The Mysteries of Cinema: Movies and Imagination

Thames & Hudson. Apr. 2021. 320p. ISBN 9780500022993. $39.95. FILM
In this volume of essays, Australian film critic Conrad probes the imaginative and mysterious aspects of cinema. To illustrate his points, he often refers to key elements of cinema, such as movement and change. Chapters entitled “Fantastic Voyages” and “Wheels and Wings” examine depictions of travel and transport, tools that filmmakers use to provide audiences with novel experiences. Other chapters delve further into the fantastical, such as “In the Realm of Hermes,” which uses the Greek deity as a metaphor for film’s tendency to distort and fabricate reality, often in pursuit of more philosophical truths. Conrad displays encyclopedic knowledge of his field but tends to digress into hagiographic musings and colorful observations instead of providing clear and straightforward arguments. As a result, the main points of the chapters can be elusive and the overall structure of the book feels somewhat weak. Readers familiar with Conrad’s work may find this collection enlightening, but as an overview of cinema it offers little clarity.
VERDICT Academic libraries that wish to expand their film criticism section might consider this work, but general collections should avoid it.
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