The Best Books About Film

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feihong
Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2004 12:20 pm

Re: The Best Books About Film

#1151 Post by feihong » Thu Dec 31, 2020 7:17 am

Yeah, I never got enough out of the Bey Logan book to want to buy it. I would leaf through it at bookstores back in the day, but I didn't see anything extra I wasn't getting in other books and magazines. I missed out on the Bordwell book when it was in print––probably because I leaned more towards cult films.

Undine Far East has published a book called King Hu In His Own Words, which is quite strange. It is full of interviews and translations of published essays and film treatments Hu wrote. It even has a few scenes of the script to The Battle of Ono. It has costume drawings and scene studies Hu created (really cool). But I think as to the artistic identity of the auteur, you end up leaving with more questions than when you arrived. Friends who are translators tell me that scholarship in Chinese is very different in its approach to English-language scholarship, but I was not prepared for how different Hu's writing would seem to me. What comes through most prominently is that, while Hu seems very certain what should be in a movie, he doesn't seem to consider his stories very deeply. Most of the interviews come from late in his life, and the artist they portray is someone strikingly behind the times, struggling to string a rangy series of projects together. There is some explication of a movie Hu wanted to make prior to Come Drink with Me about a Chinese businessman who devoted his life to building a monorail. It's a weird-sounding project; it's not especially clear from how he talks about it what elements of the story interest Hu so much. It becomes clear reading on that, especially later on in his life, Hu becomes caught up in lengthy, demanding projects that don't come to fruition––many of which sound less than promising in their presentation. An 80s thriller involving theft of computer discs in Pasadena and toxins derived from fish sounds very strange, and a proposed movie about an Italian priest sounds like it would have been very strange. Sadder still, the script excerpt from The Battle of Ono is really quite good. It promises rollicking high adventure and charismatic roles for Chinese actors. I can imagine how hard a sell it was in Hollywood during the 80s, with a largely Chinese cast and big helpings of Chinese culture on screen, but the way David Henry Hwang wrote it and Hu visualized it made for a level of excitement and intrigue that I think would have been at home with other films of that era, from Indiana Jones to Shanghai Surprise. Anyway, the book is interesting, but very sad, and the interviews with Hu are quite repetitive.

A comparable book to the Bey Logan, but with a bit more of an interesting perspective, is Fredric Dannen's Hong Kong Babylon, which has a host of original interviews with Hong Kong filmmakers and actors. This came out a little after the Hong Kong handover, so the timing is very interesting. I remember an interesting interview with Chow Yun-Fat, where he asks Dannen if Dannen has seen the Bond film with Michelle Yoeh yet. Dannen says yes, and that he thought it was a disappointment. Chow remarks how silly he thinks it is that, after Yoeh is a super-competent agent all the way through the movie, Bond still ends up saving her at the end. Not astounding, but illuminating nonetheless. You get all these characters at this very pivotal point in their careers. Tsui Hark sounds very pessimistic in his interview (he's is very stung from being rejected to direct the Hollywood Godzilla movie). It's a little like reading a Rolling Stone magazine full of info on the big players in Hong Kong cinema as the ground is shifting underneath them.

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Maltic
Joined: Sat Oct 10, 2020 1:36 am

Re: The Best Books About Film

#1152 Post by Maltic » Tue Jan 05, 2021 6:18 pm

feihong wrote:
Thu Dec 31, 2020 7:17 am
Yeah, I never got enough out of the Bey Logan book to want to buy it. I would leaf through it at bookstores back in the day, but I didn't see anything extra I wasn't getting in other books and magazines. I missed out on the Bordwell book when it was in print––probably because I leaned more towards cult films.

