PERFORMING ARTS

Cinema ’62: The Greatest Year at the Movies

Rutgers Univ. Mar. 2020. 270p. ISBN 9781978808829. $34.95. FILM
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There’s nothing film devotees enjoy more than debating “bests”—directors, actors, movies, and more. Among the usual suspects for the best year for cinema are 1939, 1967, and even 1999, but this book declares that 1962 was the greatest and potentially most pivotal year for American and international film. Farber (Outrageous Conduct) and McClellan (formerly, senior vice president, Landmark Theatres) have decades of experience as critics and unabashed fans of film, yet their knowledge and extensive research cannot save the text from dry, academic writing and a lackluster organization that makes each chapter feel like a separate essay (on, for instance, great films from the old guard, or films adapted from literature). The case for 1962 can certainly be made with socially provocative films such as Lawrence of Arabia, To Kill a Mockingbird, Lolita, and The Manchurian Candidate, yet the authors bolster their argument with dozens of other entries, including David and Lisa and A Taste of Honey, largely overlooked by the general public.
VERDICT Despite Farber and McClellan’s valiant efforts, overall this is a book best left to film students and critics.

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