Film Books Round-up
In terms of wealth of research and weightiness of tome Richard Brody’s biography of Jean-Luc Godard, Everything is Cinema (Faber) ••••, should be a masterpiece. Yet for all its detail Godard remains an enigma, and this seems neither for want of research (there are well over fifteen hundred notes) nor due to Godard’s famously obscure way of thinking, but rather because Brody’s fine book nevertheless can’t quite get the measure of this most paradoxical of men. It may be that it takes a good novelist to do justice to the Dostoyevskian perversities at the heart and soul of this great filmmaker.
Compared to Godard, Mike Leigh in Mike Leigh on Mike Leigh (edited by Amy Raphael) Faber •••• comes across as a meat-and-two-veg kind of guy. Though he says that Godard, ‘opened my eyes to the notion of film as film’, he also admits that he wasn’t always enamoured by the modernist masterpieces of the sixties: Last Year at Marienbad ‘bored me to death’, and ‘Blow-Up was total, unmitigated shite’. As he explains how he puts together his own work, based on famous improvisations with his cast before a script comes into existence, Leigh is a clear and engaging commentator on his films.
Cities in Transition (Wallflower) ••• is a collection of essays on the cinematic city edited by Andrew Webber and Emma Wilson. With essays by Thomas Elsaesser, Patrick Keiller and Chris Petit, amongst others, this is a very efficient look at how time and space are utilised in relation to the city. The best, most impressionistic article come from Petit, with loads of good observations on the limitations of British cinema, but François Penz’s article on Rohmer’s The Aviator’s Wife and Rivette’s Pont du Nord is worth a look also.
Then there is Ingmar Bergman Revisited (Wallflower) •••, an essay collection on the recently deceased master. Amongst the essays worth reading here are John Orr’s on Bergman’s connections with Nietzsche and also Hollywood and Janet Staiger’s analysis of how Bergman presents himself in interviews.
A word also for Martine Beugnet’s Cinema and Sensation (Edinburgh University Press) ••••, a very useful, formally specific look at how recent French cinema has become fascinated by ‘the deeply sensual, synaesthetic effect of the film image and sound-track’. Finally the 44th International Film Guide (Wallflower) •••• is as always well worth buying for anyone interested in global filmmaking.