Filmish is the first book written by British author Edward Ross and it’s a graphic novel about cinema released in 2015. Divided into seven chapters, it deals with various topics and mentions dozens of films (as well as referencing the work of many film critics) with an attractive style which manages to make not necessarily simple concepts easy to understand. The author develops a discourse that starts from L’arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat by the Lumière brothers (1896) but soon leaves the chronological order in order to be able to freely develop the themes dear to him. For me, this book provided a very interesting journey into cinema and I recommend reading it without a shadow of a doubt.
What are the themes of the book? As said, there are seven of them:
- The eye. Here not only does the author reflect on the power of the camera which can show things invisible to the naked eye but which at the same time can deceive that same eye, but also writes about the role of the protagonist’s gaze and the consequences it has on the way we see the world through cinema. I cannot but mention the reference to Halloween (1978) in which John Carpenter forces us to share the murderer’s point of view in the first scene!
- The body. This chapter is dedicated to the role of the human body in the history of cinema and of course there are references to revolutionary films such as Freaks (1932) and Alien (1979)!
- Scenography and architecture. Here we go from Intolerance (1916) to Escape from New York (1981) without forgetting Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, 1920).
- The weather. The author indulges himself in talking both of films shot in real time and of daring / revolutionary montages (above all, the scene of the staircase in Bronenosets Potyomkin, Battleship Potemkin, 1925), to get to films with time travels like La Jetée (1962) and, inevitably, 12 Monkeys (1995).
- The voice and the language. In this chapter Charlie Chaplin is prominently featured with his The Great Dictator (1940), but as in the rest of the book references abound to much more recent films such as Pontypool (2008) or The Dark Knight (2008).
- Power and ideology. With a title like that, of course John Carpenter’s They Live (1988) can be found here! I also found out under what conditions the American army helps film productions that want to use their vehicles and personnel (as it happened, for example, with the horrible Top Gun by Tony Scott, 1986). It’s worth reading the book if only to know about this!
- Technology and technophobia. The final chapter highlights the key contradiction of cinema that has always used technology and progress but at the same time has produced hundreds of films that warn about the dangers associated with that same progress: among the many examples mentioned by author, here’s The Terminator (1984) and Splice (2010)!
To conclude, I think that Filmish is a well-written book that develops a logical and well-constructed discourse on many aspects of cinema. The comics format helps to sustain the text and Edward Ross shows that he has studied film literature and has assimilated it well by using the references to other authors in a timely and functional way to support his thesis. I close this review, which is more of an invitation to read the book in fact, with an image of the (Spanish version of the) book that demonstrates how the vignettes help clarify the sometimes non-trivial themes of Filmish.