The Sources

As I embark on this project, I’ll be drawing heavily on these sources.

Movie Classics (Allan Hunter, ed.), 1995 Laser Video Disc Companion (Douglas Pratt), A History of Narrative Film (David Cook)
Movie Classics (Allan Hunter, ed.), 1995 Laser Video Disc Companion (Douglas Pratt), A History of Narrative Film (David Cook)

These are just a few of the texts I read during my college years, and as I built my laserdisc collection. Notice that they’re not primarily works of film criticism. I have a stack of film-criticism collections on my desk right now, checked out from the library, but many of them cover films from the 1980s forward, and those that dip into earlier films don’t touch on many of the titles I own on laserdisc.

It’s the critical sensibility I’m after. In reading those film-criticism collections, the critic’s voice will become more familiar, and his or her underlying approach will become more apparent.

The three titles pictured here are simply the titles I’ve returned to most often over the years. David Cook’s A History of Narrative Film was formative in my film education, although my Second Edition (a later edition is pictured, for reasons of conveniece; an image of the older edition is harder to locate, and is much less attractive) predates much of the most interesting areas of contemporary global cinema, but it’s invaluable in understanding much of the canon of great films and filmmakers.

Doug Pratt’s passion for laserdiscs made his Laserdisc Newsletter a monthly treat, always devoured within hours of receiving it. His Laser Video Disc Companion compiles most of his published reviews to that time, although some are abbreviated from the original versions that appeared in the newsletter. Again, I’ve pictured the wrong edition. I have the 1995 companion, but could not find the cover image online. (We’ve just purchased a digital camera, but I haven’t used it yet and therefore couldn’t post my own photo of the cover image.)

The suspect entry here is Movie Classics, from the Chambers Encyclopedic Guides. I picked this up in the PBS store at Tyson’s Corner Mall many years ago, almost an afterthought. But its collection of one-page entries covering several important films proved worthy of frequent reference. The editor, Allan Hunter, is not a familiar name to me, but his introduction to this volume sums up its appeal: “The aim of this book is to provide an easy reference for those seeking a sense of the landmarks of world cinema and an instant aide-memoire for all those who have looked back in languor on the memory of a film that moved, informed, delighted or entertained them.”

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