January Books

Chantal Akerman

This month’s roundup on new and noteworthy books will essentially serve as a supplement to Ruben Demasure’s latest—and as always, comprehensive and outstanding—overview of the season’s publications for Sabzian. Demasure opens the winter 2023 edition with a collection of new titles on the work of Jean-Luc Godard before segueing to a wide range of essay collections, biographies, memoirs, and novels.

He covers magazines as well, including the forthcoming second issue of Bombast, featuring Nick Pinkerton’s conversation with Philippe Garrel about Jean Eustace and his interview with Luc Moullet—as well as illustrations by Mike Kuchar and plenty of comics. Another issue to spotlight is the new Gobshite Quarterly, a multilingual journal that this time around offers Sergi Sánchez’s reflection on Aki Kaurismäki’s Le Havre (2011) and Cristina Álvarez Lopez and Adrian Martin’s essay on Chantal Akerman’s Nuit et jour (1991). Martin, in the meantime, has been working on Filmmakers Thinking, a collection of writing on various texts by directors including Godard, Akerman, Jacques Rivette, and Philippe Grandrieux.

Just One Film

Reviewing Tom Santopietro’s The Way We Were: The Making of a Romantic Classic for Air Mail, James Wolcott marvels at the endurance of Sydney Pollack’s 1973 romantic drama. “Even upon its release,” he writes, “the film’s disjointed structure, rackety momentum, corny touches, and cologne-ad montages were derided or fondly mocked, and the passage of time has done nothing to smooth away its problem areas. And yet how we continue to dote on it.” Why? According to Wolcott, Santopietro points to three enduring qualities: the chemistry between Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford, “that song,” and the “perfect ending” for an imperfect film.

Pamela Hutchinson’s The Red Shoes, a study of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 1948 classic, will be out in October. Hutchinson advises us to be on the look out “for events and screenings around the book’s release date where I hope to be discussing everything to do with dance, film, and deadly perfectionism.”

For Lost Highway: Fist of Love, Scott Ryan spoke with Patricia Arquette, cinematographer Peter Deming, and other members of the cast and crew who worked with David Lynch on his 1997 film. The book will be out in April with a foreword by Matt Zoller Seitz.

Difficult Women

In Veronica: The Autobiography of Veronica Lake, “her searing 1969 memoir,” Lake “tells the story of her painful, epic life in a style both tawdry and heartbreaking, tough but tender, frank but at times fantastical,” writes Vanity Fair’s Hadley Hall Meares. After soaring to stardom with such films as Preston Sturges’s Sullivan’s Travels (1941) and René Clair’s I Married a Witch (1942), Lake began to fade, and in 1951, she bid a literal farewell to Hollywood as she boarded a plane bound for New York. “Thus begins the saddest reading this reviewer has ever done for Old Hollywood Book Club (yes, more devastating than the tales of both Rita Hayworth and Barbara Payton, if possible),” writes Meares. “Although she scored some success on television and the stage, Lake bluntly and bravely recounts her descent into chronic alcoholism.”

Anna Bogutskaya, a writer, programmer, and cofounder of the film collective The Final Girls, will have a new book out in June, Unlikeable Female Characters: The Women Pop Culture Wants You to Hate. And Caroline Young, the author of Crazy Old Ladies: The Story of Hag Horror, is one of John Bleasdale’s recent guests on his Writers on Film podcast.

Roaring ’20s

The Los Angeles Review of Books is running “The Cinema,” a poem by Vladimir Nabokov first published in 1928 and now translated and introduced by Luke Parker, the author of Nabokov Noir: Cinematic Culture and the Art of Exile. “The setting here is not a grandiose premiere in a movie palace,” writes Parker. “Instead, we are in a corner theater watching a run-of-the-mill American or German release, another product of the Weimar and Hollywood film factories which together accounted for nearly all the films seen by the young émigré in Berlin. Seated among German salesclerks, Nabokov is both charmed and amused.”

Jonathan Rosenbaum, who has been working on a new volume of previously uncollected criticism, recommends Louise Brooks’s 1982 book Lulu in Hollywood, “a collection of essays combining autobiography with criticism, film history with social and fashion history, and even a certain kind of fiction with nonfiction.”


Freely accessible online, the new special issue of Film-Philosophy features essays on objects in the films of Ernst Lubitsch, Alfred Hitchcock, Charlie Chaplin, Claire Denis, and Ang Lee as well as three book reviews. A Critical Companion to Terrence Malick, edited by Joshua Sikora, “treads familiar ground by exploring popular critical approaches of philosophy, poetry, and religion, regarding perceptible themes and aesthetics that are consistent across Malick’s filmography,” writes Matthew Sellers Johnson.

In Film and the Imagined Image, Sarah Cooper “dives into an exploration of how cinematic narration can prompt spectators to form pictures in their minds beyond what is shown on screen,” writes Giulia Rho. “The wide selection of films makes the book rich and nuanced, although perhaps not entirely persuasive in its argument that strategies of storytelling able to expand the parameters of the mind-eye are shared by experimental and mainstream film equally.” And in Planetary Cinema: Film, Media and the Earth, Tiago de Luca traces the evolution of environmental awareness. Karim Townsend finds the book to be “a highly accessible study of the global imaginaries that have shaped approaches to visual media from the nineteenth century to our present.”


In an excerpt at RogerEbert.com from In the Time of Kiarostami: Writings on Iranian Cinema, Godfrey Cheshire writes about his first trip to Iran in 1997, the country’s split verdict on the U.S. at the time, and his first meetings with Abbas Kiarostami and Mohsen Makhmalbaf, who “may be second to Kiarostami in international regard, but on home turf it’s another story: He is a celebrity whose renown, as I have noted before, is comparable to that of John Lennon’s. How he got to that position is a story that could only happen in Iran.”

At the Reveal, Keith Phipps revisits The Book of Movie Lists, a 1981 collection compiled by Gabe Essoe and featuring contributions from the likes of Clint Eastwood, Vera Miles, and Mae West as well as Church of Satan High Priest Anton La Vey and a member of the American Nazi Party. Phipps “devoured” the book as a kid, but now finds it to be “a much stranger book than I remembered.”

Publishers and literary agencies submitted more than 190 titles from over thirty countries to the Books at Berlinale program this year. Eleven projects have been selected to deliver their pitches to producers next month. When it comes to adaptations, GQ contributing writer Jason Diamond finds that novels deemed unfilmable—such as Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice and Don DeLillo’s White Noise—often become films that “tend to grow more interesting with time.”

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