Undine Far East has published a book called King Hu In His Own Words, which is quite strange. It is full of interviews and translations of published essays and film treatments Hu wrote. It even has a few scenes of the script to The Battle of Ono. It has costume drawings and scene studies Hu created (really cool). But I think as to the artistic identity of the auteur, you end up leaving with more questions than when you arrived. Friends who are translators tell me that scholarship in Chinese is very different in its approach to English-language scholarship, but I was not prepared for how different Hu's writing would seem to me. What comes through most prominently is that, while Hu seems very certain what should be in a movie, he doesn't seem to consider his stories very deeply. Most of the interviews come from late in his life, and the artist they portray is someone strikingly behind the times, struggling to string a rangy series of projects together. There is some explication of a movie Hu wanted to make prior to Come Drink with Me about a Chinese businessman who devoted his life to building a monorail. It's a weird-sounding project; it's not especially clear from how he talks about it what elements of the story interest Hu so much. It becomes clear reading on that, especially later on in his life, Hu becomes caught up in lengthy, demanding projects that don't come to fruition––many of which sound less than promising in their presentation. An 80s thriller involving theft of computer discs in Pasadena and toxins derived from fish sounds very strange, and a proposed movie about an Italian priest sounds like it would have been very strange. Sadder still, the script excerpt from The Battle of Ono is really quite good. It promises rollicking high adventure and charismatic roles for Chinese actors. I can imagine how hard a sell it was in Hollywood during the 80s, with a largely Chinese cast and big helpings of Chinese culture on screen, but the way David Henry Hwang wrote it and Hu visualized it made for a level of excitement and intrigue that I think would have been at home with other films of that era, from Indiana Jones to Shanghai Surprise. Anyway, the book is interesting, but very sad, and the interviews with Hu are quite repetitive.
That's interesting. I was aware he was something of a "scholar" (and visual artist), but I haven't read much of anything he wrote. The unfinished project of his that seemed most promising was perhaps the film about Chinese railway workers in the American West. If it had gotten off the ground (if he hadn't died prematurely), it might've been of great interest today (the immigrant perspective, the US-China rivalry, and so on).

Of course, even Big Trouble in Little China flopped in America in the 1980s :D


A comparable book to the Bey Logan, but with a bit more of an interesting perspective, is Fredric Dannen's Hong Kong Babylon, which has a host of original interviews with Hong Kong filmmakers and actors. This came out a little after the Hong Kong handover, so the timing is very interesting. I remember an interesting interview with Chow Yun-Fat, where he asks Dannen if Dannen has seen the Bond film with Michelle Yoeh yet. Dannen says yes, and that he thought it was a disappointment. Chow remarks how silly he thinks it is that, after Yoeh is a super-competent agent all the way through the movie, Bond still ends up saving her at the end. Not astounding, but illuminating nonetheless. You get all these characters at this very pivotal point in their careers. Tsui Hark sounds very pessimistic in his interview (he's is very stung from being rejected to direct the Hollywood Godzilla movie). It's a little like reading a Rolling Stone magazine full of info on the big players in Hong Kong cinema as the ground is shifting underneath them.
There's an interesting chapter in the updated (pdf-)edition of Bordwell's book, about HK directors in the decade after the handover, when much of the HK industry was swallowed by the Mainland. Of course, published in 2010, that too is outdated at this point... even WKW has made a "big" period film in the Mainland since then

https://www.davidbordwell.net/books/planethongkong.php

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Maltic
Joined: Sat Oct 10, 2020 1:36 am

Re: The Best Books About Film

#1153 Post by Maltic » Tue Jan 05, 2021 6:29 pm

Rayon Vert wrote:
Sat Jun 27, 2020 6:08 pm
I love this kind of stuff and this reminds me that using those books and other sources, I created this 78-page document about exactly this thing you're interested in, mostly point-form, with cool pictures! I did a pretty good job if I say so myself.

I just recovered the Word document, transferred to pdf, and uploaded it HERE for free for those interested. (Regarding studios' modern-day developments, I stopped updating this around 2011 or so as you'll notice.)

This is great, thanks a lot!

BTW, Andrew Sarris' You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet has some interesting anecdotes and perspectives about different Hollywood players - including a bit about the various house styles. Of course, it's not nearly as wide-ranging and systematic as some of the other works that have been mentioned here
Last edited by Maltic on Tue Jan 05, 2021 7:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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senseabove
Joined: Wed Dec 02, 2015 3:07 am

Re: The Best Books About Film

#1154 Post by senseabove » Tue Jan 05, 2021 6:41 pm

Primary Information is having a 50% off sale, so if you're interested in the Snow or Rainer books mentioned recently in this thread, now's the time to get them!

