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Includes the name: Ian Haydn Smith (author)

Also includes: Ian Smith (11)

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An easy to read, well constructed book providing a brief summary of many of my favourite writers and some of their best works. Well worth a look.
SarahEBear | 2 other reviews | Nov 24, 2023 |
Well Documented is probably the fifth or sixth book from Ian Haydn Smith I have read and, like the others, it does an excellent job of going into enough depth to give a good understanding of the topic under discussion without getting bogged down in details that are better left for more academic works. In this case, the reader comes away with an appreciation for the various ways of presenting a documentary, in fact, even a better understanding of what constitutes a documentary.

As a list it touches on various topics and perspectives, from different countries and documentarians both well-known and lesser known. The additional suggestions that accompany each entry offer additional films, which makes this a valuable resource for anyone with an interest in viewing a wide range of documentaries. If a reader has had an interest in documentaries for a while, many of these may already be familiar, but there are probably far more that all but the most dedicated hasn't seen and perhaps not even heard of.

This book has made me want to revisit some of the ones I have seen and see quite a few of the many I haven't seen. So I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys the genre and wants both viewing suggestions and a nice explanation of how some of them work.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
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pomo58 | Dec 3, 2022 |
FilmQuake: The Most Disruptive Films in Cinema, by Ian Haydn Smith, is a wonderful addition to the Culture Quake series. This is a history of film focusing on changes, or disruptions, rather than a narrative history that would spend a lot more time on periods of little change but great popularity.

The selection of films will be familiar to most readers who have studied film history, whether formally or informally. In other words, these are not, for the most part, films you haven't seen. If you love movies but haven't gone back to look at the history this will introduce you to some films you may not have seen. Going back to watch them isn't even really important if your interest is primarily in understanding how we progressed from the short reels to today's blockbusters, this book walks you through how each of these films helped move the art form toward where it is today.

The writing is very accessible, this is not an academic book. That said, it is not a book that just talks about how "god" or "bad" a film is. This is about context, historical and cultural, and change within the form.

For the reader who has some knowledge of film history this is still a valuable book. Only the most arrogant will claim they learned nothing they didn't know. Those things are facts, and those facts take on different importance when we consider them from different perspectives. So the self-proclaimed "well-versed" are more like trivia kings, they know facts but lack understanding. This book offers understanding, and even those of us who have used film in teaching can be reminded of context without the posturing of claiming "I learned nothing," leave that for the young posers.

A word about the movies included. I would guess that if you asked a bunch of film scholars to come up with 50 films that were disruptive, about 40 or so of these would be on every list. The other ten might not be on every list but each would likely be represented through the inclusion of a similar film. While I agree with the inclusion of Rome, Open City I think someone else could make the same point, within the context of this book, with a different Italian Neorealist film.

Also, this isn't about liking or disliking any given film. That is, for this book, completely beside the point. In fact, I have to wonder about someone who complains about Citizen Kane's inclusion because they don't like it but they, by their silence, must like Birth of a Nation. I can't stand Birth of a Nation but it included here because it is important in film history.

I could see myself, if I were still teaching, using this book as a supplemental text. Especially in a humanities course (as compared to a film department course) where the students likely won't go to film school and may not even take advantage of the film school courses as nonmajors. I would probably include a nice narrative history (a recent one I like is Dixon & Foster's A Short History of Film, 3e from Rutgers UP) as well as Gianetti's classic Understanding Movies. Combined with essays on topics I would want to focus on, these books would help the students see both the seamless appearance of film history as well as the disruptive history.

I would highly recommend this for both the cinephile with a lot of background as well as the casual reader who just wants to better understand how we got here. Even just as a list of important films to watch in your lifetime this would be a fun book.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
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pomo58 | Dec 2, 2021 |
I have a preference for cult writers, so I was already familiar many of the authors included in this book such as William Burroughs, Jim Thompson and Philip K. Dick. I look forward to reading some of the authors I was not as aware of. I fact, I would like to read the entire series including artists, filmmakers and musicians.
kerryp | 2 other reviews | Jul 4, 2020 |


½ 4.4

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