books about cinema

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The books about music thread on ILM is always good value so I figured we could use one on movies too.

Some of my faves:

Ealing Studios, Charles Barr - Very impressive for how seriously it takes its subject, though often enough I had to think "do you actually LIKE any of these films?" considering how critical he is of them.
Outlaw Masters Of Japanese Film, Chris D. - Interviews with pretty much every Japanese genre director of the 60's and 70's you could think of.
The Big Book Of Noir - Takes in cinema, TV, literature and radio; really delightful mix of lists, essays, interviews.

One of my all-time fave biographies is Baby, I Don't Care - Lee Server's biography of Robert Mitchum, which goes down so many avenues and certainly shows you what a wild exciting life Mitchum had, even if - as usual with biographies - I ended the read liking him a little less than I had before. Lots of little moments that stuck with me: one is Aldrich and Mitchum working on some b movie, Aldrich going into full creative crisis and Mitchum telling him "don't you understand what we're doing here? We're doing a gorilla movie. People watch them to see me beat up some thugs and get the girl. That's all this is." Aldrich replies in sadness "I don't want to make gorilla movies", and Mitchum just kinda shrugs.

Daniel_Rf, Tuesday, 11 January 2022 16:54 (one week ago) link

I'll probably think of more later, but just looking up at my shelves, Robin Wood's Hollywood From Vietnam to Reagan...and Beyond and Hitchcock's Films Revisited are two that I frequently find myself coming back to.

Les hommes de bonbons (cryptosicko), Tuesday, 11 January 2022 16:58 (one week ago) link

I sat in on some of Wood's film classes. All of his books are worthwhile, including the early ones about Bergman and Arthur Penn, which look like they have been reprinted, though I haven't read those versions. I assume that they feature extra material or commentary dating from his later, politicized era.
Two favourite single director studies are A Certain Realism by Maurizio Viano (on Pasolini), and Bernardo Bertolucci by Robert Kolker. The date I'm seeing for the latter is 1985, but I remember him writing about The Last Emperor.

Halfway there but for you, Tuesday, 11 January 2022 17:17 (one week ago) link

I see that Kolker has a brand new book, publication date 2022: Triumph over containment : American film in the 1950s!

Halfway there but for you, Tuesday, 11 January 2022 17:31 (one week ago) link

I don't have any objection to a new thread, but I am going to link to some old threads because there are several good recommendations there.

Search: Good, nay essential, books about film
Decent books on cinematography?
What books about film should I read?
Good books on directing

Everybody Loves Ramen (WmC), Tuesday, 11 January 2022 17:32 (one week ago) link

I was gonna ask about Leo Braudy's The World in a Frame: What We See in Films

I'm reading Bresson's Notes on Cinematography, which also doubles as a self-help book.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 11 January 2022 17:35 (one week ago) link

James Quandt of TIFF / Cinémathèque Ontario said that the Bresson book should be "required reading" for film students. Though it's very worthwhile, trying to turn it into a bible of "what film ought to be" was only going to breed a bunch of mini-Bressons. I think I have seen several of their films over the last 25 years or so.

Halfway there but for you, Tuesday, 11 January 2022 17:40 (one week ago) link

could be worse

nobody like my rap (One Eye Open), Tuesday, 11 January 2022 17:53 (one week ago) link

going to throw out the obligatory mention of boyd macdonald's cruising the movies

devvvine, Tuesday, 11 January 2022 17:55 (one week ago) link

The best book of the last year afaic is Nick P's monograph on Goodbye Dragon Inn. I tend toward monographs in general when it comes to movies, though. (See also the BFI Film Classics on Night of the Living Dead.)

