It deserves a shelf to itself. The only general dictionary we trust: absolutely partisan while commendably catholic in its scope and taste — just check out the list of auteurs worth discussing more deeply at the very end of the second edition from Two tomes that should have, at least changed the way we think about film history; two attempts to understand the extra ordinary in film cultures deemed totalitarian and therefore artistically irrelevant by our unquestioning middlebrow culture and its collaborators high and low.
Two exemplary ways of making sense of a national film culture: the first is an encyclopedia that invites the seeker to find his or her own way through a labyrinth of myriad relationships; the second offers creative criss-cross readings of topoi and obsessions through various decades, genres and political systems. We consider these approaches preferable to the common and-then-and-then histories, as these are usually too industry-development-keyed — i.
Put them in your apartment and feel the atmosphere change for the better. Affordable, deeply serious, clearly written, it gave us our first filmographies, 15 frame blow-ups from Battleship Potemkin and a cinematic canon that we eagerly accepted and then rebelled against. Few people have done so much to revive interest in silent cinema and none has written so well about it as Brownlow. First published in , this is by some way the best, most wide-ranging single-volume reference book on the cinema ever written.
It should be kept within easy reach by anyone interested in the cinema, whether writer or film fan. Thomson was a historian writing like a novelist and so it was logical that he would eventually weave fiction with history in the serpentine Suspects, from which one can learn more about the iconography of film noir than from many worthy textbooks. Encompasses all film book categories: interview, yes, but also memoir, monograph, theory, picture book….
One of the great landmarks, a meeting of two film cultures, two languages, two personalities — full of omissions and evasions, but richly suggestive, and a demonstration that criticism and creation can enter into a significant dialogue. A thrilling confection of passionate advocacy, youthful extremism, ardent love and lofty disdain.
The one film book I crammed into my suitcase to keep me company when I went to live abroad for a couple of years; every dip into its pages offered something to think about, wonder at or silently dispute. So what if it borders on eccentricity, and then crosses the borders? It turns up the old mental rheostat every time. The dialogue as artform. This was the volume that made a god awful hour greyhound bus trip to New York seem bearable — in fact, time well spent.
Has anyone ever managed that balance as well? A miracle. Not just one of the best film books, one of the best later 20th-century books of criticism of any medium. A monument. Plus one: this lightly fictionalised memoir of film criticism, love affairs and the quest for beauty and perfection is so funny that it often makes you bark with laughter.
Plus three: Quirke has an effortless knack for the mot juste; eat your liver, Flaubert. A potent and delicious cocktail. Like most people in the unique position of foreknowledge of what others have said, I have avoided the choices that now seem obvious in this survey. My list is therefore devised partly to champion books neglected by everyone else.
It was out of print by the time I wanted to buy it, but I found a copy on my first trip to New York in along with Kings of the Bs , devoured it, then lent it to a friend and never saw it or him again. Call it deferred gratification.
As befits his flinty films, Melville is a pugnacious, affectionate and slightly melancholy observer: sanguine and unequivocal about the daring with which his films were made. Again, for me this book was about self-education. Not at all professionally involved in film when I bought it, I wanted something to help a London art student get more out of the films of Godard, Truffaut, Rohmer, Chabrol and Rivette.
And if it was as puzzling in its way as some of the films seemed at the time, then that only intrigued me more, as any introduction to so important a subject should. Ray, Harvard University Press, In recent decades there has been no more cogent a rethinking of the physical and psychological experience of film as it evolved, both as a technology and as an artform. I want to read it again, soon. Janin, I started reading about cinema in the late s, the heyday of auteurism: the books that I read then formed my taste and have marked me as a certain kind of cinephile and, 40 years on, after the great adventure or misadventure of theory, that is still how I would define myself.
Over the years this little volume must surely have been the Bible for many of us. Another bible can there be two? Alas, only one more book! There are so many wonderful writers out there.
go to link Or Pauline Kael? Or Robert Warshow? Or either of the two wise Gilberts Perez and Adair?
The poor and innocent have nothing to fear from him. Dublin : Privately printed, Philadelphia: Pennsylvania University Press, Berry , Mary Frances. Portrait of a Lady.
The peerless lucidity of his writing about cinema is underscored by a profound moral passion. Indeed, this is true about all the writers on film that I admire most — even the aesthetes and dandies. Tarkovsky is my all-time favourite director. But while this is fascinating, I sometimes find his statements frustratingly evasive. Yet this is what he had to say about them, and that makes it uniquely valuable. Notes: On the Making of Apocalypse Now! For a while I became obsessed with what must have been the best-documented disaster shoot in film history. I had the photo of Francis Ford Coppola pointing a revolver at his head up on my office wall the whole time I was writing Corpsing.
Louise Brooks was one of the few actresses with absolute integrity. This may have something to do with why she also had the most vivid screen presence. In the absence of a full book on my favourite contemporary film-makers, this pamphlet that came with the DVD Quay Brothers: The Short Films will do very well. I loved his willingness to find excitement in unexpected places, to do justice to merit when he found it and to write in such a strongly personal voice.
This still seems to me the definitive account of the ethos of a studio. Lucid, rigorous and utterly readable.
An enthralling account of a man enraptured by cinema, written by another man enraptured by cinema. Tauris, Gives a whole new perspective on the phenomenon of male stardom in British film, wears its theory lightly and is written with wit and perception. Infuriating and stimulating by turns, this is an idiosyncratic inclusion. It leaves out Phyllis Calvert and includes Audie Murphy, which enrages me, but I read it from cover to cover.
Spellbound in Darkness Edited by George C. Pratt, University of Rochester, A loving anthology, with commentary, on the silent cinema. An invitation to discovery on every page, and perhaps the best title for any film book yet published. The nearest we have to a British national filmography was created not by any institute or university but by one man. There is no better stimulus to look at films seriously. On the other hand, it is also a self-portrait by a brilliant and uncompromising English film-maker. Published to accompany a BFI documentary, this is a beautifully illustrated and very sharp-eyed tour through a century of American cinema by a true obsessive.
He is honest and self-lacerating about his own foibles and equally caustic about those of others. Morbidity and lyricism run side by side as he lays bare his demons. This book is easy to undervalue.