The Best Books About Film

Discuss films and filmmakers of the 20th century (and even a little of the 19th century). Threads may contain spoilers.
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Stig Helmer
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#101 Post by Stig Helmer » Tue Oct 25, 2005 9:45 am

I recently finished William Beards study on David Cronenberg's films, "The Artist as Monster. The Cinema of David Cronenberg". Strongly recommended! Very good, filled with lengthy and informing analysis of Cronenbergs films...

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#102 Post by pmunger » Fri Oct 28, 2005 12:02 pm

Beside, Film Techniques and Aesthetics by Michael Rabiger and the Bordwell book,
is any other good reference book on film technique (Camera view, angle, movement, shot/Lighting technique and asthetics/Editing and transitional devices...) as well on film theory that someone here could recommend .

Also, anyone read this book on Kubrick and would like to share his thoughts. It seems interesting:
The Wolf at the Door: Stanley Kubrick, History, and the Holocaust

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essrog
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#103 Post by essrog » Fri Oct 28, 2005 4:19 pm

Understanding Movies by Louis Giannetti is a good one. I'm not sure which Bordwell book has been recommended, but the one I have found useful is Film Art. Both go through narrative strategies, cinematography, editing, sound, mise-en-scene, and some theory overview.

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#104 Post by jdcopp » Fri Oct 28, 2005 6:04 pm

Walter Kerr may have made his reputation as the drama critic for The New York Times in the 50s and 60s but his study of silent comedy The Silent Clowns showed that he had a keen understanding of film in general and silent comedy in particular.

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#105 Post by filmfan » Thu Nov 17, 2005 2:37 pm

Just picked up in the bargain bin, a paperback issue of "David Lean" by Kevin Brownlow. As expected it's an excellent biography and one to look for !

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#106 Post by Lino » Sat Nov 19, 2005 2:59 pm

So, can anyone point me to the best book on Robert Altman out there?

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#107 Post by David Ehrenstein » Sat Nov 19, 2005 4:55 pm

Patrick McGilligan wrote a massive book on Altman a number of years back, that I have yet to read. But as he's a good writer it's undoubtedly worth a look.

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#108 Post by Lino » Sat Nov 19, 2005 5:03 pm

You mean this one?

And what about this one here? Is it any good too?

Which is the one to go for?

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#109 Post by otis » Sun Nov 20, 2005 7:39 am

You can read an interview with Robert T Self (any relation to John?) here, and his Altman article here. The McGilligan book's a biography, apparently, rather than "analysis". There's also a book of interviews' And check out Rick Altman's (any relation?) online article on sound in Nashville.
Last edited by otis on Sun Nov 20, 2005 1:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#110 Post by ellipsis7 » Sun Nov 20, 2005 8:45 am

ALTMAN ON ALTMAN edited by David Thompson in the Faber & Faber series is published 19 January coming...

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#111 Post by jorencain » Tue Nov 22, 2005 10:25 am

I just watched "La Chinoise" last night, and I'm realizing that it's about time I get a real grasp on what was happening, politically, in France (and throughout Europe) at that time. So, I'm looking for a book about Europe's political climate during the 20th century, which may or may not have anything to do with film. I'm not a huge reader, so if anyone can recommend something that's not too dry, I would appreciate. Godard is throwing around so much terminology ("communism" vs "Maoism" vs "Marxism-Leninism", etc.) that it's difficult to get it all straight. Thanks.

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#112 Post by leo goldsmith » Tue Nov 22, 2005 10:43 am

jorencain wrote:I just watched "La Chinoise" last night, and I'm realizing that it's about time I get a real grasp on what was happening, politically, in France (and throughout Europe) at that time. So, I'm looking for a book about Europe's political climate during the 20th century, which may or may not have anything to do with film. I'm not a huge reader, so if anyone can recommend something that's not too dry, I would appreciate. Godard is throwing around so much terminology ("communism" vs "Maoism" vs "Marxism-Leninism", etc.) that it's difficult to get it all straight. Thanks.
This might do the trick.

