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Recommended Books on Film (Any Topic?)

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Darrel,

Those terms sounded familiar, so I googled them and found the book:

Making Movies Work: Thinking Like a Filmmaker by Jon Boorstin

That's the one! Thanks.

Edited by Jazzaloha

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Just out for Christmas here is The Story of Film by Mark Cousins, a good critic for Sight and Sound and formerly director of the film section of the Edinburgh Festival. It's a bit of a gallop at times but if you're looking for a single volume non-jargon history of the cinema from start to present day it's a good one. (Sorry, that sounds like a publisher's blurb but it's worth having alongside more technical tomes.)

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Oh, apropos of my last posting, it's very interesting to see the obvious respect Cousins (who I very much doubt is a believer himself) has for the spiritual aspect of the work of Dreyer, Bresson and Tarkvosky.

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Useless Beauty not out until Nov. 1, but I think it's going near the top of my Christmas list.

I was in the library to return something today and noticed Useless Beauty in the "New Books" rack, so naturally I checked it out. After a quick skimming, it looks very good and will definitely be on the recommended reading list for the honors course on "Pop Culture & the Sacred" I'll be team-teaching next fall (yay!).

Johnston quotes Jeffrey Overstreet & cites the CT Movies column in his chapter on Signs. The chapter on P.T. Anderson is quite good.

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I can't say I recommend this book because I haven't read it, but it sure sounds intriguing.

Subtitles: on the foreignness of film

The French film critic Serge Daney, writing about Andre Bazin, whose still vital, two-volume What Is Cinema? has recently been republished by California University Press, once argued: "Bad cineastes have no ideas; good cineastes have too many. But the great cineastes have just one idea. Such an obsessive idea stabilises them on their way, yet guides them into ever new and interesting landscapes."

He could easily have been talking about the film director Atom Egoyan and the Canadian academic Ian Balfour, who have together edited a remarkable 500-page book, printed in 1.66:1 Cinemascope ratio, that not only explores the history and contemporary usage of subtitles, but uses them as a metaphor for discussing a very wide range of topics, from Borges's opinions on Citizen Kane ("it suffers from gigantism, pedantry and tedium") to White House tapes of Osama Bin Laden admitting his part in the destruction of the World Trade Center.

Subtitles rarely get good press. In America, the men and women responsible for them are not even credited at the end of a movie. Many cultures do away with them altogether, preferring to dub foreign films. The assumption is that subtitles are too distracting, and that by forcing us to read rather than gaze at the big screen they deny us one of the fundamental pleasures of going to picture theatres. They are prophylactics that shield audiences from the primal energies of real movies. Class and cultural distinctions also come into it: subtitles are seen as anti-popular, a marker of poshness on a par with using finger bowls at the dinner table.

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: Subtitles rarely get good press. In America, the men and women responsible for

: them are not even credited at the end of a movie.

Um, sure they are. At any rate, the subtitled films I have seen in Canada have often included the names of the person(s) who created their subtitles in the credits, and I believe those credits even specify that the subtitles were created in places like New York, etc. -- so I assume that these subtitled prints are also sent to American theatres, too.

: Many cultures do away with them altogether, preferring to dub foreign films. The

: assumption is that subtitles are too distracting, and that by forcing us to read

: rather than gaze at the big screen they deny us one of the fundamental pleasures

: of going to picture theatres.

And there is a definite truth to this assumption. Watching The Wind Will Carry Us at Flickerings this year, I was struck by how the opening sequence comprised a series of relatively static landscape shots ... and how, in contrast to the stillness of the visual compositions, my eyes were kept very busy darting this way and that, trying to keep up with the subtitles of the dialogue of the people inside the truck that drove across all those shots. Suffice to say that a dubbed version of this film might have offered an experience closer to what the director intended.

I sometimes also wonder if all Asian films should have their pictures flipped around when they are shown in European or North American contexts. We are used to reading things from left to right, which means we will read pictures from left to right, too -- but in Asia, they read from right to left, and no doubt this affects the visual composition of their films. Thus, when we watch Asian films, we do not necessarily interpret them visually the way that the director intends us to. (I am thinking particularly of Tokyo Story and all those images of people sitting in profile and looking to the left...)

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I hesitate to put this here, mainly because of the price. The Stanley Kubrick Archives was released last month. I'd love to own this, but the $200 price tag is way out of reach.

Has anyone seen or purchased this? And if you were a buyer of the first printing, what portion of 2001 did you get...

"First print-run buyers get a 12-frame filmstrip from the 70-millimeter print of 2001, the Kubrickian equivalent of precious bodily fluids."

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Peter wrote: And there is a definite truth to this assumption. Watching The Wind Will Carry Us at Flickerings this year, I was struck by how the opening sequence comprised a series of relatively static landscape shots ... and how, in contrast to the stillness of the visual compositions, my eyes were kept very busy darting this way and that, trying to keep up with the subtitles of the dialogue of the people inside the truck that drove across all those shots. Suffice to say that a dubbed version of this film might have offered an experience closer to what the director intended.

Here is an article from Bright Lights that argues that subtitles, that is "reading" the film, almost forces us to miss nuances that are presented visually.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Subtitles, after all, are an interpretation -- they tend to dictate a specific story -- whereas native speakers are alive to all kinds of ambiguities in the spoken text. Well worth reading.

http://www.brightlightsfilm.com/48/subtitles.htm

The only creative solution to this problem thus far, it seems, is "benshi style narration" -- a live accompanist who tells you the story in your language, as you go along. Thus, the narrator could give you a different version of the story every time.

