June Books

Dennis Hopper

Free books! And good ones, too. Since last month’s books roundup, David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson have made a good handful of their essential titles freely accessible as unlocked PDF files. With Oppenheimer in postproduction and slated for a release next summer, now is the time to catch up with the second edition of Christopher Nolan: A Labyrinth of Linkages. Also available—and joining the previously unleashed Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema—are revised editions of Planet Hong Kong, Pandora’s Digital Box, and On the History of Film Style.

In other above-the-fold news from the book world, Sabzian has posted Ruben Demasure’s latest bountiful overview of major publications. It’s his first since the end of last year, so there is a lot of ground to cover.

Behind the Camera . . .

Charles Elton’s Cimino: The Deer Hunter, Heaven’s Gate, and the Price of a Vision is “as engaging, as fascinating, as revelatory, and as melancholy as one might expect,” writes Richard Brody in the New Yorker. There are “two main themes: first, how the director’s career was slaughtered by critics’ mockery of his masterwork, Heaven’s Gate, when it premiered, in 1980; second, that Cimino presented as a woman, at least in private, for part of the last twenty-five years of his life. Elton doesn’t find or force any significant connections between these two aspects of Cimino’s life, but their link is under the surface, by way of the third main subject of the book: a grand, mysterious love story between Cimino and his principal collaborator, Joann Carelli—a relationship that remained strong from his earliest days as a director to the end of his life.”

Joseph McBride has expanded and revised his 2006 book What Ever Happened to Orson Welles? A Portrait of an Independent Director. Writing for Film International, Tony Williams finds that McBride, who appears in The Other Side of the Wind—a project begun in the 1970s and finally completed in 2018—“presents a balanced and complex picture of an extremely talented but difficult personality whose personal flaws are less important than what he attempted to achieve.”

Srikanth Srinivasan carries on tirelessly translating the work of Luc Moullet. Most recently, he’s given us the first two of three sections of Notre alpin quotidien (2009). In the first, Emmanuel Burdeau and Jean Narboni conduct a wide-ranging interview with the critic and filmmaker, and in the second, Moullet lays down a set of laws designed to be bent or broken.

In an excerpt at Literary Hub from Sofia Coppola: Forever Young, Hannah Strong writes about the making of The Bling Ring (2013), which “feels like an outlier amid the gauzy, lingering shots and soft aesthetics that dominate Coppola’s work. Where her four previous features exhibited a tenderness even in turmoil, The Bling Ring is—as Coppola herself put it—‘obnoxious and faster.’”

William Klein: YES, an exhibition of work by the nonagenarian photographer, painter, and filmmaker, is on view at the International Center of Photography in New York through September 12. Bright Lights Film Journal is running an excerpt from Mr. Freedom, a new book on Klein’s 1969 satirical feature that takes aim at American foreign policy. Tyler Sage takes stock of the criticism leveled at the film when it first screened in the U.S. in 1970: “Mindless, witless, embarrassing, bad for both the spirit of anti-Americanism and people who haven’t abandoned thinking, certainly neither amusing or thought-provoking, and aimed at something like an illiterate peasant audience . . . The outrage is enough to make one curious.”

Kristin Marguerite Doidge introduces her book, Nora Ephron: A Biography, at Women and Hollywood, and Literary Hub has an excerpt in which Doidge tells a string of fun stories about the making of When Harry Met Sally . . . (1989), written by Ephron and directed by Rob Reiner. In recent episodes of his Writers on Film podcast, John Bleasdale has spoken with Kyle Buchanan about Blood, Sweat & Chrome: The Wild and True Story of Mad Max: Fury Road and with Dana Stevens about Camera Man: Buster Keaton, the Dawn of Cinema, and the Invention of the Twentieth Century.