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therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: The Best Books About Film

#1155 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Jan 05, 2021 7:05 pm

Thanks for the head's up! I just watched Snow's Wavelength for the first time last night so I'll eagerly jump on that one. Your description of the Rainer book upthread sounds intriguingly unique.. would you recommend a blind-buy just based off its singularity or should I dip into her work first for a taste?

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senseabove
Joined: Wed Dec 02, 2015 3:07 am

Re: The Best Books About Film

#1156 Post by senseabove » Tue Jan 05, 2021 8:02 pm

Most (all?) of her features are up on Kanopy if you have access to it, or on back channels if you don't. Privilege was the first I saw, and though it's not covered in this book, it was a good place to start, I think.

Her writing (if not her dance "scripts") is much easier to digest than her films, but if you don't already have a penchant for her style or an existing interest in late modernist/early pomo dance and art world shenanigans, I don't know how interesting this particular book would be entirely on its own, so I would recommend watching something first... (On the other hand, if you're intrigued enough to take a flyer on it, limited edition art books can get scarce quick. Wait a year or three and I'd be surprised if you couldn't get at least your $20 back from a used bookstore in a college town.)

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therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: The Best Books About Film

#1157 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Jan 05, 2021 10:02 pm

Cool, I'll check it out, thanks for the directional advice - any idea how long the sale is going for?

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senseabove
Joined: Wed Dec 02, 2015 3:07 am

Re: The Best Books About Film

#1158 Post by senseabove » Tue Jan 05, 2021 11:22 pm

Weird they don't mention it on the site... According to the email they sent out:
Don't wait! The sale ends on January 7 at 10:00am EST.

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therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: The Best Books About Film

#1159 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Jan 05, 2021 11:28 pm

Much appreciated- just trying to figure out how many films of hers I can get in before making the call, though from the descriptions I have a feeling it'll only take one

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bottlesofsmoke
Joined: Fri Jan 08, 2021 12:26 pm

Re: The Best Books About Film

#1160 Post by bottlesofsmoke » Mon Jan 11, 2021 6:09 pm

Does anyone have any recommendations of what the best book on Jean-Luc Godard might be? Preferably one that focuses on the movies, though I'm not at all averse to biographical details, either. My usual process is to watch the movies along with the book as I read, so they are fresh in my mind as I read each section. I don't know how far into Godard's filmography I'm going to go watching each movie, but I'd at least want to do through the early seventies, so a book that focuses on that period would be fine. I've seen most of his big movies but never made the deep dive like I have with some other directors.

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domino harvey
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Re: The Best Books About Film

#1161 Post by domino harvey » Mon Jan 11, 2021 6:43 pm

Morrey’s book in the French Film Directors series would prob be your best bet

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therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: The Best Books About Film

#1162 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Jan 11, 2021 6:50 pm


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bottlesofsmoke
Joined: Fri Jan 08, 2021 12:26 pm

Re: The Best Books About Film

#1163 Post by bottlesofsmoke » Mon Jan 11, 2021 6:56 pm

Many thanks! Ordered. Reading this forum has actually helped me understand what I may have been missing with some Godard in the past, I'm hoping this time through even more of it connects with me.

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domino harvey
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Re: The Best Books About Film

#1164 Post by domino harvey » Mon Jan 11, 2021 6:57 pm

therewillbeblus wrote:
Mon Jan 11, 2021 6:50 pm
This one, right?
Yep!

Hope you enjoy it bottlesofsmoke

Orlac
Joined: Tue Apr 14, 2009 4:29 am

Re: The Best Books About Film

#1165 Post by Orlac » Tue Feb 09, 2021 10:47 am

Dr Amicus wrote:
Mon Jan 13, 2020 11:46 am
There is a preview of the Maxford on Google Books here.

I didn't mean to imply any correlation between the two Maxford books, apart from that based on the capsule reviews in the earlier book he didn't give the impression that he actually liked the films (on a, IIRC, Halliwell-esque range of 0 to 4 stars, only a tiny number of core films got 2 of more). It's 20 years since I read it, and my memory of it is as a perfectly decent introduction to Hammer but little more than that. Which, to be fair, at the time of its release probably made it a lot more notable than it would be now.
He gave four stars to DRACULA (which seems to be the one Hammer film critics permit themselves to like - Halliwell gave it three stars) and three to THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT. All the other films got two stars or less.

