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"Making of" Classic Cinema

Book Review: Dark City — The Lost World of Film Noir (Revised and Expanded Edition)

Dark City

Publisher: Running Press

Release Date: July 20, 2021

“When I did this book I thought it’d be a fun one-off project. I was so burned out on exploitation films after Grindhouse that I just wanted to write about movies I actually liked.” —Eddie Muller

The “Grindhouse” mentioned in the above quote refers to Muller’s “Grindhouse: The Forbidden World of Adults Only Cinema.” That particular book is just another in a long line of texts penned by Muller, but it is fairly safe to say that the author found his niche with this book as he has gone on to write a number of other books about the genre and is often referred to as the “Czar of Noir.” Disciples of Turner Classic Movies will also recognize both his name and visage as the host of Noir Alley, and he also founded the ‘Film Noir Foundation’ in an effort to restore and preserve lost Noir classics.

Needless to say, the man knows his subject, but what is especially interesting about Dark City is the book’s unique style which will be quite recognizable to anyone familiar with the genre. The book is a tour through a great many of the genre’s best films with a few biological pit stops along the way to inform readers about the actors and filmmakers responsible for those films. (It’s worth mentioning that many of these individuals lived lives that read almost like a synopsis for some of these films, and this fact isn’t lost on Muller.) This “revised and expanded edition” of the book includes new chapters and a “fresh collection of restored photographs” that are certain to thrill cinephiles who adore the genre, and one wonders if it is even possible to be a cinephiles without also having an appreciation for noir since it is one of the most cinematic of all genres. Those looking for classic films that may have escaped their radar could do worse than Dark City for viewing inspiration, and those familiar with the films discussed are likely to enhance their appreciation of these classics.

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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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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.

Silence of the Lambs - Hannibal

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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
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.

Wes Anderson - Slipcase and Book

Wes Anderson - Centerfold

Wes Anderson - Spread 01

Wes Anderson - Spread 02

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.

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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.

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Alfred Hitchcock Classic Cinema Directing

Book Interview: The Camera Lies – Acting For Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock Master

TCL - Cover

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Release Date: September 01, 2020

A Conversation with Dan Callahan

“Even when we know everything about a movie down to its shooting schedule and budget and technical tricks, we believe at some level that the magic trick is real. And of course nothing delighted Hitchcock more than explaining his tricks with the camera, his devices to make it lie. He wanted us to know it all and then still fall for it, and fall in love. Watch his films again, fall in love again, and know that we are falling in love with a mirage, with a lie.” –Dan Callahan (The Camera Lies, 2020)

Alfred Hitchcock is said to have once remarked, “Actors are cattle,” a line that has stuck in the public consciousness ever since. For Hitchcock, acting was a matter of contrast and counterpoint, valuing subtlety and understatement over flashiness. He felt that…

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Classic Cinema Filmmakers

Book Review: Stanley Kubrick – American Filmmaker (Jewish Lives)

Stanley Kubrick - American Filmmaker - Cover

Publisher: Yale University Press

Release Date: August 18, 2020

Kubrick enthusiasts will be wondering how this new volume compares to John Baxter’s biography (which was approximately 360 pages in length if one doesn’t count the book’s various appendages) and Vincent Lobrutto’s examination of the director’s life (which was a healthy 500 pages in length if one discounts the appendages). This new text by David Mikics is less comprehensive in many ways (it is only 204 pages) but examines Stanley Kubrick’s life through a different lens than the two previous tomes.

Stanley Kubrick: American Filmmaker is part of a “prizewinning series of interpretative biography designed to explore the many facets of Jewish identity. Individual volumes illuminate the imprint of Jewish figures upon literature, religion, philosophy, politics, cultural and economic life, and the arts and sciences.” David Mikics draws from interviews and new archival material to examine the enigmatic director’s life and how it influenced his work. He puts forth the theory that “Kubrick’s Jewishness played a crucial role in his idea of himself as an outsider.” His life and work is examined in this particular context, and this alternative approach to the subject has resulted in a book that will earn its place in Kubrickian scholarship even if one expects Mikics to examine this angle more than he does. It certainly makes a terrific introductory primer on the director’s life and work.

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Alfred Hitchcock Classic Cinema Filmmakers

Book Interview: Hitchcock’s California – Vista Visions from the Camera Eye

Alfred Hitchcock Master

Hitchcock's California (Small Cropped)

Publisher: Middlebrow Books

Release Date: March 29, 2020 (Tentative)

Robert Jones (Small) Robert Jones

A Conversation with Robert Jones

Hitchcock’s California: Vista Visions from the Camera Eye” celebrates (and re-creates) images that evoke scenes from many of the great director’s most famous films—including Notorious, Vertigo, North by Northwest, Psycho, The Birds, and a great many more classics. It was a labor of love for Robert Jones (the book’s primary creator) and a treat for Alfred Hitchcock’s fans. Jones’s excellent location photography is supplemented by photographs created by Aimee Sinclair that re-create memorable scenes from “Hitch’s” greatest movies and commentary by Dan Auiler (author of “Vertigo: The Making of a Hitchcock Classic” and “Hitchcock’s Notebooks“).

Alfred Hitchcock Master is honored to have had the opportunity to talk to Robert Jones, Aimee Sinclair, and Dan Auiler about their incredible new book:

AHM: How…

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