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#113 Post by Galen Young » Wed Nov 23, 2005 3:01 am

pmunger wrote:Also, anyone read this book on Kubrick and would like to share his thoughts. It seems interesting:
The Wolf at the Door: Stanley Kubrick, History, and the Holocaust

Since I'm a freak for all things Kubrick, I have this book. It's a wonderfully detailed study of all his films that attempts to show their symbolism relating to the Nazi Holocaust, Germany and his own Jewish heritage. It's somewhat bizarre to read The Shining dissected down to a bunch of symbols of the Holocaust! (one example: the typewriter that Jack Torrance uses, a German Adler...represents the bureaucracy of the Nazi Final Solution!) A funky, fascinating read, if taken with, perhaps, a (large) grain of salt...
jorencain wrote: So, I'm looking for a book about Europe's political climate during the 20th century, which may or may not have anything to do with film...Godard is throwing around so much terminology ("communism" vs "Maoism" vs "Marxism-Leninism", etc.) that it's difficult to get it all straight.

I really love all of Godard's more 'difficult' political films, they're truly one of a kind. I was in this same boat you describe for awhile too, and have since collected the following titles from used bookstores over the years to educate myself about this very subject:

The Beginning of the End by Angelo Quattrocchi and Tom Nairn
The French Student Revolt: The Leaders Speak, edited by Herve Bourges
Reflections on the Revolution in France: 1968, edited by Charles Posner

these may be of tangetial interest:

The Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord
Civil War in France: The Paris Commune by Karl Marx & V.I. Lenin
France, 1934-1970 by Richard Vinen

These are probably just the tip of the iceberg, I'd love to hear of anyone's else's personal favorites.

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#114 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Mon Dec 19, 2005 1:35 pm

Richard Schickel reviews 3 Kubrick books: Full Metal Jacket Diary, The Stanley Kubrick Archives and Stanley Kubrick Drama & Shadows: Photographs 1945-1950.

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#115 Post by Mise En Scene » Tue Feb 28, 2006 8:07 pm

Are there any good books or articles on the workings of film festivals? Books/articles that go into organization, general policies, rights, distribution, marketing, and press? The only books listed on Amazon are film festival travelogues and directories.

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#116 Post by a7m4 » Tue Feb 28, 2006 9:51 pm

I've just about finished reading Lotte Eisner's book on Fritz Lang and it comes highly recommended. It offers mostly basic analysis of his themes and films, but it is rich with details regarding the making of each of his films and his working methods (how he works with scriptwriters, prepares for his films, etc). It is full of interesting anecdotes both from Lang and others. For example: while filming Man Hunt for Fox Zanuck opposed a certain scene that Lang thought was absolutely essential and allowed no money for it in the budget, so Lang got all the materials himself from around the studio and spent 40 dollars (In 1941!) out of his pocket to build a bridge railing and in the deserted studio at 4am Lang and his cameraman set everything up themselves and shot the scene anyway...only for Zanuck to be delighted by it. Much of the book contains quite a bit of other detailed input and explanations from Lang as well (the book was completed just after he died). Though like I said it's more of a resource on Lang that you can go back to after seeing certain films (there is a chapter for each one) than an in depth study of his style.

By the way I have heard Eisner's book on Murnau (which seems to be out of print and going for $100-400 used on Amazon) is excellent as well. Is anyone familiar with it?

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#117 Post by leo goldsmith » Tue Feb 28, 2006 11:00 pm

Mise En Scene wrote:Are there any good books or articles on the workings of film festivals? Books/articles that go into organization, general policies, rights, distribution, marketing, and press? The only books listed on Amazon are film festival travelogues and directories.
Excellent question! But, of course, I can't really help you. I was interested in this question myself for a little while, because I was doing a paper on the effects of film festivals (and more specifically, reception of international films through film festivals, transnational circuitry, and so forth). The (rather eclectic) film scholar Bill Nichols wrote two or three articles on the traffic of Iranian films through festivals in the mid-90s and I believe Julian Stringer wrote his dissertation on film festival culture, but unless you have access to a university library (not to mention an interest in an academic approach to the subject), you may not be able to get your hands on these.

