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The HTF reading (yes, reading) challenge (1 Viewer)

Jodee

Screenwriter
Joined
Jun 13, 1999
Messages
1,044
This is cool. I like to collect books on film and already have many of the books listed. I usally like to flip through these books at random but this might motivate me to actually read them all start to finish.
I must add some recommendations, especially by director/film scholar Peter Bogdanovich. His books on film are some of the best I have read.
Who the Devil Made It by Peter Bogdanovich. Includes conversations with over a dozen great directors.
Movie of the Week contains 52 classic film suggestions to watch each week of the year and short essays on each.
This is Orson Welles is somewhat similar to Truffaut's Hitchcock book. It's basically one huge interview that Bogdanovich conducted with Welles over many years.
Pieces of Time by Peter Bogdanovich is OOP but well worth seeking out. It includes several articles that Bogdanovich wrote when he was doing a regular film piece for Esquire magazing back in the 1960's and early 70's.
He also has a book about John Ford which is supposed to be excellent.
Fascinated by Bogdanovich's life as well his work, I recently read Picture Shows: The Life and Films of Peter Bogdanovich by Andrew Yule. It is quite fascinating how it traces Bogdanovich's path from film scholar/critic to Hollywood wunderkind to washed-up director. Especially fasinating are the details of Bogdanovich's demise, including his long-term romance and mentorship to Cybill Shepherd, and then the tragic murder of his lover Dorothy Stratten, and then his marriage the Stratten's much-younger sister. Great read.
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Jodee/Andy
 

JungWoo

Agent
Joined
Nov 29, 1999
Messages
34
Darren,
I cannot comment on anything worthwhile since I never read that book. I just want you to know that I and probably many others read your post and I really appreciate that you write these book reviews. Hope your next reading is more rewarding.
About Bordwell's new edition of Film Arts, I bought it from bn.com under impression that it includes CD-rom. Well, it does not. I wonder if anybody who owns CD-rom can tell me if it's worth separate purchase. (I think the title of cd-rom is something like "film, form, culture" or something like that) I agree new edition is more geared for recent blockbuster movies. I guess it makes the book more accessible to others, but I can't say I like that. But the layout is better and I liked those quotes.
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http://www.geocities.com/the7thart/index.html My Life to Live
"Cinema is truth 24 frames per second." - Godard
My Home Theater
Cinema: seventh art
S&S 100 Films Forum Challenge
 

Pascal A

Second Unit
Joined
Aug 2, 2000
Messages
496
Professor Insdorf (author of Double Lives, Second Chances) struck me as being very personable and articulate. I haven't read her book either, but I'm thinking that she's probably better suited as a Q&A panel member, where she has the discretion to go into greater depth.
I reached a similar conclusion with respect to the book that I just finished, Ozu, written by Donald Richie. Although he is clearly familiar with the material (and Japanese culture in general), the tone and language of the book are more suited for a general audience or as a comprehensive, non-theoretical look at Ozu's cinema. However, Richie does delve into very specific plot details, so this is not exactly the type of book that one should reference when deciding which Ozu films to see.
Personally, I enjoyed this book if only for the simple pleasure of reliving Ozu's films. For any admirer of Ozu, I recommend reading this book first as a primer to David Bordwell's Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema. Here is my summary:
Ozu by Donald Richie
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Strictly Film School
 

Rich Malloy

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Apr 9, 2000
Messages
3,998
About Bordwell's new edition of Film Arts, I bought it from bn.com under impression that it includes CD-rom. Well, it does not. I wonder if anybody who owns CD-rom can tell me if it's worth separate purchase...
My wife got it for me as a Valentine's Day gift (don't laugh; I asked for it!), and it also didn't include the CD-Rom. (I was a tad disappointed, but I didn't bring it up!).
I know she had the B&N brick-and-mortar order it for her, and I'm not sure if the CD-Rom requires an extra purchase...
But I'd also be interested in knowing if it's a worthwhile purchase!
Likewise, does anyone have the 5th Ed (with the Citizen Kane shot on the cover)? If so, does it include substantially different material?
 

