Chatto & Windus £18.9

In Glorious Technicolor: A Century of Film and How it Has Shaped Us, By Francine Stock with Stephen Hughes

A personal take on how we are what we watch

In 1916, US cinemas received instruction on the purpose of film: "I stir the blood, I quicken the pulse, I encourage the imagination, I stimulate the young, I comfort and I solace the old and sorrowing...I am the motion picture."

At this fundamental level, even Transformers 2 fulfils part of that brief, but how and why do movies affect audiences, and what do they tell us about the times in which they're made? It's surprising how few good books there are about the relationship between watchers and the watched.

Stock's approach is to examine three key films from each decade, picking them apart to understand their influence, and adding examples along the way. The title could also be reversed to point out how our hopes and fears have shaped film. Choices at the outset include The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, The General and Scarface, where we see that the need for artifice and the desire to emulate continually cross each other. When movies aren't scanning the real world for copycat behaviour, the exact opposite is happening.

If Spellbound reflected an increased interest in the subconscious and Invasion of the Body Snatchers unveiled our fear of losing our identity, are films just "the dreams we dream of having"? Do directors knowingly provoke their audiences, or do we believe Body Snatchers director Don Siegel when he shakes off any suggestion that his movie was intended as an allegory?

With the Sixties came empowerment via the freewheeling youthful energy of Bande à Part, but the disillusioned Seventies are represented by Carrie and Annie Hall, not The Parallax View or Three Days of the Condor. Stock makes surprisingly little reference to the impact of Easy Rider, dismissing it as a failure (although my entire class watched it repeatedly and obsessively, allowing it to shape their world view). Film studies let you build an intelligent argument for virtually any film to represent its era, but at some point personal taste kicks in with the recognition that the most unlikely films may have gained access to your heart.

At this point it becomes hard to tell what effect the author is striving for. If the intention is to show that cinema's practitioners have manipulated us with ever-changing agendas, the chronology is far from exhaustive, so perhaps this is best approached as a personal history peppered with pleasurable asides. I liked the fact that Kabul marriage celebrations chose the Titanic ship to grace wedding cakes.

By the time we reach the Nineties, with globalisation requiring film to broaden its horizons and new levels of introspection turning us inwards, the brief has broadened to review recent cinema history, including 3D and its failure to understand how depth perception works. A look at Avatar crystallises Stock's theme; film continues to explore how the unconscious works, so that even a terrible movie may accidentally enlighten.

Christopher Fowler is working on a book called Film Freak, a sequel-of-sorts to his acclaimed childhood memoir, Paperboy (Bantam, £7.99)

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May


Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama


Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year


Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before