Essential reads from a glance at my shelf:

Stuart Klawans, Film Follies
Manny Farber, Negative Space
James Baldwin, The Devil Finds Work
Damien Bona & Mason Wiley, Inside Oscar

Max Hamburgers (Eric H.), Tuesday, 11 January 2022 18:04 (one week ago) link

not a book per se but the folks translating serge daney at http://sergedaney.blogspot.com/?m=1 have my eternal gratitude

devvvine, Tuesday, 11 January 2022 18:07 (one week ago) link

A few others that must be tucked away in storage:

Craig Seligman, Sontag & Kael
Jonathan Rosenbaum, Moving Places
John Gregory Dunne, The Studio
James Schamus, Carl Theodor Dreyer's Gertrud: The Moving Word
Jason Zinoman, Shock Value

Max Hamburgers (Eric H.), Tuesday, 11 January 2022 18:46 (one week ago) link

Will second Klawans, Baldwin, and Inside Oscar, the latter essential bathroom reading.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 11 January 2022 18:54 (one week ago) link

Also:

Luis Bunuel - My Last Sigh
Sam Stagg - All About All About Eve: The Complete Behind-the-Scenes Story of the Bitchiest Film Ever Made!
Simon Callow - Orson Welles: One Man Band.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 11 January 2022 18:57 (one week ago) link

The Stagg is perfect for some snowy night in front of the fire.

Max Hamburgers (Eric H.), Tuesday, 11 January 2022 20:13 (one week ago) link

the exclamation point is a poem

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 11 January 2022 20:15 (one week ago) link

On top of my standard everything-by-Kael-and-Kauffmann (and everything about Kael), plus Mark Harris's Pictures at a Revolution, I've come to like making-of books: Glenn Kenny's book on Goodfellas, Glenn Frankel's Shooting Midnight Cowboy, Michael Benson's Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece, Melissa Maerz's oral history of Dazed & Confused, Carl Gottleib's The Jaws Log, Jan Stuart's Nashville Chronicles: The Making of Robert Altman's Masterpiece.

clemenza, Tuesday, 11 January 2022 20:18 (one week ago) link

A few already mentioned, I'd also rep for the following:

Mark Harris's Five Came Back
David Thompson's Have You Seen?. T
John Boorman's Money Into Light. Boorman tells the tortuous story of the making of The Emerald Forest
Thomas Doherty's Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939. Explores the tensions between commerce, censorship, the expatriate Germans opposing the Nazis and Hollywood's wish to do the right thing but not rock the boat.
Otto Friedrich's City of Nets
William Goldman's Adventures in the Screen Trade
Mark Feeney's Nixon at the Movies. Feeney tells the story of the Nixon era through the films he watched when President.
Legs McNeill's The Other Hollywood: The Uncensored Oral History of the Porn Industry Warts and all oral history of the rise and fall of the porn cinema industry from the late 60s to the arrival of the internet.
Francois Truffaut's Hitchcock. The master and his student in combative form.
Alain Silver's Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style
Thomas Schatz's The Genius of the System
Kevin Brownlow's The Parade's Gone By... and Hollywood:The Pioneers. Essential works on the silent film era, the Hollywood book is more of a photo book, but no poorer for that.
Cary Elwes's As You Wish, very charming and funny account of the making of The Princess Bride.

Dan Worsley, Tuesday, 11 January 2022 21:11 (one week ago) link

The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood is RAD
Cassavetes on Cassavetes is the shit

kurt schwitterz, Tuesday, 11 January 2022 21:29 (one week ago) link

I've spent many pleasant hours with Inside Warner Bros. Rudy Behlmer, a collection of internal production memos & correspondence between WB execs, staffers & stars, covering the 30s through the early 50s.

nobody like my rap (One Eye Open), Tuesday, 11 January 2022 21:34 (one week ago) link

The Phantom Empire by Geoffrey O'Brien

Josefa, Tuesday, 11 January 2022 22:56 (one week ago) link

Xp You’d like Letters from Hollywood edited by Rocky Lang and Barbara Hall which collects correspondence from the 1920s to 1970s. The telegram Henry Fonda sent to William Wyler on the birth of Jane Fonda is a joy.

Dan Worsley, Tuesday, 11 January 2022 23:34 (one week ago) link

In 1937, Henry Fonda sent a telegram to William Wyler (who was directing him in Jezebel at the time) and his friends, who had dubbed themselves as ‘The Jezzies,’ to announce the birth of his daughter Jane. In return, the group sent a letter to Henry, taking a jab at his acting. pic.twitter.com/oOFPKktgKU

— ana (@pelicinema) May 1, 2021

Dan Worsley, Tuesday, 11 January 2022 23:37 (one week ago) link

Wish someone would turn this into a full-length book.

https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2010/04/movie-marked-danger-200004

clemenza, Tuesday, 11 January 2022 23:41 (one week ago) link

There’s a BFI Film Classics on it by James Naremore. Haven’t read it so can’t say if it treads the same ground as the Vanity Fair piece.