Edwin Pereyra

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Oct 26, 1998
Messages
3,500
RE: Film Art: An Introduction
This edition seems skewed much more toward modern and mainstream film than my old 2nd Edition.
I would have to agree with Al's statement. My initial reaction after having only read a few pages is that it appears to analyze the more popular films. That would make some sense, in a way. I guess, I should have expected that since The Matrix is on the front cover. :)
I also did not get the CD-rom and I ordered mine from BN.com. I am also thinking about joining their frequent readers club to get me through this Challenge.
Further, this book should be considered two books in itself because of its volume (over 430+ pages). Okay, so I tried. :)
~Edwin
 

David Oliver

Second Unit
Joined
Apr 12, 1999
Messages
327
Well I have the CD! Whoo-Hoo!! I rule!
OK, enough self-glorification...
I cannot say really if it is worth getting separately, how much is it? I haven't explored it too much to say if it is worthwhile. Off the top of my head I do not think I would pay more then $10 for it.
I have not seen any edition prior to this one so I cannot comment directly. But I think it is important to remember the prupose of the book. It is not meant to be a history of film. What it is is a somewhat technical discussion on film elements. So the success of such book depends on it's ability to relate ideas such as three-point lighting, mise-en-scene etc. I am using the book for a class and the teacher constantly reminds us that the movies we are watching are selected not for their overlying quality but for how they relate the important filmic principles we are studying at the time.
That is important to remember about the book, too. There is a good reason to include popular, more contemporary films, the readers are more likely to have seen them or have access to them. Therefore they may be better able to relate the important points. I appreciate the examples from abscure or films I have otherwise not seen. And there is a good chance it will get me to watch them. But this is clearly an artifact of the books purpose.
Now, I am not saying the sixth edition does that better or worse then the second, I don't know. Those who have seen both can better comment. But I am not sure I understand the criticism about the inclusion of more recent films.
David Oliver
Currently reading Somewhere in the Night : Film Noir and the American City
 

Darren H

Second Unit
Joined
May 10, 2000
Messages
447
Professor Insdorf (author of Double Lives, Second Chances) struck me as being very personable and articulate. I haven't read her book either, but I'm thinking that she's probably better suited as a Q&A panel member, where she has the discretion to go into greater depth.
I realize that I might have unfairly criticized Insdorf for simply not giving me the book that I wanted to read. I wanted a fairly objective study that interspersed more biographical and political context into the formal analysis. I wonder if Insdorf's personal relationship with Kieslowski -- she recounts a very touching story of his picking her and her mother up at the Warsaw airport and driving them two hours to visit Krakow -- may have left her somewhat biased. She "sounds" at times like a big fan, unwilling to criticize him or his work when he perhaps deserves it. I imagine she would be wonderful to listen to, though, with wonderful stories to tell. She also translated for Truffaut at times.
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S&S Challenge: 70 55
Read a book!
 

Pascal A

Second Unit
Joined
Aug 2, 2000
Messages
496
I wanted a fairly objective study that interspersed more biographical and political context into the formal analysis.
Funny that you should mention that. I've been trying for the past two weeks to get Andrzej Wajda's autobiography, Double Vision: My Life in Film, which is out of print. I've just ordered it again earlier this week from an Amazon z-shop, so hopefully, it's on its way. I'd like to add this book to the reading list (under Books by Directors).
According to some of the feedback on this book, Wajda effectively traces the turbulent history of Poland (and in particular, its effects on the people of his generation) as it manifested itself into the highly political nature of his films.
By the way, Darren, scratch off another one for me for Ozu.
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I'll be reading Patterns of Time: Mizoguchi and the 1930s next.
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Strictly Film School
 

Darren H

Second Unit
Joined
May 10, 2000
Messages
447
I think everything has now been properly updated. I added the Wajda book and also Jodee's Bogdanovich recommendations. By the way, I read much of Who the Devil Made It two years ago and really enjoyed it. It contains interviews with an interesting assortment of directors.
Pascal, Wajda does sound like what I was looking for. Our library has a copy, but it's checked out right now. I've added it to my personal "to read" list, though. For what it's worth, over lunch I began The Films of Andrei Tarkovsky: A Visual Fugue by Vida Johnson and Graham Petrie. If the first 20 pages are any indication, it should be an interesting read, very well written and built on an intriguing thesis:
Tarkovsky certainly saw himself as a martyr in his last years and . . . helped to foster a myth of his own persecution that was rather uncritically accepted at face value by well-meaning foreigners. . . . Yet, even if one must reject the more extreme claims of martyrdom, there is no reason not to acknowledge the very real struggles and sacrifices he made for his art.
 

