Books: Collections and Conversations

“Over a decade and a half in the making,” begins Mitch Anzuoni in the new issue of the Brooklyn Rail,From The Third Eye: The Evergreen Review Film Reader is the first comprehensive look at Barney Rosset and Grove Press’s contribution to film culture, collecting close to four dozen articles of the Evergreen Review’s film section, contextualized with an in-depth introduction by Ed Halter and brilliantly laid out in the distinguished style of the erstwhile magazine. That such a work has finally arrived forty-five years after the demise of the Review is a testament to Rosset’s repeated lament that Grove’s place in film history is overlooked. . . . From The Third Eye offers an intimate glimpse into this multimedia machine and its fractured legacy.” Scanning the table of contents, we find that the collection includes essays from the likes of Amos Vogel, Parker Tyler, Nat Hentoff, Frieda Grafe, L. M. Kit Carson, and Robert Coover on the work of Godard, Warhol, Pasolini, and others as well as interviews with Cassavetes, Demy, Sjöman, Robbe-Grillet, and more.

Stoffel Debuysere has made his thesis manuscript, Figures of Dissent. Cinema of Politics / Politics of Cinema (Selected Correspondences and Conversations), freely available. We hear from Jacques Rancière, John Akomfrah, Pedro Costa, Evan Calder Williams, and more.

Reviewing Eisenstein on Paper: Graphic Works by the Master of Film for Film Comment,Peter Goldberg argues that Naum Kleiman’s “major strength is as a curator and chronicler of Eisenstein’s development, providing extensive theoretical and biographical context to approach the drawings, writing a narrative of Eisenstein’s life that seeks a continuity in the stages of a tortuous career that, as Ian Christie puts it in the introduction, ‘required the adoption of multiple personae.’” The book “gives the impression that the apogee of Eisenstein’s filmmaking lies not around his silent pictures but the sound films Alexander Nevsky and Ivan the Terrible, which were unusually reliant on his sketches in almost every aspect of their production. Eisenstein used them as strict road maps for not only storyboarding and blocking but also production design, cinematography, and the direction of performances. Chutzpadik though it may be, Kleiman’s chapters on these are superb.”

The New Yorker’s Richard Brody revisits the work of “one of the greatest and most enduringly useful film critics I’ve ever read: Harry Alan Potamkin . . . I’ve written often that the object of film criticism is to envision the future of movies, and Potamkin put that idea into practice, and even emblazoned it at the head of a 1930 essay, ‘The Future Cinema.’ . . . His fusion of aesthetics and politics, of form and representation, of fact and style, would make him an exemplary critic of the present day.” Reviewing the collection The Compound Cinema: The Film Writings of Harry Alan Potamkin in 1978 for Jump Cut,Russell Campbell wrote: “Gratitude is due Lewis Jacobs for his cultural salvage job in rescuing Potamkin from forty years of oblivion—and for his long, generous and informative introduction.”

Jonathan Rosenbaum issues a call for a greater appreciation of the work of Donald Phelps, “one of the very greatest of American critics—not just literary critic and film critic, but comics critic as well—even though only two collections devoted solely to his written work exist. I would love to imagine that many more will follow, because it’s clear that anyone who tracks down obscure journals, including his own (For Now), looking for Phelps’s insightful and highly original prose, will discover an unending bounty.”

“Alexia Kannas’s Deep Red, her contribution to the Wallflower Press Cultographies series, in which she takes a deep dive into the making, reception, and legacy of Dario Argento’s 1975 giallo masterpiece, is an ideal meeting of author, subject, and publishing premise,” writes Jeremy Carr for Film International. “Sold as a series ‘dedicated to the weird and wonderful world of cult cinema,’ this collection has comprised eclectic titles ranging from James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931) and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) to Todd Haynes’s Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (1988) and Meir Zarchi’s I Spit on Your Grave (1978). And just as each author approaches their respective film from a unique perspective, so too does Kannas establish an overriding theme to her text, which distinguishes it as the unabashed and enthusiastically personal analysis that it is.”

Oral Histories

The Ringer’s posted an excerpt from All the Pieces Matter: The Inside Story of The Wire, an oral history put together by Jonathan Abrams. The passages here focus on the thick overlap between one of the greatest shows in the history of television and the real-life politics of Baltimore.

The excerpt from Isaac Butler and Dan Kois’s The World Only Spins Forward: The Ascent of Angels in America opens with Tony Kushner himself: “When I was at Tisch, I was just coming out. Michael Mayer took me to my first gay bar—not the Saint, Uncle Charlie’s on Greenwich—so you’d walk around the corner and there’d be these lines of men. I probably passed Roy Cohn on several occasions.”

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