Dan Worsley, Tuesday, 11 January 2022 23:50 (one week ago) link

Didn't know! Will immediately look for it (even though I still haven't read the making-of-Wanda book I bought over a year ago).

clemenza, Tuesday, 11 January 2022 23:56 (one week ago) link

Just remembered BFI Film Classics/BFI Modern Classics: Search and Destroy

Max Hamburgers (Eric H.), Wednesday, 12 January 2022 01:22 (one week ago) link

Is there a good single history about the classic Hollywood studio system? Realised the other day I've picked up stuff mostly from dvd bonus features, so have a grasp of Warner in the 30's, Columbia in the 50's, early Universal, MGM, but have never looked at the whole shebang.

Daniel_Rf, Wednesday, 12 January 2022 11:26 (one week ago) link

That Thomas Schatz book already mentioned a few posts up by Dan W, The Genius of the System.

The Door into Summerisle (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 12 January 2022 11:50 (one week ago) link

Andrew Sarris - You Ain't Heard Nothin' Yet

xpost

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 12 January 2022 12:56 (one week ago) link

Is there a good single history about the classic Hollywood studio system?

This isn't EXACTLY what you're looking for, but I still don't know of another book that's so packed with hard facts and figures about classical Hollywood cinema, including chapters on all the major studios and their finances:

https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/The_Hollywood_Story.html?id=rvVhEJmbfrsC

I suspect I may well have contributed to some of those earlier threads on this topic that WmC linked to, so am going to limit myself to ten recentish books:

The Essential Raymond Durgnant edited by Henry K Miller - excellent selection of key essays by one of the greatest of all film critics, put together by an ex-ilxor - how could it miss!
A Short History of Cahiers Du Cinema - Emilie Bickerton - extremely useful magazine history that also serves as a concise study of the nouvelle vague.
Euro Gothic - Jonathan Rigby - One of a series of three authoritative surveys of the English, American and European horror movie. Rigby is a tidy writer and an exhaustive researcher, and this one in particular assembles a lot of facts and history all in one place really for the first time in English.
2001: A Space Odyssey - Peter Kramer (BFI monograph). Yes, lots of good entries in this series, but Kramer really did seem to find new things to say about Kubrick and 2001 here.
The Richard Burton Diaries edited by Chris Williams - pure entertainment and perfect lavatory reading.
Warner Bros The Making of an American Movie Studio - David Thomson - he has written many careless and scattershot things in the last ten years or more, but the subject keeps Thomson more focused here, and he is on home ground writing about siblings, power, greed and old Hollywood.
My Lunches With Orson - Henry Jaglom and Orson Welles - table talk tittle-tattle that Welles would almost certainly have not want published like this - he comes across as peevish, bitchy, quite racist and grumpy - but also of course fascinating, funny, insightful, unpredictable.
The Bodies Beneath - William Fowler and Vic Pratt - well-written and entertaining survey of all sorts of British film and television oddities that will definitely have you scouring YouTube looking for old Sooty and Sweep shows.
Once Upon a Time in the West: Shooting a Masterpiece - Christopher Frayling - everything Frayling writes in and around cinema is worth reading, but this large-size illustrated hardcover is gorgeous to look at too, and obviously essential for fans of the film (and who isn't?).
Murderous Passions/Flowers of Peversion - Stephen Thrower - stonking two volume critical filmography of Jess Franco. The amount of research and devotion involved is staggering - and suitably mad and excessive, considering the subject/author.

Ward Fowler, Wednesday, 12 January 2022 20:53 (one week ago) link

My Lunches with Orson is so fun, i forgot about that one

nobody like my rap (One Eye Open), Wednesday, 12 January 2022 21:20 (one week ago) link

One that seems obvious but I haven't seen it mentioned in any of these threads is This Is Orson Welles, which is Peter Bogdanovich interviewing Welles.

Images by Ingmar Bergman is excellent, and goes together well with the interview compilation Bergman on Bergman by Björkman et al.