What is your angle (if you have one)? If you're interested in applying to festivals, you might do better to look at individual festival's sites or a page of resources for filmmakers.

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#118 Post by blindside8zao » Wed Mar 01, 2006 1:24 am

doing a very general study on film semiotics. Anyone have any suggestions? I tried to find Metz Film Language but my library didn't have it. I got Deleuze's 2 book series film time and film image I think the last one is. I am intersested mostly to see what anyone thinks of the Deleuze.

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#119 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Wed Mar 01, 2006 9:54 am

Mise En Scene wrote:Are there any good books or articles on the workings of film festivals? Books/articles that go into organization, general policies, rights, distribution, marketing, and press?

The only books listed on Amazon are film festival travelogues and directories.
Well, you might want to try Chris Gore's book, The Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide which sounds quite promising from the blurb on Amazon:
The book is chock-full of practical down-and-dirty advice. Every aspect of submitting to and attending film festivals is covered, from an exhaustive listing of festivals and their entry deadlines (the Turku, Finland, Lesbian and Gay Film Festival deadline is in July, so get cracking) to what to wear to the industry party you'll be crashing (big pants with big pockets, the better to stash giveaways and whip out business cards). You can even find a listing for the best bar in the Ukraine (Eric's in Kyiv) and a sidebar of handy tips that will keep you on your projectionist's good side.

Perhaps most helpful is Gore's inclusion of interviews with actual filmmakers who have experienced wildly varying degrees of success; the directors are remarkably candid and very generously try to help others avoid their own mistakes. Those who are still struggling not only illustrate the ongoing process of learning to play industry games, they show an artist's remarkable ability to keep the spirit alive.
I've been a fan of his work in Film Threat magazine way back when it was it a print mag and his style of writing is very accessible and pretty funny at times. This book might be a good jumping off point...

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#120 Post by porquenegar » Wed Mar 01, 2006 1:14 pm

I'm about halfway through Dreyer in Double Reflection: Translation of Carl Th. Dreyer's Writings About the Film (Donald Skoller) and am enjoying it immensely.

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#121 Post by ellipsis7 » Wed Mar 01, 2006 2:01 pm

It's a good book - Dreyer - FOUR SCREENPLAYS & C-T Dreyer's JESUS are also worth a read... However I'm still trying to track down the elusive LETTERS ABOUT THE JESUS FILM...

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#122 Post by Mise En Scene » Fri Mar 03, 2006 12:31 am

leo goldsmith wrote:Excellent question! But, of course, I can't really help you. I was interested in this question myself for a little while, because I was doing a paper on the effects of film festivals (and more specifically, reception of international films through film festivals, transnational circuitry, and so forth). The (rather eclectic) film scholar Bill Nichols wrote two or three articles on the traffic of Iranian films through festivals in the mid-90s and I believe Julian Stringer wrote his dissertation on film festival culture, but unless you have access to a university library (not to mention an interest in an academic approach to the subject), you may not be able to get your hands on these.
These sound very interesting and useful. I'll do a search at the library. Thanks.
What is your angle (if you have one)? If you're interested in applying to festivals, you might do better to look at individual festival's sites or a page of resources for filmmakers.
I'd like to apply for a film festival internship (either in the marketing or PR departments, there's a position to assist the programmer as well), but I'd want to be an asset to them just in case an employee position opens up!
Fletch F. Fletch wrote:Well, you might want to try Chris Gore's book, The Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide which sounds quite promising from the blurb on Amazon: I've been a fan of his work in Film Threat magazine way back when it was it a print mag and his style of writing is very accessible and pretty funny at times. This book might be a good jumping off point...
Thanks. It was the one I was leaning on towards starting w/.