Mitty

Supporting Actor
Joined
Jan 13, 1999
Messages
886
I've finished reading Frank Capra's The Name Above the Title. Actually I finished it about 2 weeks ago. Down to 9! :)
It's a wonderful book, which reads very easily, almost like a novel. One won't learn a terrific amount about filmmaking reading it, but will get a really solid feel of the era from about the mid 20's to the early 60's. He uses a loose, conversational style that is sort of mesmerizing, and highly evocative.
One can't call Capra modest, that's to be sure. The introduction to the edition I have (1997) by Jeanine Basinger states rather well that "...Capra turns every moment into a scene, and he usually casts himself as the hero of the action." It's very true. He makes grand assertions, such as commenting that his Why We Fight films revolutionized documentary filmmaking. Maybe he's right, it's just very unusual to hear someone say such a thing about themselves. There are many such self-aggrandizements, pertaining to Mack Sennet, Harry Langdon, the rise of Columbia, etc. There are a number of instances documented where he fought the good fight against evil, would-be oppressors and came out the victor.
There are many moments of self-deprecation also. He writes about his later films, which he feels were failures not because America had moved past sentimentality, but because his films had stopped being as honest and personal as they once were; he had become less courageous in his older years. He also quite painfully records the period in the 50's, in which the auteur movement which he fought so hard for (he never uses that expression, he uses the term 'one man, one film') essentially died at the hands of the much more powerful stars. He talks about how Glenn Ford, a middling star, broke him down like no studio mogul, even the blustery Harry Cohn, had ever been able to do. He also has little good to say about the dissolution of the old Hayes Production code (he refers to films like 'Bonnie and Clyde' saying that "the Marquis de Sade took over in the sixties."), but from his standpoint, his argument is sympathetic, and one can see his perspective. He genuinely seemed to be concerned about how it would affect the art of cinema.
I have no idea how much of what appears in The Name Above the Title is true. Leonard Maltin, in his Link Removed It prompted me to have a mini Capra film festival, over a rainy weekend, during which I re-watched It Happened One Night, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Meet John Doe and Arsenic and Old Lace.
I've also started reading Scorsese on Scorsese, a book I've owned for a couple of years, but am just now getting around to reading.
 

Pascal A

Second Unit
Joined
Aug 2, 2000
Messages
496
I briefly referred to the book on the German cinema thread, but I am adding this book on my reading list:
DEFA : East German Cinema, 1946-1992 by Sean Allan and John Sandford
On a more infuriating note, my reading has slowed down to snail's pace with Patterns of Time: Mizoguchi and the 1930s. I suspect that the book was expanded from the author's graduate thesis because it is replete with citations of other works (which is unfortunately endemic of many thesis and research papers) and is written in carefully constructed (and often ambiguous) language. Even the author, Donald Kirihara, wrote a disclaimer that the reader may just want to skip the first few chapters, and go right into the specific Mizoguchi films in the study. So far, I'm managing to plod along, but I may have to take him up on his suggestion.
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Strictly Film School
 

David Oliver

Second Unit
Joined
Apr 12, 1999
Messages
327
I have just completed my first book of the HTF reading challenge. It is Somewhere in the Night: Film Noir and the American City by Nicholas Christopher (I don’t believe it is on the list). There may be no cinematic genre, school, what have you that has been more discussed in books than Film Noir, the somewhat ambiguous reference to an American film style coming mainly from the 40’s and 50’s. I have not read any of them.
Most analysis and study of film noir, as I understand it, is a study of style. There is really no formal definition of film noir (that I know of), although some have half-seriously referred to it as filming in shadows.
This book does not examine film noir as a stylistic family of films Instead it examines them thematically. And the theme expressed is that of the descent of the protagonist, and other characters into the labyrinth, whose physical manifestation is usually the city, but also the labyrinth of the mind and politics and love. Generally this is a place they are unfamiliar with, unsure where it will take them, with hidden corners and unseen rooms, and it frequently leaves them at the bottom of the abyss...or dead.
But it is the city that is central to the thesis. The city is not the shining light on the hill, but instead it is infested with grifters and con men, femme fatales and gangsters. It has unseen rooms, vast areas of activity that underlie a garishness that is the true nature of America during the post war years. America after the war is more sure of itself than ever, but there starts a dichotomy between the city interior and the suburbs where people are starting to flock to.
I thought the first half of the book was off a bit, dwelling too much on Greek mythology to try and prove its point. But the middle of the book is quite strong, where Christopher examines various elements of locale and character and plot within certain films in very nice detail. It is a good read and definitely gives you a strong itch to go out and rent Out of the Past, The Big Clock, Cat People, Brainstorm and the like. The book loses steam at the end when he discusses what he calls neo-noir that are noir films created since the end of what he considers the classic noir period. He goes into some depth on the movie The Usual Suspects which I found interesting. But overall I think the end of the book just isn’t fleshed out enough.
The other problem is that Christopher’s viewpoint is a bit more cynical with respect the nature of what the movies are supposed to be representing. He states as fact some of his presumptions about how corporations and government and such are destructive. I am not arguing for or against those points, but he recites them as sort of off-hand “fact”.
Overall I enjoyed the book, I certainly will watch more movies from that era in a different light and heightened appreciation. Not perfect but an interesting read.
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AFI 100 Challenge: 33 Left
Last: Frankenstein (3/4)
Next: Tootsie
HTF Reading Challenge: 9 Left
Currently reading: Which Lie Did I Tell: More Aventures in the Screen Trade
 