. . . And in Front of It

Robert Gottlieb’s Garbo is “thorough and entertaining, full of both thoughtful movie criticism and casual rumor that still somehow allows Garbo to exist in the full power and mystery of her beauty; in fact, he insists on it,” writes Cathleen Shine in the New York Review of Books. Shine seems to be more taken with Greta Garbo’s close friend Salka Viertel, the Austrian actress and screenwriter who hosted European emigres—Eisenstein, Schoenberg, Brecht, Mann, and so on—at her home in Los Angeles.

Donna Rifkind’s The Sun and Her Stars: Salka Viertel and Hitler’s Exiles in the Golden Age of Hollywood “reads as a companion to Viertel’s own extraordinary memoir, The Kindness of Strangers,” writes Shine. “Written over the last decades of her life and first published in 1969, it is a strikingly modest book, sincere and sardonic, full of humor, insight, and an indomitable sense of absurdity. The story of Europe in the first half of the twentieth century propels the book, as it propelled its author, toward the story of Hollywood in its golden age. For insight into the comic disorder of Hollywood, The Kindness of Strangers is equaled only, perhaps, by Otto Friedrich’s classic history, City of Nets(1986). But Viertel has the advantage of having been there—‘there’ being everywhere culture was being made in those frenetic times.”

Reviewing Mark Rozzo’s Everybody Thought We Were Crazy: Dennis Hopper, Brooke Hayward, and 1960s Los Angeles for the Atlantic, Matthew Spektor writes that the two actors “collide herein with just about every major cultural personage of the American mid-century—including Miles Davis, Andy Warhol, Martin Luther King Jr., David O. Selznick. The trajectory of their marriage itself, by contrast, is less meandering than a straight line from youthful, if uneasy, semi-bliss to abusive, drug-stoked disaster in one long stride. If you want narrative complication, look elsewhere, but if you want a vibrant depiction of how some of the most substantial creative figures of the twentieth century jostled against and inspired one another? Look here.”

In an excerpt at Literary Hub from My Place in the Sun: Life in the Golden Age of Hollywood and Washington, George Stevens, Jr. tells a Cold War story. The year was 1963, and Stanley Kramer was on jury at the Moscow Film Festival. When Stevens arranged to have a selection of Kramer’s films shown at the Moscow Filmmakers’ Union, the U.S. State Department intervened. “They thought The Defiant Ones, with Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis as clashing chain gang prisoners, would confirm the Soviet line that the United States was a racist country,” writes Stevens, “but it occurred to me that if we could get Sidney Poitier to come to Moscow, his charismatic presence would cast a positive light on the public screening.” After grappling for three hours with the Soviet phone system, Stevens finally got through to Poitier. “‘I’ll be there,’ Sidney said after a pause. ‘I’ll get my own ticket.’”

In a piece for the Paris Review on Marilyn Monroe’s poetry—collected in 2012 in Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, LettersElisa Gonzalez notes that “her writings suggest an attunement to poetry that goes beyond instinct—that can only be learned by listening, so to speak. Yes, her choice of line often seems naïve, her images are sometimes clichéd, but in places something flares, that strangeness I associate with poetry that feels open rather than finished before it begins. It is the kind of poetry that risks failing to go anywhere at all but, when it succeeds, surprises the reader, and the poet, too.”

Maria Riva’s 1992 biography of her mother, Marlene Dietrich: The Life, is “an exhaustive, 787-page portrait of a domineering mother through her jaded daughter’s wide, all-seeing eyes,” writes Hadley Hall Meares for Vanity Fair. “Its length is warranted: it’s chock full of personal letters, telegrams, and reams of suspect ‘remembered’ dialogue.” But Riva is “a gifted, brilliant writer with a lyrical touch.”

Sheila O’Malley, whose latest contribution to the Current is an essay on Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person in the World, talks with Jeremy Richey about his first book, Sylvia Kristel: From Emmanuelle to Chabrol. “As much as I regret that she passed on opportunities to work with directors like Ingmar Bergman and Maurice Pialat, which I detail towards the end of the book, I want the proper focus to be on the great work she did,” says Richey. Roger Vadim’s Une femme fidèle (1976), Walerian Borowczyk’s The Margin (1976), and Claude Chabrol’s Alice or the Last Escapade (1977) “have yet to get their due, but they will.”

