Books: Lubitsch, Lynch, and More

On Film / The Daily — Dec 19, 2017


From 1970 to 1976, Joseph McBride played a film critic in Orson Welles’s The Other Side of the Wind, which Netflix plans to have completed and released next year. But he doesn’t just play one onscreen. McBride’s a critic, reporter, screenwriter, professor, and author of three books on Welles, one on Frank Capra, another on John Ford, yet another on Steven Spielberg, and he interviewed Howard Hawks for Hawks on Hawks. In June, he’ll have another one out, How Did Lubitsch Do It? Ray Kelly, who runs Wellesnet, naturally notes that Welles was a fan, calling the German American director “a giant. . . . Lubitsch’s talent and originality are stupefying.” And Kelly talks with McBride about the book and about the first time he saw a film by Lubitsch, Trouble in Paradise (1932). “I thought, ‘I’ve just seen this guy’s masterpiece.’ Now, all these years later, after finally having seen every extant film Lubitsch directed—the forty-seven that exist in whole or in part, of the sixty-nine films he directed—I still feel that way about Trouble in Paradise. The dialogue by Samson Raphaelson is brilliant, the direction is impeccable and breathtakingly imaginative, the art direction is sublime, and the stars—Herbert Marshall, Miriam Hopkins, and Kay Francis—exceed anything else I’ve seen them in.”

David Lynch has a new book out, Nudes, a collection of over a hundred photographs. “And, as one might expect, they are a masterclass in mystery and eroticism,” writes Daisy Woodward for AnOther. “‘I like to photograph naked women . . . It is amazing and magic to see how different [they] are,’ the artist says in a quote accompanying the book’s launch. But what proves most mystical of all is Lynch’s own interpretation of what he terms the ‘infinite variety’ of the human form, as viewed through his esoteric lens.”

Coming out next month in France is Les Variations Hong Sang-soo with an introduction by Claire Denis. And already out in France, as Daniel L. Potter notes, is Chris Marker: pionnier et novateur, a collection edited by Kristian Feigelson.

Just out from the BFI Film Classic series is Pandora’s Box, a study of G. W. Pabst’s 1929 silent classic starring Louise Brooks. Calling the book “as witty as it is informative,” José Arroyo talks with author Pamela Hutchinson, a conversation to listen to (45’24”).

Arroyo also reviews Michael Curtiz: A Life in Film, a “timely and important new biography” by Alan K. Rode, “sure to remain the definitive one for years to come. . . . What comes across in this book is a fundamentally kind man of enormous discipline, ferocious energy and extraordinary concentration, driven by fear, almost entirely focussed on sex and filmmaking, not necessarily in that order.”

Artist, filmmaker, and musician Luke Fowler has selected thirty books to display in the reading room of the BFI Reuben Library in London and writes about six of them:

  • Alexander Mackendrick’s On Film-Making, a collection edited by Paul Cronin
  • Never Apologise: The Collected Writings Lindsay Anderson, “a sort of catalogue raisonné of his life’s work”
  • Peter Gidal’s Materialist Film: “Indeed, some of my own works would not exist had I not encountered Gidal’s films and writings (though he may not wish this compliment)”
  • A special issue of Framework (vol. 51 no.1, Spring 2015) dedicated to the writings of Warren Sonbert, who “lived for music as much as film and would go to great lengths to contrive tours for his films in order to catch whatever appealing new opera premiere he wished to see in Europe at that time”
  • Devotional Cinema by Nathaniel Dorksy, “a gently radical force in experimental film”
  • Useful Cinema, a collection edited by Charles R. Acland and Haidee Wasson, in which scholar Michael Zryd writes that “experimental film was a pedagogic model that sought to transform consciousness while resisting dictating, didactically, what the parameters of that transformed consciousness should be.”

In Getting Carter: Ted Lewis and the Birth of Brit Noir, a biography of the crime writer, Nick Triplow “manages to extract several noteworthy points from what might seem to be the unprofitable wreckage of a wasted life—a major achievement as he has had few primary sources to work with,” writes Nicky Charlish for 3:AM Magazine.

In A Dream of Resistance: The Cinema of Kobayashi Masaki, Stephen Prince “shows how this pacifist, who had been drafted into the Imperial Army, wound up as a prisoner of war in a labor camp on Okinawa for the best part of a year,” writes Michael Caines for the TLS in a review of several volumes on Japan’s samurai. Kobayashi’s “response, when he finally got to make films, was to go on a spree, completing fifteen in twelve years. In the best of this work—such as the grand trilogy The Human Condition (1959–61) and The Thick-Walled Room (1956)—Kobayashi’s ‘strongly held anti-authoritarian values’ are in evidence. Yet these were films set in modern times. His period films are remarkable, too, not least for their corrective skepticism about bushido and its acolytes.”

Jonathan Rosenbaum’s posted a brief recommendation, Cineaste on Film Criticism, Programming, and Preservation in the New Millennium, a collection edited by Cynthia Lucia and Rahul Hamid.

“Spectacular Optical has been on a roll lately,” writes A. M. Stanley at Vague Visages. “The Canadian publisher of psychotronic-related cinema works has previously wowed the cinephile community with the gender-centric Lost Girls: The Phantasmagorical Cinema of Jean Rollin, and now they’ve done it again with a collection of genre-related essays, just in time for the holidays,” Yuletide Terror: Christmas Horror on Film and Television, edited by Kier-La Janisse and Paul Corupe.

“The river of Best of 2017 lists can be exhausting this time of year, so as a public service, and because my math skills are always in need of a little exercise, I’ve created a streamlined master list of the books that the most people loved this year,” announces Emily Temple at the Literary Hub—which has naturally gathered yet more lists from its contributors.

Also looking back on the best books of the year recently are Luke McKernan and the staff at Verso Books.

Here’s a pointer from Emma Taggart at My Modern Met: “In celebration of its 4th anniversary, the Getty Research Portal has been redesigned to make it easier for art history buffs to explore, share, and download the 100,000 freely available digitized art history texts it hosts—which you can search for directly, or filter by creator, subject, language, source, or date range.”

And finally for now, a piece from Laura Briskman for Paper Darts, “Curling up with Oprah and Emma: The Faux Intimacy of Celebrity Book Clubs.”

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