Marwood
Joined: Thu Sep 19, 2013 8:05 am

Gay/queer film history outside Hollywood/the English speaking world

#1166 Post by Marwood » Mon Feb 15, 2021 11:34 pm

Hi there. I hope someone on this forum might be able to help me find resources for queer history on film, specifically outside Hollywood.

I have already read FRENCH QUEER CINEMA by Nick Rees-Roberts, which I love. Any tips of further books to read would be most welcome.

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therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: The Best Books About Film

#1167 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Feb 15, 2021 11:50 pm

It's not among the books on any key lists from a google search until page three, but I remember loving No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive by Lee Edelman. I haven't read it since college, but his angle of exploration was interesting as were the many examples used in the book. Here is a synopsis that immediately recalls why I loved it so much:
In this searing polemic, Lee Edelman outlines a radically uncompromising new ethics of queer theory. His main target is the all-pervasive figure of the child, which he reads as the linchpin of our universal politics of “reproductive futurism.” Edelman argues that the child, understood as innocence in need of protection, represents the possibility of the future against which the queer is positioned as the embodiment of a relentlessly narcissistic, antisocial, and future-negating drive. He boldly insists that the efficacy of queerness lies in its very willingness to embrace this refusal of the social and political order. In No Future, Edelman urges queers to abandon the stance of accommodation and accede to their status as figures for the force of a negativity that he links with irony, jouissance, and, ultimately, the death drive itself.

Closely engaging with literary texts, Edelman makes a compelling case for imagining Scrooge without Tiny Tim and Silas Marner without little Eppie. Looking to Alfred Hitchcock’s films, he embraces two of the director’s most notorious creations: the sadistic Leonard of North by Northwest, who steps on the hand that holds the couple precariously above the abyss, and the terrifying title figures of The Birds, with their predilection for children. Edelman enlarges the reach of contemporary psychoanalytic theory as he brings it to bear not only on works of literature and film but also on such current political flashpoints as gay marriage and gay parenting. Throwing down the theoretical gauntlet, No Future reimagines queerness with a passion certain to spark an equally impassioned debate among its readers.

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Wigs by Leonard
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Re: The Best Books About Film

#1168 Post by Wigs by Leonard » Tue Feb 16, 2021 1:15 pm

I always recommend The Celluloid Closet by Vito Russo, if you haven't read it. It is predominantly Hollywood-focused, and only covers up to 1987, but there's some good coverage of early works in Germany in the 20s, Madchen in Uniform and Anders al die Andern and the like.

I've found the Queer Film Classics series of books to be quite wonderful. They're pocket-sized monographs, 150-300 pages, each on a particular film (I think BFI used to do a similar series, without the queer emphasis). My favorite two are on Paris Is Burning and Word Is Out, but Death in Venice is also a great queer-focused overview of Visconti, and Scorpio Rising is able to examine the film nearly shot-by-shot, and does what I presume is an admirable job sorting the rumored from the confirmable (no easy feat!). It also has some great anecdotes of the author's visiting Anger in his New York apartment.

The one entry I can only recommend with reservations is Thomas Waugh and Jason Garrison's volume on Montreal Main, which is an entirely unveiled apologia for hebephilia at the same time as it analyzes as exhaustively as anyone ever has the film in question - which I remained unconvinced was itself as baldly an apologia for same as its authors seemed inclined to argue.

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Dr Amicus
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Re: The Best Books About Film

#1169 Post by Dr Amicus » Tue Feb 16, 2021 1:37 pm

Stephen Bourne's Brief Encounters is a not bad overview with respect to British Cinema - at least, up to about the mid 90s. Worth borrowing from a library, but probably not paying the inflated prices on Amazon at the moment.

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senseabove
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Re: The Best Books About Film

#1170 Post by senseabove » Tue Feb 16, 2021 1:44 pm

I'll second that Queer Film Classics book on Paris is Burning. For such a slim book, it really does a tremendous job of putting the movie in context.

