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Alfred Hitchcock Classic Cinema

Book Review: Perpetual Movement – Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Rope’

Alfred Hitchcock Master

Perpetual Movement

Publisher: State University of New York Press

Release Date: July 2021

“I wondered while planning this book if I should divide Rope into hundreds of brief fragments for examination. I quickly realized, however, that Hitchcock’s film… has a textual form that suggests a convenient way in which to separate the text for consideration: it is already divided into eleven lexias.” —Neil Badmington (Introduction, Perpetual Movement: Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Rope,’ 2021)

Neil Badmington’s lengthy analysis of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (1948) is the first of its kind. Each of the book’s eleven chapters covers one of the film’s eleven shots—with the first chapter covering the film’s production history and its eventual release since the shot is essentially the credit sequence (although this shot is also discussed briefly). This chapter is only seventeen and a half pages in length, so those who want an in-depth examination of the film’s production and…

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Filmmakers

Book Review: Tarantino – A Retrospective (Revised and Expanded Edition)

Tarantino - Revised Cover

Publisher: Insight Editions

Release Date: September 07, 2021

Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1963, Quentin Tarantino spent many Saturday evenings during his childhood accompanying his mother to the movies, nourishing a love of film that was, over the course of his life, to become all-consuming. It is just as well, because he would grow up to be one of American cinema’s most celebrated filmmakers. Known for his highly cinematic visual style, out-of-sequence storytelling, and grandiose violence, Tarantino’s films have provoked both praise and criticism over the course of his career. They’ve also won him a host of awards — including Oscars, Golden Globes, and BAFTA awards — usually for his original screenplays. His oeuvre includes the cult classic Pulp Fiction, bloody revenge saga Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, and historical epics Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained, and The Hateful Eight. This stunning retrospective catalogs each of Quentin Tarantino’s movies in detail, from My Best Friend’s Birthday to The Hateful Eight. The book is a tribute to a unique directing and writing talent, celebrating an uncompromising, passionate director’s enthralling career at the heart of cult filmmaking.

Quentin Tarantino

Make no mistake about this, Tarantino: A Retrospective isn’t merely coffee-table fluff with a lot of great photographs and artwork (although, there are plenty of great photos to be found throughout the book). This is an informative examination of the director’s career. Tom Shone’s text is a seamless mixture of career biography, retrospective appreciation, and film criticism. Surprisingly, there aren’t many essential books available about the director. This makes Shone’s text all the more essential for those who love the director’s work. In our review of the original edition, we mentioned that some might feel that the text was slightly premature since Tarantino has consistently insisted that he will only make ten films before he retires from making movies. It seemed a shame that his final two films were inevitably left out of the retrospective.

Well, this new edition of the book tries to rectify this one issue slightly by adding a sixteen page chapter that covers Once Upon A Time in Hollywood and a slightly different epilogue that is slightly updated from the 2017 edition. Everything else about the book is exactly the same, so it may not be worth the money to purchase this new edition if you already own the first edition. Having said this, those who do not yet own either edition of the book will want to pick up this “Revised and Expanded Edition.”

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Categories
Classic Cinema

Book Review: Silence of the Lambs (BFI Film Classics)

BFI Film Classics - Silence of the Lambs (October 07)

Publisher: British Film Institute 

Release Date: July 25, 2019 (First Edition) / October 7, 2021 (Second Edition)

Yvonne Tasker’s book examines “one of the defining films of late twentieth century American cinema” in this very short booklet. There’s no question that Silence of the Lambs is one of the best police procedurals ever made, and this book is really the only book available that attempts to examine the film. Those expecting a proper account of the production (or a standard “making of” text) will almost certainly be disappointed, but Tasker does offer an exploration of the film’s content that is likely to add to one’s appreciation of Jonathan Demme’s masterpiece as it discusses “explores the film’s weaving together of gothic, horror and thriller elements in its portrayal of insanity and crime, drawing out the centrality of ideas about gender to the storytelling. She identifies the film as a key genre reference point for tracking late twentieth century interests in police procedural, profiling and serial murder, analyzing its key themes of reason and madness, identity and belonging, aspiration and transformation.” One doubts if the book will hold much value to casual fans of the film, but die-hards will enjoy the read if they keep their expectations in check.