Darren H

Second Unit
Joined
May 10, 2000
Messages
447
Thanks for the review, David. For me, the only good news to come from all of the recent MGM hoopla around here is that Robert Aldrich's Kiss Me Deadly will soon be released, though probably without the attention it deserves. It and Touch of Evil are probably my favorite classic noirs. If you haven't seen it yet, be sure to check out the DVD.
Pascal, you've just described my worst nightmare. In fact, just yesterday I had a meeting with my dissertation director in which I tried (unsuccessfully) to explain my frustration with much academic writing. All I can say in Kirihara's defense is that if his book is as dry as you describe -- his warning to readers kills me -- then it's probably because he was forced to write while jumping through a great series of flaming academic hoops. Well, that or he's just not a very good writer.
I've updated the list on the first page. I hope to have my review for Johnson's and Petrie's The Films of Andrei Tarkovsky up some time next week. Amazing book.
 

Darren H

Second Unit
Joined
May 10, 2000
Messages
447
Damn, Pascal, that article hits way too close to home. I find myself in a very uncomfortable position: I both agree with Zenner completely and am guilty of each of his offenses (including the damn affect/effect rule). Great article.
My favorite line:
 

David Oliver

Second Unit
Joined
Apr 12, 1999
Messages
327
Well, a week away from work with a cold has allowed me to finish my second book in the reading challeng, Which Lie Did I Tell? by William Goldman.
This is a follow-up to Goldman's Adventures in the Screen Trade chronicling Goldman's life as a prominent Hollywood screenwriter. Goldman is best know for having written the screenplay for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid as well as the novel that was adapted for The Princess Bride.
Goldman's writing is very easy and conversational. The book is really three major sections: 1) discussing his various projects since 1980; 2) discussions of other films writers, i.e. There's Something About Mary, North by Northwest, etc.; And 3) his own original screeplay that he allows other writer frinds of his to criticize.
Mostly he is duscussing the process of screenwriting and I think he spends a lot of good time on the more subtle aspects. He is not so concerned about story structure or work habits. I mean he is a firm believer in story as the key to any good screeplay, but that stuff he leaves for others. He seems more concerned with stuff that is harder to teach. For example, he relates an absolutely fascinating story of an autistic child who survives four days on his own in a swamp. And it is a great story and it at first seems like a great movie. Except he explains that it isn't. He asks, "Does it play?" meaning just because something is fascinating does not mean it will translate into a good movie.
He does talk somewhat about the ins and outs of getting a movie made, about actors and producers and directors and sturio execs. He almost never says anything abd about someone by name, or if he does he also heaps praise on them. This is not a tell-all behind-the-glitz expose of Hollywood, but there are some interesting moments.
He does all this in a, as I mentioned, conversational style. It isn't a textbook, it's a pleasant and informative read about what Goldman has learned and how he has learned it.
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AFI 100 Challenge: 33 Left
Last: Frankenstein (3/4)
Next: Tootsie
HTF Reading Challenge: 8 Left
Currently reading: TBD
 

Mitty

Supporting Actor
Joined
Jan 13, 1999
Messages
886
I finished reading Scorsese on Scorsese.
Essentially a long published interview broken up chronologically, I found it interesting, but to someone who knows a lot about him, not extremely informative. I suspect most of us who haunt this forum will learn little new about the American master or his films.
Not surprisingly to me, I learned the most about films like The Age of Innocence, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore and Cape Fear that I've seen fewer times than his others and have absorbed less lore about their productions. Much of what he had to say about Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull was not news to me, nor was much of his biographical information.
Nonetheless, I find his enthusiasm and the cadence of his conversations to be, for lack of a better word, comforting. It was an easy, reassuring read.
8 to go.
 

