Film books round-up
The Man in the Seventh Row, Cinema: The Whole Story, Hitchcock’s Magic and more reviewed
Brian Pendreigh must surely be the hardest working movie-mad journalist and writer in Scotland. The Man in the Seventh Row (Blasted Heath ●●●) is his seventh book following biographies of Ewan McGregor and Mel Gibson, as well as Scottish cinema and British and Irish film location guides. Available as an e-book, The Man in the Seventh Row (subtitled ‘A Movie Loser’s Novel’) is Pendreigh’s first foray into fiction and a wholly likeable read it is too. All too clearly autobiographical, the book traces the life, love and heartbreak of one man as reflected in Scottish rep cinema screenings of everything from the Magnificent Seven to Basic Instinct and beyond. Jauntily written with a homely and impassioned but never overbearing style, Pendreigh’s novel is a pleasing dissection of man’s all too modern need for escape in darkened auditoriums that posits him somewhere between David Thomson’s Suspects and Guy Bellamy’s The Secret Lemonade Drinker.
What do you get if you if you put a bunch of self-regarding high brow film critics in a room with a load of laptops? You get Cinema: The Whole Story (Thames & Hudson ●●●), a broad and tasteful attempt to highlight, analyse and tame the riotous trajectory that is the history of cinema. There’s some really great stuff by some really great writers here and editor Philip Kemp brings clarity to what could be so much semantics but it also feels a little bloodless. But then arguably the aim of a publication like this is to fill that gap between the academia of Bordwell and Thompson’s mise-en-scene meanderings and more impassioned treatises, like Mark Cousins’ The Story of Film.
Emilie Bickerton’s A Short History of Cahiers Du Cinema (Verso ●●●) goes some way in contextualising and explaining just why this little read (in the UK) French film magazine/journal has become the monosyllabic password into a certain dysfunctional club of cine snobbery across Britain’s more cosmopolitan cities. It’s a good read but too short and one is left in no doubt that Cahiers’ best days are behind it.
The Devil’s Advocates’ series turns its penetrating gaze to Witchfinder General (Auteur ●●●●) undoubtedly one of the most interesting horror films of the 1960s. Writer Ian Cooper’s evaluations and investigations are thorough and engaging. Finally Neil Badmington’s Hitchcock’s Magic (University of Wales Press ●●●●) analyses the big man’s technique and aims to uncover what (with a few exceptions) makes Hitchcock’s films so compulsively watchable. A corpulent hello/farewell is in order. Good evening.