Seconding the phenomenal Murderous Passions (I haven't read the second volume). And The Richard Burton Diaries, which is so endlessly enjoyable it has its own Twitter account.

I like Alex Cox's book on spaghetti westerns 10,000 Ways to Die as well as a more comprehensive book on the genre called Any Gun Can Play by Kevin Grant.

Josefa, Wednesday, 12 January 2022 21:48 (one week ago) link

I saw Bogdanovich give a reading of maybe a new edition of that first one maybe twenty years ago, which was entertaining. Seems like only yesterday.

The Door into Summerisle (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 13 January 2022 00:17 (six days ago) link

Shepperton Babylon by Matthew Sweet is a lot of fun and quite funny

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Thursday, 13 January 2022 00:23 (six days ago) link

W-w-wait, Mattthew Sweet?

The Door into Summerisle (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 13 January 2022 01:11 (six days ago) link

Yup

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Thursday, 13 January 2022 07:52 (six days ago) link

Danny Peary's Cult Movies 1, 2 & 3 and Guide for the Film Fanatic were essential through my 20's.

Hideous Lump, Thursday, 13 January 2022 08:15 (six days ago) link

I loved Geoff Dyer's Zona, a book-length meditation on Tarkovsky's Stalker.

joni mitchell jarre (anagram), Thursday, 13 January 2022 08:28 (six days ago) link

The Matthew Sweet who wrote Shepperton Babylon is not the same Matthew Sweet who recorded Girlfriend.

Ward Fowler, Thursday, 13 January 2022 08:57 (six days ago) link

I loved Geoff Dyer's Zona, a book-length meditation on Tarkovsky's Stalker.

― joni mitchell jarre (anagram),

seconding

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 13 January 2022 13:05 (six days ago) link

I'm not sure of David Thomson's rep these days, but his Welles and Bette Davis critical bios have insights. So does his recent Sleeping With Strangers: How the Movies Shaped Desire .

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 13 January 2022 13:06 (six days ago) link

The Matthew Sweet who wrote Shepperton Babylon is not the same Matthew Sweet who recorded Girlfriend.

Figured, just making sure, thanks for confirming.

The Door into Summerisle (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 13 January 2022 13:23 (six days ago) link

Boyd McDonald, Cruising the Movies
Michael Koresky, Films of Endearment
Armond White, Make Spielberg Great Again ... whatever, AW's Spielberg writings through the years are essential

Max Hamburgers (Eric H.), Thursday, 13 January 2022 13:40 (six days ago) link

I remember enjoying Zona, but haven't retained any impressions from it except a quasi-joking tone of "dear Reader, please forgive me for calling your attention to this utterly obscure cultural artifact", as if the film isn't generally regarded as a masterpiece of world cinema.

Halfway there but for you, Thursday, 13 January 2022 14:03 (six days ago) link

#4 on the ILX all-time movies poll ... super deep cut

Max Hamburgers (Eric H.), Thursday, 13 January 2022 14:21 (six days ago) link

Unfortunate timing with this thread. Have only read the Mitchum bio but it's an all-timer.

The great Lee Server, author of superb bios of Robert Mitchum, Ava Gardner and most recently Johnny Roselli has passed away. Lee was a friend and mentor—and I feel terrible that he's gone. Heartfelt condolences to his wife and family.

— Alan K. Rode (pronounced ROE-DEE) (@alancinephile) January 13, 2022

Chris L, Thursday, 13 January 2022 14:23 (six days ago) link

(xpost) I'm reading Thomson's How to Watch a Movie right now, a Christmas gift. (He's given me permission to write the sequel, How Not to Watch a Movie: drifting off on your recliner, rewinding and watching the same five-minute stretch 17 times until you shut it down and pick it up again tomorrow.)

clemenza, Thursday, 13 January 2022 14:41 (six days ago) link

Robin Wood - Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan
Robert B Ray - A certain tendency of the Hollywood cinema, 1930-1980
Mark Harris - Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood

Saxophone Of Futility (Michael B), Thursday, 13 January 2022 14:53 (six days ago) link

co-sign Robin Wood's book

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 13 January 2022 14:53 (six days ago) link

That Harris book was so good it kicked off my ILE Oscar year polls.