Steven Rybin’s Geraldine Chaplin: The Gift of Film Performance has just been released in paperback, and Madly Deeply: The Diaries of Alan Rickman will be out in October. Nicolas Rapold, in the meantime, talks with Shonni Enelow, the author of Method Acting and Its Discontents: On American Psycho-Drama, about her forthcoming book on acting in the films of Joanna Hogg.

Novel Ideas

Joan Didion, Denis Johnson, and Raymond Carver are among the many writers who considered Leonard Gardner’s 1969 novel Fat City a masterpiece. Gardner wrote the screenplay for John Huston’s 1972 adaptation; turned one of his short stories, “Jesus Christ Has Returned to Earth and Appears Here Nightly,” into a screenplay for Peter Hoffman’s Valentino Returns (1989); and worked in the 1990s as a writer and producer on NYPD Blue. “His writing has a lucidity of loserdom, what it feels like to get your head caved in by a right cross or top an onion while nursing a hangover,” writes R. Emmet Sweeney at NeoText. “It’s instructive to look at his two screenplays for how they so faithfully adapt his hyper-local literature to the screen—Fat City condenses while Valentino Returns expands, but both retain the flavorful detail of his snake bit hometown of Stockton, CA.”

As Tracy Flick, a high-strung, overachieving high school student in Alexander Payne’s Election (1999), Reese Witherspoon gives “one of the best comic performances of the decade,” writes Molly Young in the New York Times. “Never has a nostril been flared with greater virtuosity.” Election is adapted from a novel by Tom Perrotta, and Young finds his new one, Tracy Flick Can’t Win, “even more piercing than its predecessor.” At Air Mail, Mark Oppenheimer writes that the book “manages to be a funny, paradoxically optimistic look at repressed trauma, toxic masculinity, and even the absurdity of large fortunes derived from hackneyed smartphone apps. It’s the present moment served between two covers, a tasty literary sammie.”

There are only twenty-five copies available of Services, a limited edition twenty-three-foot-long book sculpture cocreated by artist and filmmaker Miranda July and Richie Jay Benedicto, a trans woman in the Philippines. For AnOther, Emily Dinsdale asks July how on earth this project came about—and asks her, too, what’s next. “I’m just finishing a novel that I began just before the pandemic,” says July. “It’s a biggie.”

Written in 1971, Through the Billboard Promised Land Without Ever Stopping is Derek Jarman’s only work of literary fiction. House Sparrow Press, which will release a special edition that features facsimile images of early drafts in November, calls the story “a surreal, fable-like, lyrical tale.” Meantime, Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner’s Heat 2, a crime fiction that’s both a prequel and a sequel to Mann’s 1995 film, will be released in August, and Hal Hartley’s novel Our Lady of the Highway hit the shelves just two weeks ago.

Critical Collections

Feminist Worldmaking and the Moving Image is a collection edited by Erika Balsom and Hila Peleg, who have curated the exhibition No Master Territories, currently on view at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin through August 28. The context is global, and contributors—including Forough Farrokhzad, Devika Girish, Elena Gorfinkel, Julia Lesage, Beatrice Loayza, Chick Strand, Trinh T. Minh-ha, and Claudia von Alemann—focus primarily on the period between the 1970s and 1990s.

In True Story: What Reality TV Says About Us, Danielle Lindemann, who teaches sociology at Lehigh University, “marshals a great deal of evidence that to treat these shows as mere guilty pleasures is to understate their utility as agents of harmful or, alternatively, progressive ideas,” writes Jake Nevins in the Nation.

Cinema Speculation, a collection of writing on American films from the 1970s from Quentin Tarantino, should arrive in November. Meantime, the second edition of Girish Shambu’s The New Cinephilia is now out in paperback, and Jonathan Rosenbaum has posted a pitch for a new collection of criticism.

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