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Reviews223 questions there are no answers; one simply makes compromises . On the whole, the editors of the volume under review have done their job well in producing a dictionary of pleasing aspect that will meet many needs of the engineer, the scientist, and the interested lay reader. Jens Zorn The University of Michigan Ira Königsberg. The Complete Film Dictionary. New York and Scarsborough, Ont. New American Library, 1987. viii + 420 pp. US $24.95. Canada $34.95. "Of making many books there is no end." So noted Ecclesiastes more than 2000 years ago. Unsurprisingly, the making of many books has not wound down in our time. A visit to even a medium-sized library shows rank after rank of books on film. A look at the library's catalogue reveals twenty or thirty entries under film dictionaries. Most are indeed alphabetical, but they enter mainly summaries of films or biographies of performers or other film people or all of these, along with an occasional—very occasional—term. There are, indeed, one or two glossaries among these film "dictionaries." In his Preface, Professor Königsberg notes and briefly describes the half-dozen principal dictionaries and glossaries of film terms. All are relatively brief and sometimes limited (e.g., to technical terms). The Complete Film Dictionary goes well beyond any existing dictionary or glossary—certainly any in English. No other, Königsberg notes, offers in one work both practical and technical terminology, along with that used in producing films and selling them. Also included are film history back to the Renaissance, as well as film theory and criticism . In addition to examining his predecessors, Königsberg has "made a careful and thorough investigation of all the available books on film" and the many journals in the field, whether film criticism or technology. He has also, as he puts it, "bothered an embarrassingly large number of people in the 224Reviews motion picture industry and in film study," has taught film for a number of years, and has had practical experience with film making. The result is a compendium of some 3500 entries in a large book—of, say, 300,000 words. While I have more than usual knowledge of the language of live theatre, I am by no means a specialist in film terminology. Naturally, the two forms have cross-pollinated each other, particularly in certain areas; examples of terms used in both film and theatre are grease paint, key light, fill light, flag, gobo, grid, and grip. Nevertheless, the large majority of the entries in the Film Dictionary are not theatre terms. This does not permit me to say whether Königsberg has fulfilled his wide-ranging objectives, but that's my impression of what he has done. In commenting on his predecessors, Königsberg notes that some have very brief definitions. He suggests that The Glossary ofFilm Terms, by John Mercer, has "perhaps the most extensive list of film terms available up to this time." Mercer has some 2400 entries; the revised edition (1979) adds more than two score and a few revisions. A 1986 edition I do not have available. As Königsberg notes, Mercer's definitions are cogent but usually limited to a brief sentence or two, and the entire Glossary has fewer than a hundred pages. This seems not inappropriate for a glossary but won't do for a dictionary. And it doesn't: as is indicated above, the Film Dictionary is three or four times the size of an ordinary 250-page novel. While the entries in Königsberg average some eighty or ninety words in length, the average—like most averages—is deceptive. Many entries are handled in twenty to thirty words, but a good number run to the low or middle hundreds, a few still longer. The difference, of course, lies mainly in the complexity and importance of the term being defined; some terms include considerable history or technology. An example —admittedly extreme—is "sound," which runs to some 2000 words; the entry covers developments beginning with Edison's early experiments in the late nineteenth century. Except for cross-references, the typical short entry may be represented by "hit the mark," which reads "A...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 223-228
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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