Max Hamburgers (Eric H.), Thursday, 13 January 2022 15:05 (six days ago) link

The book that kicked it all off for me was the 1981 edition of Movies on TV by Steven H. Scheuer. Our family got it as a gift for donating to the Buffalo PBS station. The writing is just capsule reviews, terse but very evocative, and almost certainly this is the first place I heard of Godard, Buñuel, Robert Kramer, Brakhage etc. (apparently, someone thought that The Art of Vision was likely to be broadcast on TV in 1981, there's a review of it in here). To save space, movies that received less than two stars out of four had no review, but even that ignited my curiousity: "The Last Movie? One star? How bad can it be?"

Halfway there but for you, Thursday, 13 January 2022 15:41 (six days ago) link

I had at least one copy of Scheuer's guide. He was Maltin's rival for a while before dropping out--many more eccentric entries than Maltin.

clemenza, Thursday, 13 January 2022 15:57 (six days ago) link

Just ordered a copy of Murderous Passions based on the recommendations here. Looks fun. Also picked up "Have You Seen" for three quid in the local Oxfam and looking forward to depositing on the toilet shelf.

I've had the Lee Server book on the shelf for 20 years since the paperback came out, it's worth reading? Was put off by the bulk, and the suspicion that it was one of those flip post-Swingers bios like Rat Pack Confidential.

Chuck_Tatum, Thursday, 13 January 2022 16:51 (six days ago) link

RIP Lee Server. As stated above, the Mitchum bio is one of my all-time faves. Dunno about flip - it doesn't do too much hand wringing about its subject's bad behaviour but doesn't glorify it either. I did finish it liking him less than before, his 60's right wing turn and contempt for his own profession got a bit tiring. Crazy anecdote after crazy anecdote, though, just off memory:

-Mitchum's early life including a stint on a chain gang and writing a sympathetic play about a union leader.

-Mitchum sharing a spliff w/ a younger actor in a hotel room while listening to Sgt.Pepper. Said young actor starts to try to explain the yoof to him, Mitchum just smiles going "I know, man"; "can't believe I was enough of an idiot to try to lecture ROBERT MITCHUM on hipness"

-Mitchum's encounter with a trans belly dancer; when warned off her he replies "I don't care what's in her pants man, she's hot!" - equally gross and progressive, I guess?

-As mentioned above: Aldrich and Mitchum working on some b movie, Aldrich going into full creative crisis and Mitchum telling him "don't you understand what we're doing here? We're doing a gorilla movie. People watch them to see me beat up some thugs and get the girl. That's all this is." Aldrich replies in sadness "I don't want to make gorilla movies", and Mitchum just kinda shrugs.

Also some really great turns of phrase like describing a Mitchum/Dean Martin film as a "summit of indifference".

Daniel_Rf, Friday, 14 January 2022 11:55 (five days ago) link

Server also contributed to the super fun Big Book Of Noir, and he has a book called Asian Pop Cinema which is worth tracking down - pretty cool that even in 1999 he managed to include South Korea, the Philipines and Taiwan cinema.

Daniel_Rf, Friday, 14 January 2022 11:58 (five days ago) link

Oh, did he pass? RIP. The Mitchum book and the Ava Gardner one are both grebt as is The Big Book of Noir.

The Door into Summerisle (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 14 January 2022 12:51 (five days ago) link

I remember the punchline of one story as "I don't care about plumbing!"

The Door into Summerisle (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 14 January 2022 12:51 (five days ago) link

Also, two anecdotes you overlooked are the one about the bumping landing before shooting Out of the Past when he said "Anybody got any gage?" and the one where he got to LA first because his brother got arrested by a railroad bull. When his rother finally arrives, Bob is in the tub taking a bubble bath, smoking a cigar, reading Hollywood Confidential and says "What kept you?"

The Door into Summerisle (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 14 January 2022 12:54 (five days ago) link

bumpy

The Door into Summerisle (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 14 January 2022 12:54 (five days ago) link

brother

The Door into Summerisle (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 14 January 2022 12:55 (five days ago) link

More than bumpy, no brakes. Plane knocked over an outhouse. Two men were out cold.

The Door into Summerisle (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 14 January 2022 13:22 (five days ago) link


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