A Grammar of the Film

Just opened up A Grammar of the Film, by Raymond Spottiswoode, and was amused by some bits of the preface.

The book was written and published around 1935, but this edition was published in 1950, with a rather self-deprecating preface by the author, who refers to his younger self in the third person.

Some bits of the preface that I particularly liked:

“…television offers a flat and melancholy reminder in many an American home that personality cannot be projected through the ether by a mere representation of the actor’s face and gestures.” (p. 4) [I suppose it can be projected better through the air of a movie theatre?]

“It seems unhappily true that Hollywood films will prove to be the dinosaur of the arts, immense in physical scale, feeble in wits, ponderously unchangeable when new conditions like the advent of television arise.” (p. 5)

“…the author is exceedingly wary about the advantages of color (except in animated films) because he fears that it will prove yet another step on the road backward to a mere imitation of life.” (p. 6)

“It is when he arrives at the subject of sound that our author’s hair-splitting logic becomes most perplexing. […] It may be useful, therefore, to try to disentangle what the author has to say from the brambles of logic on which it is caught.” (p. 7)

“Gazing out of his study from between his piles of books onto Oxford’s tree-shaded walks and quiet serenity, the world seems a disorderly place, needing the preachments of a professor to set it to rights. Later he may have learned that life does not fit itself into neat compartments, that at all times it is subject to violent whims and changes, and that the arts themselves are the least predictable of human creations.” (pp. 12–13)

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