when the author refers to the camera's perspective as "omniscient." Also, the inclusion of an exemplary student essay, while extremely welcome, represents an unfortunate choice, in my opinion, since the essay is somewhat sophomoric, exhibits clumsy writing and omits a thesis(!).All in all, a promising production by Barsam and Norton. I look forward to giving it a test drive.
  •     University material indeed.
  •     It was in good shape, and I received it ontime.
  •     Just got this book and found it to be very well structured, with a comprehensive yet easy to understand language that made the material very compelling. It comes with a cd rom with film clips and it also offers website interactivity that supports and expands on the material covered by the book. The layout is very sleek and although a bit pricey ($ 70), this is what college textbooks go for now, so even at this price this book compares more than favorably to what's out there.
  •     This book is a good introduction into film analysis, in terms of giving definitions and following with commonly known examples from popular film culture. It was easy to learn from.
  •     I really don't know why this was a university level class. I guess they gotta get money out of you somehow

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