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March Books

Yoon Jeong-hee in Lee Chang-dong’s Poetry (2010)

Four poets came together at a writers’ conference last year to talk about the ways cinema has influenced their work, and Literary Hub is running excerpts from their exchange. “Is there a more profound betrayal than to be betrayed by God, to feel that God has betrayed you personally despite your devotion?” asks Christopher Kondrich. In Lee Chang-dong’s Secret Sunshine (2007), Jeon Do-yeon plays a single mother who loses her only child. Kondrich believes that “art should explore why we’d rather not see or hear certain things. It wasn’t that I simply did not want to see violence befall a child, it was that I did not want to entertain the thought that my daughter was mortal.” How, Kondrich wonders, “could God do this to me—make my child mortal? The question, which Secret Sunshine prompted me to ask, compels me to write.”

Lee, who has since followed up on Secret Sunshine with Poetry (2010) and Burning (2018), also writes fiction. Earlier this month, the New Yorker ran a new translation of Lee’s “Snowy Day,” a story first published in South Korea in 1987. “I first started writing as a teenager because of my desire to communicate with someone (even someone whose face I couldn’t see) in order to overcome loneliness,” Lee tells Cressida Leyshon. “That same desire is what made me a film director. You could say that writing a short story and making a movie are essentially the same for me in terms of trying to communicate.”

“When folks from the film industry stoop to novel-writing, it’s natural to feel a bit queasy,” writes novelist Alex Preston. “John Sayles, though, is the real deal.” For the New York Times, Preston reviews Jamie MacGillivray, a story that begins in Scotland in 1746 and barrels ahead through thirteen years over the course of 704 pages. This is Sayles’s sixth novel “and by some distance his best,” writes Preston. “It gets under the skin of this extraordinary time in a way that few historical novels do.”

Two Filmmakers

Seeking Brakhage, a collection of Fred Camper’s essays on the work of Stan Brakhage written over the course of five decades, “serves as a penetrative starting point for any skeptic,” writes Paul Attard in the Notebook. “Most vitally, it mounts a strong defense of Brakhage against accusations that his films aren’t political in nature.” Camper argues that “Brakhage’s lifelong mission to fundamentally alter the way viewers see the world around them is about as radically political as a film artist can get.”

Lee Unkrich, who’s best known for directing Pixar’s Oscar-winning features Toy Story 3 (2010) and Coco (2017), has spent a dozen years putting together Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, a two-volume box set that includes artwork booklets and more ephemera. “Crammed with unseen materials and photographs—Unkrich estimates that seventy-five percent of the featured images, excluding film stills, will be new even to serious enthusiasts—this collector’s dream sets a new high bar for Kubrick fetishism,” writes Charles Arrowsmith in the Los Angeles Times. The collector’s edition goes for $1,500, but a more affordable edition will likely appear in the next while.

“Everyone put Stanley up on this pedestal as being this brilliant filmmaker, which he was, of course,” Unkrich tells Variety’s Todd Gilchrist. “The reality was, he struggled every step of the way. He couldn’t sleep because he was worried there was a better idea out there that he hadn’t stumbled upon. And I could relate to that because I’ve been through that on all of my films. And I liked that I saw a person, and not just an icon.”

Critical Views

In an essay included in Feminist Worldmaking and the Moving Image, a collection edited by Erika Balsom and Hila Peleg, Teresa Castro “makes a strong argument for seeing film as a terrain of feminist struggle,” writes Sanoja Bhaumik at Hyperallergic. “It is the exploration, documentation, and theorization of these alternative histories that grounds this 500-page tome.”

Between 1970 and 1987, the British journal Afterimage published work by critics B. Ruby Rich and Peter Wollen, essays by filmmakers Jean-Luc Godard and Derek Jarman, and interviews with Hollis Frampton and Raúl Ruiz. Compared to “the far better-known” Screen, Afterimage was “far more independent, exploratory, and eclectic, stemming largely from the passions of a single individual, Simon Field,” writes Jonathan Rosenbaum, reviewing The Afterimage Reader, the collection edited by Mark Webber, for Cineaste. “Although Film Culture in the United States similarly owed most of its orientation to Jonas Mekas and P. Adams Sitney—and Field is forthcoming in his Foreword about how much it provided a model—Film Culture eventually became somewhat institutionalized by its relation to Anthology Film Archives whereas Field, even after being joined by co-editors Peter Sainsbury, Ian Christie, and Michael O’Pray, remained proudly independent and pluralistic.”

Cineaste is also running online-only reviews of It Came from the Closet: Queer Reflections on Horrorand The Cinematographer’s Voice: Insights into the World of Visual Storytelling.Steve Erickson notes that the first collection, edited by Joe Vallese, “places itself at the intersection of two recent trends—increasing attention to horror’s queerness and the combination of memoir and film criticism.” Declan McGrath wishes that Lindsay Coleman and Roberto Schaefer, the editors of The Cinematographer’s Voice, had updated the interviews conducted between 2012 and 2015 because the technological aspects of the craft have advanced considerably over the past decade.

Cary Grant

North by Northwest isn’t about what happens to Cary Grant, it’s about what happens to his suit.” That’s the opening line of the tremendously entertaining essay—read it in full at Literary Hub!—that gives Todd McEwan the title for his new book, Cary Grant’s Suit: Nine Movies That Made Me the Wreck I Am Today.

Vanity Fair’s Hadley Hall Meares pieces together Grant’s life story from insights she’s gleaned from Scott Eyman’s Cary Grant: A Brilliant Disguise, “an excellent, unbiased account of Grant’s life—particularly his early years as a hardscrabble acrobat, stilt-walker and light comedian during vaudeville’s last glory days”; Dyan Cannon’s Dear Cary: My Life With Cary Grant, “an intimate, freewheeling, emotional memoir”; and Jennifer Grant’s Good Stuff: A Reminiscence of My Father, Cary Grant, “a beautiful, sweet nugget of a book that presents a doting father.”

Endnotes

For New Books Network, Annie Berke talks with Girish Shambu about the new expanded edition of his 2015 book The New Cinephilia as well as about auteurism and films that point toward a “cinema of the future.” And since last month’s books roundup, Christopher Schobert has put together two batches of recommendations at the Film Stage. The first spotlights new volumes on Bong Joon Ho and Preston Sturges, and the second features notes on collections of interviews with Sofia Coppola and Louis Malle—and more.

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