I would second the recommendation for Camille Paglia on The Birds, which is lots of fun. Salman Rushdie on The Wizard of Oz is superb--very droll, insightful, and deeply felt. Jonathan Rosenbaum on Greed is predictably smart. Michael Wood on Belle de Jour is great. Geoffrey Nowell-Smith on L'Avventura is quite good, if a tad dry. Mark Sanderson on Don't Look Now is impassioned, detailed, and poetic. I quite like David Thompson (not David Thomson) on Last Tango in Paris, which was instrumental in helping me understand and appreciate that film. Many other great titles: Simon Callow on Night of the Hunter, Amy Taubin on Taxi Driver, Michel Chion on Eyes Wide Shut, Yuri Tsivian on Ivan the Terrible...tenia wrote:I'm wondering if any of you here would already know which ones can be avoided altogether because of how little they add. I'm extremely curious, and don't care about buying stuff about movies I haven't seen or even heard about before, so feel free to add about whichever book you know.
I've only bought 8 so far (Olympia, The General, The Shining, Pandora's Box, The Birth of a Nation, The Thing, Pan's Labyrinth, Night and the City) but have seen about 50 or so that might fit what I'm interested in / curious about.
Some titles I was less impressed by: Charles Maland on City Lights which is overlong and repetitive. Jon Lewis on The Godfather which is very thin on content and does not do justice to the greatness of that film. Iain Sinclair on Crash--overlong, digressive and pretentious. I found the volumes on Snow White and Far From Heaven both quite bad, making extremely simplistic or obvious points with no real depth to the analysis at all.
I will also put in a good word for Sue Vice on Shoah which does an excellent job unpacking that film, given its unwieldiness and challenging nature. Chris Darke on La Jetee was also an appropriately mysterious and poetic meditation on that film.
In short, the quality and style of these books varies widely depending on the author. Some are more highly theoretical; some are academic; some are fanciful and poetic. Looking into the author's background may help give you a sense of what approach they are taking. The ones written by esteemed critics like Rosenbaum, Taubin, J. Hoberman, Robin Wood, et al. are usually safe bets.