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Guest thom_jurek

The Imaginary Signifier: Psychoanalysis and the Cinema by Christian Metz

(the blueprint for narratology)

Stephen King's Danse Macabre

(while it is not strictly a film book, his populist criticism of the horror film genre and some of his big faves coming up, is simply outstanding IMHO)

The Films oF Nicholas Ray: Poet of Nightffall by Geoff Andrews

Nicholas Ray: An American Life- Bernard Eisenschitz

Andrey Tarkovsky: Sculpting in Time : Reflections on the Cinema -- by Andrey Tarkovsky, Kitty Hunter-Blair (Translator)

Time Within Time: Diaries 1970-1986 -- by Andrey Tarkovsky, Kitty Hunter-Blair

The Shape of Rage: The Films of David Cronenberg

A Third Face : My Tale of Writing, Fighting, and Filmmaking -- by SAMUEL FULLER

Piers Handling (Other Contributors)

Wim Wenders: On Film: Essays and Conversations -- by Wenders Wim, Michael Hofmann (Translator);

The logic of images: Essays and conversations

by Wim Wenders

The Cinema of Wim Wenders by Alexander Graf

Placing Movies: The Practice of Film Criticism

by Jonathan Rosenbaum

Moving Places: A Life at the Movies

by Jonathan Rosenbaum

Movies As Politics -- by Jonathan Rosenbaum

The American Cinema: Directors and Directions 1929-1968

by Andrew Sarris

The Dream Life: Movies, Media, and the Mythology of the Sixties -- by J. Hoberman

Vulgar Modernism: Writing on Movies and Other Media (Culture and the Moving Image) -- by J. Hoberman

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I'm redaing and enjoying Robin Wood's revised edition of "Hitcock's Films, revisited".

Matt

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Just finished Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance and the Rise of Indepent Cinema in the 90's, Biskind's "sequel" to Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, and very much in a similar vein, but looking at the films of the 90s "Indie" movement, with some interesting commentary from filmmakers and actors, and fairly pointed jabs at the Weinsteins by Biskind.

Just starting Hitchcock/Truffaut now.

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One of the best (and most enjoyable) books I own is "The Off-Hollywood Film Guide: the Definitive Guide to Independent and Foreign Films" by Tom Wiener. It was published in 2002 with about 535 pages and a nice write up about each film.

Sara

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Just finished David Thomson's The Whole Equation, which is a history of Hollywood told in a series of brilliant essays. Fantastic chapters on Charlie Chaplin, Irving Thalberg and Chinatown among other things and superbly written. It's as good a narrative overview of American cinema as I've read, Thomson is light on theory but his allusive rambling prose makes him the supreme stylist of film writing at the moment in my humble opinion. And talking about the BFI classics series there's a lovely one about Meet Me In Saint Louis, by Gerald Kaufman, a notably hard-nosed Labour MP you wouldn't have imagined for a minute being a devotee of Judy, Margaret, the snowmen and co.

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I have the Insdorf one as well as the Kieslowski on Kieslowski one (which I have on a long term loan). Both of which are useul and I think cover both groups of films. I also have the Pocket Essentials one which is obviously brief, but quite compact and usefyul nevertheless.

I did a seminar on Three Colours Blue at Spring Harvest last year, and found acombination of the three very useful.

Matt

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The other substantial book on Kieslowski is Slavoj Zizek's The Fright of Real Tears. This book is well worth reading, but it is not your average film book and quite dense with Zizek's idiosyncratic and hilarious style. Be prepared for fascinating digressions into history, marxism, philosophy, Lacanian psychology, nazi cinema, and a study of Tarkovsky as a "materialist" filmmaker.

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I'm impressed that you got through that, GG, I started Zizek's book and found it almost entirely impenetrable, although I didn't work with it too hard and decided to tackle it another time.

In any case, a more accessible yet still solidly theoretical work on Kieslowski is The Films of Krzysztof Kieslowski: The Liminal Image by Joseph G Kickasola.

(Huh, I wrote an article on Kieslowski for Senses of Cinema a couple years ago, and Insdorf's book was about the only thing running; now there are several books worth investigating.)

Edited by Doug C

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I'm impressed that you got through that, GG, I started Zizek's book and found it almost entirely impenetrable, although I didn't work with it too hard and decided to tackle it another time.

Yeah, he doesn't even mention Kieslowski until about 50 pages in. The opening section is part of a long battle between theory and praxis that Zizek has been fighting in all of his books. The way to deal with this book is to skip that stuff and then go back if you're interested.

The thing about Zizek is the more you read of him, the more fun and interesting it becomes. He's always scribbling on the margins of the margins.

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Yeah, it was his shorthand references to this theory vs praxis dialogue that was losing me; I kept wanting to skip to Kieslowski but I was afraid I'd miss something. I hope to get back to it eventually...

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Today in the LA Times is a review of Norman Jewison's new autobiography. (Paid subscription required, sorry.)

Hey, he did Rollerball, what else could matter?

Edited by Darrel Manson

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Is it just coming out down there? The Canadian reviews ran months ago.

And while I have never seen the original Rollerball, I will forever be grateful to the man who directed Fiddler on the Roof. smile.gif

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I am teaching a class on contemporary communication theories, and I am wondering what films all of you consider to be "classic" or instructive on postmodernism. I have already shown Blade Runner, which is a fitting example. What others might you suggest? (Do I need to start a new thread for this?) Thanks in advance for your help, because I know that all of you have seen many more films than I have.

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