At the time of its birth just over a century ago, the cinema was greeted as a kind of universal language -- the first one that mankind had enjoyed since the complications of Babel and their aftermath. But this universal language soon developed a special language of its own, a professional jargon made up of words borrowed from the theatre, the factory and the laboratory, plundered from other arts and other nations or coined in the heat and hurry of film-making. The Language of Cinema provides a fascinating set of paths into this rich argot, sampling some 2000 of the most important words associated with the technology, business and skills of film-making, from the A and B roll printing and the auteur theory to Z-movies. As well as providing succinct definitions of those exotic terms that often baffle audiences when they roll up in end credits (what is Best Boy? A wrangle? A Swing Gang? A Key Grip?), or perplex readers of film reviews (what is film noir? Screwball comedy? a process shot? a Dutch angle? a travelling matte?)
, it also offers a brief history of each major word, illustrating how such terms came into being and how some of these terms have often been picked up by the world at large and used in everyday speech. Informative for the non-specialist film-buff and mere film-goer, entertaining for film professionals, The Language of Cinema is also essential reading for anyone interested in the story of how moving pictures have changed the way we speak, write and read as well as the way we see.
KEVIN JACKSON has wide experience of television and radio as producer, writer and presenter. He was associate arts editor of the Independent and is currently film critic for the Independent on Sunday and a freelance writer, broadcaster and lecturer. For Carcanet he edited 'The Humphrey Jennings Film Reader' (1993). He also edited 'The Oxford Book of Money' (1995) and his most recent title is 'Letters of Introduction' (Carcanet, 2004)