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Alfred Hitchcock Classic Cinema

Book Review: The Twelve Lives of Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock Master

The Twelve Lives Of Alfred Hitchcock - Cover

Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company

Release Date: April 13, 2021

Edward White’s The Twelve Lives of Alfred Hitchcock is called a biography in the book’s marketing materials, but this text is actually a different animal. In any case, it falls short as a biography. It’s best to look at the book as a study of various aspects of Alfred Hitchcock’s personality or persona. There are twelve in total, and each is given its own chapter:

“The Boy Who Couldn’t Grow Up”

“The Murderer”

“The Auteur”

“The Womanizer”

“The Fat Man”

“The Dandy”

“The Family Man”

“The Voyeur”

“The Entertainer”

“The Pioneer”

“The Londoner”;

“The Man of God”

Each of these elements are examined in some depth as we learn biological information mixed with theoretical commentary. It’s all very interesting and thoroughly enjoyable even if we might disagree with certain opinions peppered throughout the pages or question some of the…

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"Making of" Classic Cinema

Book Review: Alright, Alright, Alright – The Oral History of Richard Linklater’s ‘Dazed and Confused’

Dazed - Book Cover

Publisher: Harper

Release Date: November 17, 2020

Melissa Maerz’s Alright, Alright, Alright – The Oral History of Richard Linklater’s ‘Dazed and Confused’ is what it claims to be. The text reads a lot like a transcript from the interview portion of a comprehensive “behind the scenes” documentary of the film in a lot of ways. Each chapter is given an extremely brief introduction to orient the reader before presenting a well-organized array of interview snippets (or quotations) that tell the story of the film’s creation. However, the information gleaned from this approach is largely anecdotal and concentrates on the individual experiences of making the film. It certainly isn’t a comprehensive account of the film’s creation. There is more about the interpersonal relationships than there is about the filmmaking itself, and this is probably the book’s primary weakness. Luckily, it is an extremely enjoyable read if you happen to be a fan of Linklater’s sophomore effort, and the book does offer a fair assortment of viewpoints so that the anecdotes relayed aren’t too one sided. Recommended.

Categories
Filmmakers

Book Review: The Nolan Variations

The Nolan Variations - Cover

Publisher: Penguin / Random House

Release Date: November 03, 2020

Imagine a college course on the cinema of Christopher Nolan. Tom Shone’s The Nolan Variations: The Movies Mysteries, and Marvels of Christopher Nolan would be the textbook. This beautifully rendered comprehensive examination of the director’s work is the most complete text on the subject to date, and it has benefited from the cooperation of Nolan himself. He has written a book that outclasses his incredible career-spanning texts on Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese (Tarantino: A Retrospective and Martin Scorsese: A Retrospective, and he takes a different approach to this volume in that he doesn’t present the information in a strictly chronological manner but is organized instead by thirteen themes and motifs (each constituting a chapter of the book): Structure, Orientation, Time, Perception, Space, Illusion, Chaos, Dreams, Revolution, Emotion, Survival, Knowledge, and Endings. Nolan fans will welcome and cherish this extensive volume as it will certainly embellish their knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of Nolan’s work. Highly Recommended.

Categories
Classic Cinema Filmmakers

Book Review: Wes Anderson – The Iconic Filmmaker and His Work

Wes Anderson - Cover

Publisher: Quarto Press

Release Date: November 03, 2020

This reviewer is fast becoming a fan of Ian Nathan’s wonderful series of books on various modern auteurs of the cinema. His books on Quentin Tarantino and the Coen brothers were both enthusiastically received, and I found that “Alien Vault” was well worth reading as well. The truth is that it is Nathan’s name that captured my attention when I learned about this beautiful book about Wes Anderson. I’ve never been a huge Wes Anderson fan (although I do greatly admire three of his films), but Nathan’s thoughtful examination of his filmography has certainly given me a new appreciation for his aesthetic.