Robin Wood's books on Ingmar Bergman and Howard Hawks are 2 great examples of film criticism. A great balance of analysis w/ interpretation and reaction (spiritual, emotional, mental, physical).

I'm wondering what critic or reviewer is the best mix of academia (knowledge of film history, style, and techniques) and accessibility (the general readership seriously interested in film as art).

In my opinion, the best critic would be a hybrid of Robin Wood and David Bordwell. The latter focusing on "concrete" details which is valuable because there is a lack of such understanding among new filmmakers, film students, and "new" cinephiles.

The 60's Cahiers critics (Godard et al), Kael, and Farber have a great following, but that is due to their enthusiasm and writing skills that excite the reader. Ironically, Godard himself said the only film critics in America were James Agee and Manny Farber and the rest are film reviewers. Actual analysis like that of Bordwell is lacking in their works...making their "criticism" more like editorials, well-written journal entries, or reaction pieces.

Bordwell has this to say about Wood's shortcomings:

Perhaps we can also mark the borderlines of the poetic avenue. There are certain scholars who work on the limits of a poetics. Say for instance someone like Robin Wood who has a keen eye for the use of stylistic devices but who – after registering a particular application of a stylistic device – will move outside of or beyond the poetic realm.

Right, right. I don't think that Robin is interested in causal explanations at the level that I'm interested in. That would be my argument. I would say that a poetics – at least a historical poetics of cinema – tries to tell a fairly detailed causal story about why form and style are the way they are. I think that there are two levels – at least two levels – to Robin's work. One is – as you say – a keen eye for stylistics. Though I have to say that ...

Not always that keen?

Yes, or that perhaps the same claims are reiterated rather than going deeper. For instance: “Mizoguchi the long take-director.â€

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#123 Post by david hare » Fri Mar 03, 2006 1:13 am

I haven't thoroughly read through this thread but if no-one else has mentioned it, Dudley Andrew's excellent "Mists of Regret" on 30s French cinema, the political/social climate and the rise of "poetic realism".

Donald Albrecht's "Designing Dreams" and Leon Barsacq's "Caligari's Cabinet and other Grand Illusions", both very succinctly written books on Set/Production design, with lots of eye candy.

Arlene Croce's sublime "The Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Book" which is sadly OOP. She was the dance critic for the New Yorker for decades and really knows her stuff. Her affection for the duo, and the studio, and the backstage folks is that of a true cinephile.

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#124 Post by Daze » Fri Mar 10, 2006 7:17 pm

Luis Bunuel's autobiography, "My Last Sigh", is a great read.

Michael Powell's autobiography, "A Life in Movies", is worth tracking down if you're a fan.

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#125 Post by david hare » Wed Mar 15, 2006 9:04 pm

Interesting that Bordwell picks up on Wood and Mizoguchi - I am assuming from Woods' long essay on Ugetsu in Personal Views. It's certainly true he short-cuts refs to stylistic points, like ("lots of long takes") perhaps without rendering them in terms of the overall mise-en-scene, i.e. most frequently as plans-sequences. But reading that essay again I think Wood is fully aware of all of this, and simply needs to get as quickly as possible through a stylistically evocative rendering of the movie in order to engage his reader in the same sort of thrall he holds for the movie.

Certainly I don't always agree with or even like everything he writes, and his somewhat early Leavisite positions are painful nowadays, but he has very clearly grown and changed many of his views over the years. And he is extremely charming and personable in the flesh.

Another author no-one's mentioned, so I will is the gay film writer Parker Tyler. Probably his best books are Underground Film, and Screening the Sexes. The latter a major beginning in gay film writing, and generally worthwhile as a text on sexualities and readings.

I also like (but shouldn't) Boyd MacDonald (of 80s extreme gay porn fame) whose Cruising the Movies is indispensible. ("the succulent groin of Richard Widmark", David Nelson's jockstrap in Trapeze, bulldyke Hope Emerson in Caged, etc, etc.)

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