Darren H

Second Unit
Joined
May 10, 2000
Messages
447
Thanks for the reviews, guys. Things have gotten quite hectic for me at work lately, so my pace has been slowed a bit. But all of the totals have been updated on the first post.
 

Darren H

Second Unit
Joined
May 10, 2000
Messages
447
The Films of Andrei Tarkovsky: A Visual Fugue by Vida T. Johnson and Graham Petrie
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I'd hoped to post a much longer review of this fine book, but my job has felt like, well, work lately. Here's a one sentence review: I so enjoyed Johnson's and Petrie's study that I am considering tracking down their e-mail addresses and complimenting them personally. It's that extremely rare beast: an academic study that is informative, objective (or as close as anyone can get), and readable.
As I mentioned briefly in an earlier post, Johnson and Petrie work from an interesting thesis:
Tarkovsky certainly saw himself as a martyr in his last years and . . . helped to foster a myth of his own persecution that was rather uncritically accepted at face value by well-meaning foreigners. . . . Yet, even if one must reject the more extreme claims of martyrdom, there is no reason not to acknowledge the very real struggles and sacrifices he made for his art.
I'm convinced. Unlike the Kieslowski book I reviewed previously, this one is very much grounded in the particular context within which the director worked. In this case, Johnson and Petrie expose the inner workings of the Soviet film industry, though not in such unnecessary detail as to distract from their discussion of Tarkovsky himself. In doing so, they reveal him to be both the martyred artist he (often) claimed to be and a director allowed unprecedented creative freedom. As a Soviet "employee," Tarkovsky was forced to maneuver considerable bureaucratic hurdles in pre- and post-production, but during filming he was given complete independence, allowing him to make difficult films free from the economic concerns experienced in the West. Johnson and Petrie wonder what Orson Welles might have accomplished had he been afforded the same budgets and freedom given to Tarkovsky while under the "yoke" of Communism.
The Films of Andrei Tarkovsky is divided into 14 chapters: the first three provide a fascinating overview of Tarkovsky’s persona, his aesthetics, and his working methods; the second section includes close studies of each of the eight films (including The Steamroller and the Violin); and the final four chapters examine recurring images and themes in Tarkovsky’s work. One note: the chapter-long studies of each film are very insightful and well-organized. Each provides a production history, an examination of the critical reception, and a formal analysis by the authors. Johnson and Petrie hold no punches, particularly when dealing with the mostly Western critics who they feel have misinterpreted Tarkovsky’s oeuvre due to ignorance of Soviet culture.
Al, Pascal, and anyone else interested in Tarkovsky: I really can’t recommend this book highly enough. Good stuff.
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S&S Challenge: 70 53
Read a book!
 

Rich Malloy

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Apr 9, 2000
Messages
3,998
I've got to get that book!
(Thanks, Darren!)
BTW, have all the Tarkovsky-philes checked out the docu 'Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky' on THE SACRIFICE disc? There are two really extraordinary gems contained within: (1) an 'outtake' from THE SACRIFICE that's a 2-1/2 minute, unbroken tracking shot portraying (I think) the dreamworld of the protagonist. I few seconds of it are edited into the film, but you can see it here unbroken (it's truly beautiful); (2) both takes of the climax (no spoilers here!) including the first ruined take (camara jammed) and the second successful take that made it into the film. (If you're familiar with the climactic shot, you'll understand why missing the take was so catastrophic - maybe not quite as bad as losing the entire original version of STALKER, but damn close!) You'll even see an angry, frustrated side of Tarkovsky you may not know existed (even yelling "mother-fucker!!!" as Sven Nykvist and the rest of the crew stand around looking very uncomfortable).
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"Only one is a wanderer; two together are always going somewhere."
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Al's DVD Collection
Al's Criterion Collection
 

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