Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Book Review: The History Of Independent Cinema by Phil Hall
Phil Hall’s recent The History Of Independent Cinema is a captivating look at the world of film from a different perspective than is customary. For those who may think of independent film’s “early days” as John Water’s Pink Flamingos, or even those by Andy Warhol, this book may come as a bit of a surprise.
The History Of Independent Cinema traces the origins of the art form all the back to the very first films ever produced. In fact, the semantics get a little tricky, because all films were by definition independent before the rise of the major studios.
Hall does an excellent job of describing the politics, and basic chicanery inherent in the rise of the big studios. Ruthless actions have been a hallmark of Hollywood since the very beginning. The first half of the book is a somewhat heroic story of autonomous underdogs trying to hold their own against a monopolistic system.
As a contributing editor to Film Threat magazine, author Phil Hall certainly knows his stuff. This book is filled with titles I had never heard of before, along with brief descriptions which encourage me to check many of them out. Films such as Nanook Of The North (1922), or Meshes Of The Afternoon (1942) sound fascinating, as does Carnival Of Souls (1962).
One of the more intriguing aspects of the book are the various “10 Most Important Independent Films Of All Time” sections. Hall has solicited seven of his peers to contribute their choices, with notes. Each entry follows a chapter. The various lists make for an interesting comparison.
It is probably unsurprising that the lists contain many well-known and recent titles in the genre. Reservoir Dogs, Night Of The Living Dead, and Easy Rider all make numerous appearances. And while they are all great, I think the real value in this book is in the more obscure titles you may find.
In any event, The History Of Independent Cinema is a story of a different Hollywood than the one we usually hear about. It is a riveting tale and a reminder that there is almost always something exciting bubbling just under the surface of the mainstream.