Not exactly obscure, but B. Ruby Rich's New Queer Cinema is worth mentioning for the foundational titular essay on the 90s queer indie film enclave, of course, but other chapters (in the 2013 "Director's Cut" edition—not sure if there's a previous version) cover other big non-Hollywood names of queer cinema—Jarman, Weerasethakul, Ozon, etc.—and there's a section with several essays on queer Latin American film.

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ianthemovie
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Re: The Best Books About Film

#1171 Post by ianthemovie » Tue Feb 16, 2021 2:28 pm

I was going to recommend the B. Ruby Rich book as well. If you define "outside Hollywood" as including American independent cinema, just about that entire book would qualify, since it's specifically about queer indie and art film. Richard Dyer has written extensively (and in my opinion very perceptively) on gay and lesbian cinema/spectatorship/fan culture, mainly within a classic Hollywood context, but also occasionally in relation to avant-garde filmmakers like Jean Genet and Andy Warhol. For my money no one writes more lucidly and elegantly about gender and sexuality on film than the late Robin Wood, especially in Sexual Politics and Narrative Film, where he discusses many European and Asian classics alongside American films. There is a book by Anne Duggan about queerness in Jacques Demy's films but I haven't read it. It occurs to me that Dyer and D. A. Miller (both major queer theorists) have written monographs on Fellini films (La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2) for the BFI Film Classics series, though I don't know if these can properly be called queer readings of Fellini. Dyer's book on La Dolce Vita does briefly discuss that film's representation of homosexuality. The queer theorist Leo Bersani has a BFI volume in Derek Jarman's Caravaggio. Alexander Doty does queer readings of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and The Red Shoes in his book Flaming Classics. Judith Halberstam's Female Masculinity discusses butch lesbianism in a range of indie, art-house, and Hollywood films.

I haven't read the Queer Film Classics volumes on Death in Venice, Scorpio Rising, or Paris Is Burning, but I have found some of the other titles in this series to be somewhat disappointing. The one on Boys in the Sand was sloppily written in spots. Edelman (with whom I briefly studied in grad school) and his contemporaries like D. A. Miller can be tremendous fun to read though they write mostly on classic Hollywood.

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Maltic
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Re: The Best Books About Film

#1172 Post by Maltic » Wed Feb 17, 2021 10:12 pm

It seems Marwood has his work cut out for him, but I would add Michael Koresky's book on Terence Davies

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Mr Sausage
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Re: The Best Books About Film

#1173 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Feb 24, 2021 9:34 pm

Good news for Imamura fans: the Coleman and Desser edited essay collection, Killers, Clients, and Kindred Spirits, is finally affordable. One of the best books I read last year. Posted more about it here.

beamish14
Joined: Fri May 18, 2018 3:07 pm

Re: The Best Books About Film

#1174 Post by beamish14 » Fri Apr 09, 2021 9:16 pm

Currently in the midst of John Boorman's absolutely fantastic and very aptly-titled Conclusions, which both complements some of the anecodtes from his earlier memoir and elaborates on other films he made in the proceeding years, his family life, and his theory on directing. Curiously, he is very effusive in his praise for many people, such as cinematographers he repeatedly worked with, and the late producer Robert Chartoff (he discusses turning down Rocky, telling Chartoff in a letter that he found it to be unbearably "sentimental", and Chartoff framed that correspondence after the film became an unbelievable success), but he never mentions Neil Jordan by name, although he briefly discusses Broken Dreams, a script that both of them tweaked on and off for decades, with both being attached to direct it at various times. I believe Boorman was supposed to film it immediately after Interview with the Vampire, as both movies were to star River Phoenix. I don't know if they had some kind of falling out, but Jordan is distinctly persona non grata in it. It's a very, very meandering book, but in an incredibly charming way. Boorman leaps through anecdotes about his friendship with John Hurt, the death of one of his daughters, and working on television projects within a matter of a handful of pages, but it doesn't feel incomplete or slapdash.

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domino harvey
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Re: The Best Books About Film

#1175 Post by domino harvey » Sat Apr 17, 2021 1:23 am

Eddie Muller's long out of print Dark City is being released in an expanded edition by TCM in July

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