John Kenneth Muir | The Rock & Roll Film Encyclopedia

book_rnrfilmFrom ABBA: The Movie to Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, this collection of short filmographies is a well-organized reference for lovers of music as well as film. As an inclusive collection of some of the greatest and most embarrassing moments in rock film history, the volume stands as a catalogue of intriguing footnotes to pop culture.

 

 

 

 

Applause Theatre & Cinema Books; 331 pages; $19.95

A reference work that lists items in a neat, alphabetical format usually falls prey to the view of being merely an archive of titles and nothing more. John Kenneth Muir presents his collection as a whole, though, and presents himself as more than an archivist and historian, but also as a mouthpiece to the message behind many of his entries.

The reader is given a look at why such a record of pop culture history is important with Muir's short essay-style introduction in which he also defines his terms of what constitutes a rock movie. This introduction is written in a style geared more toward the general, and perhaps younger, reading audience than toward serious pop culture historians. This is not to say that the volume isn't a work that can be appreciated by hardcore fanatics of music and film, but rather that it is also highly approachable by a much wider cross-section of interested fans of the two genres.

If there is any criticism of the book, it is that it does illustrate the problematic nature of reference works written from a subjective view, and the author's personal biases and tastes are manifested in the entries themselves. In a handful of entries there are the usual jeers given by Muir that one has come to expect from an author who is a connoisseur of the subject he surveys. Another set of entries is clearly indicative of the author's favorites, as they are given much greater attention to detail; in some cases, the entries run several pages, as contrasted with the average half- to one-page entry. In the author's defense, though, we must admit that there are certain films in the book that enjoy the consensus of being more important works of social commentary than others.

In addition to the short reviews and summaries of film, there are entries that focus on typical archetypes within the genre, such as "the bad father," which is central in Hair, Tommy, Pink Floyd: The Wall, and Walk the Line, among several other films. Muir also includes entries detailing common themes or genre conventions associated with rock films, including items such as the radio concert-ticket giveaway (a theme in which the protagonist of the film spends the first half of the movie trying to win tickets to some major rock event) and what is called "Stagecraft 101" (a theme in which something goes horribly wrong during a stage performance). The book finishes with lists of the top films within given categories according to Muir, and a handy index for quick searches of film titles, actors, and musicians.

All told, The Rock & Roll Film Encyclopedia is both a unique reference point for film and music aficionados offering some interesting takes on the genre, as well as a fun collection of trivia on some of the best and least well known films of the past 50 years. | Jason Neubauer

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