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Those who are already enthusiastic about the director’s work will find even more to love about this excellent career spanning volume as Anderson’s themes, motifs, and narratives are discussed in some depth and put into context. There is an individual chapter devoted to each of his feature films, and this includes The French Dispatch (which hasn’t even been released yet). It’s safe to say that this is an essential text for Wes Anderson cultists.

Categories
Filmmakers

Book Review: Paul Thomas Anderson — Masterworks

Distributor: Abrams Books

Release Date: October 20, 2020

Adam Nayman’s (author of The Coen Brothers: This Book Really Ties the Films Together) career spanning examination of Paul Thomas Anderson’s filmography is one of only two books about the director’s work and the only comprehensive text that covers each of his films to date. Each of the director’s eight films is discussed and examined in some detail, but Nayman organizes his book quite differently than similar books. Instead of examining Anderson’s work in chronological order, he presents his essays in the order of the era that each of his movies are set (with the notable exception of Phantom Thread): There Will Be Blood, The Master, Inherent Vice, Boogie Nights, Hard Eight, Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love, and Phantom Thread. Anderson’s influences, his style, and the recurring themes of alienation, reinvention, ambition, and destiny that course through his movies are analyzed in enough detail to add enormously to the reader’s appreciation of these films.

This would be more than enough to warrant our enthusiasm for this volume, but Nayman also includes a selection of interviews with seven of Anderson’s closest collaborators — including JoAnne Sellar (producer), Dylan Tichenor (editor), Robert Elswit (cinematographer), Jonny Greenwood (composer), Jack Fisk (production designer), Mark Bridges (costume designer), and Vicky Krieps (actor) — and illuminated by film stills, archival photos, original illustrations, and an appropriately psychedelic design aesthetic. It’s a wonderful gift for anyone who admires the Anderson’s work and may very well earn him a few new fans.

Categories
"Making of"

Book Review: The Secrets of Tenet – Inside Christopher Nolan’s Quantum Cold War

TSOT - Cover

Publisher: Insight Editions

Release Date: September 15, 2020

It must be said that The Secrets of Tenet – Inside Christopher Nolan’s Quantum Cold War took me by surprise. Most books of this sort tend to offer a somewhat superficial glimpse at a films production while relying on an excess of photographs to pad the sparse information provided. At best, one can call these attractive coffee table books “collector’s items,” but they are all gloss without any substance.

At first glance, James Mottram’s examination of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet seems as if it might follow this same pattern. After all, the book offers an incredibly rich assortment of photographs and is only 156 pages long. However, there is actually a rather interesting textual examination of the film’s production, and the “behind the scenes” photographs are hardly superfluous. They offer a revelatory look at the process and will certainly please Nolan’s many devotees. It’s a pleasure to scroll through the book’s pages.

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Those fortunate enough to own Mottram’s earlier examination of The Making of Dunkirk will have some idea as to what they can expect with this volume. It earns an easy recommendation for fans of the film and for anyone who admires Nolan’s work.

Categories
Classic Cinema Filmmakers

Book Review: Stanley Kubrick – New York Jewish Intellectual

Publisher: Rutgers University Press

Release Date: April 19, 2018

Quite a lot has been written about Stanley Kubrick, but it isn’t often that a text offers cinephiles a truly new prism in which to view his filmography. Stanley Kubrick: New York Jewish Intellectual reexamines the director’s work in context of his ethnic and cultural origins. Many reviews of this text are suggesting that the book answers a single question: “Just how Jewish was Stanley Kubrick?” However, this seems to be missing the point. Nathan Abrams merely dissects each of the director’s films in an effort to examine how Jewish elements made their way into his filmography. Each chapter offers a detailed analysis of one of Kubrick’s major films, including LolitaDr. Strangelove2001A Clockwork OrangeBarry LyndonThe ShiningFull Metal Jacket, and Eyes Wide ShutStanley Kubrick thus presents an illuminating look at one of the twentieth century’s most renowned and yet misunderstood directors. The analysis of each film is quite exhaustive. In fact, some points can occasionally feel strained as if Abrams overreaching, but this isn’t a problem since any unique examination of Kubrick’s work can only enrich the reader’s appreciation and understanding of the films being discussed. Stanley Kubrick fans should certainly find a place of honor on their book shelves for this always engaging text.