March Books

Al Pacino at Caffe Reggio in New York in 1989

At the top of this month’s roundup of notes on new books, let’s flag a few upcoming events. The premiere of Dorothy, the first play by artist and filmmaker Anaïs Ngbanzo, on Tuesday night at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London will launch Who Are You Dorothy Dean?, the second book from Ngbanzo’s publishing house, Éditions 1989. In an excerpt up at Metrograph Journal, Emily Wells sketches a brief biography of “an integral, if fleeting, figure of the New York underground scene of the 1960s.”

Dean appeared in six of Andy Warhol’s films, and Robert Mapplethorpe shot her portrait in 1978. Who Are You Dorothy Dean? gathers some of her unpublished writing and correspondence with Edie Sedgwick, Rene Ricard, and Taylor Mead. Ngbanzo tells Zoe Whitfield in AnOther Magazine that she “was very familiar with Warhol’s Factory, reading every poet and exploring the work of most of the prominent artists. That’s why discovering Dean’s life only recently came as a surprise.”

Starting at noon on Saturday, artist Stanley Schtinter will oversee a twenty-four-hour presentation of his new book, Last Movies, at ZDB Gallery in Lisbon. With a foreword by Erika Balsom and an afterword by Nicole Brenez, Last Movies is a collection of short chapters on the films such disparate twentieth-century personalities as Kurt Cobain, Franz Kafka, and John F. Kennedy saw just before they died. Screen Slate is running an often quite funny conversation between Schtinter and Chris Petit (Radio On) that features cameos from Werner Herzog, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and Lee Harvey Oswald.

On Sunday, San Francisco Cinematheque will celebrate the Visual Studies Workshop’s publication of New Utopia and Light Fracture, a selection of reproductions of handmade 35 mm slides by the late filmmaker and mixed-media artist Luther Price. As an “echo” of the presentation by VSW’s Tara Merenda Nelson, two films by Tom Rhoads will screen on March 28. And then on April 1, the Cinematheque will release Luther Price in San Francisco: A Remembrance, a “visually oriented zine” edited by Brett Kashmere and Steve Polta.


Godzilla turns seventy this year. In May 1954, producer Tomoyuki Tanaka handed science-fiction writer Shigeru Kayama an outline for a monster movie, and in just eleven days, Kayama expanded it into a fifty-page treatment. Director Ishiro Honda, cowriter Takeo Murata, and special-effects wizard Eiji Tsuburaya toned down Kayama’s antinuclear stance, but as K. F. Watanabe notes in the Baffler, “the author was more than satisfied with the end result. He was so moved by the end of a private preview screening at Toho Studios [that he] was found in his chair silently weeping.”

Kayama was rehired to work on the first sequel, Godzilla Raids Again (1955), and a few months after that film’s release, Kayama’s stories were published in Japan as novellas for young adult readers. Translated by Jeffrey Angles, they’re now appearing in English for the first time in a single volume, Godzilla and Godzilla Raids Again. “In his symbolic enormity,” writes Watanabe, “Godzilla contains multiple, contradictory meanings—he is both victimizer and victim, a source of terror and a source of sympathy—and both the film and novella refuse one ‘right’ way to view him. And that’s part of what makes him so consistently fascinating, so evergreen in the popular imagination.”

“Representing a gap, a hiccup, or even a failure in the history of Indian cinema, the horror wave of the late 1970s to the 1990s was one of the victims of the Bombay film industry’s transformation into Bollywood and its shift toward the commercially successful, genre-blending masala films,” writes Bruno Guaraná in the introduction to his interview with Kartik Nair in the new Film Quarterly. In Seeing Things: Spectral Materialities of Bombay Horror, Nair “resurrects these films—long disregarded by scholars of Indian cinema—as key artifacts of the production, regulation, and circulation of independent cinema in Bombay during the pre-Bollywood era.”

Critical Collections

In the New York Review of Books, James Quandt makes the case for Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011) as Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s best film, while About Dry Grasses (2023) is “in many ways a compendium of Ceylan’s cinema,” repeating “themes, settings, and images from as far back as his first feature, The Small Town [1997].” ReFocus: The Films of Nuri Bilge Ceylan, a collection edited by Gönül Dönmez-Colin, is “most valuable in bringing a Turkish perspective to criticism of his work. Only two of its contributors are not originally from Turkey, and the volume offers essential commentary on aspects of local culture and politics and on the resonance of certain words, names, characters, music, and locales to which a non-Turkish critic would probably be oblivious . . . Unfortunately the thickets of jargon and bizarre neologism in Dönmez-Colin’s anthology, its slavish invocations of Gilles Deleuze, and its use of films to illustrate theory are dispiritingly common in contemporary cinema studies.”

The latest Harper’s features a tight and densely packed excerpt from My Cinema, a collection of texts by and interviews with Marguerite Duras translated by Daniel Shreir. My Cinema is “decidedly not a guidebook to Duras’s films,” writes Beatrice Loayza in the Notebook. “Duras may be best known as a writer, but her cinema is a natural extension of her desire to destroy and ‘assassinate’ inadequate yet dominant structures of experience—those she considered to be passive and pleasurable, forms of ‘advertisement’ rather than the violent, dark truths she sought to unearth.”

The Notebook is also running an excerpt from Devotion, which gathers essays on Garrett Bradley and interviews with the filmmaker—including Huey Copeland’s. “In many ways,” Bradley tells the art historian, “my work is very much directed and dictated by the specific communities I engage—by specific places and specific people. I would also say that yes, my work is about Black life. It is also a series of love stories, I think. My love for the people that I work with and my love and compassion for circumstance. And my hope that in making something, it will induce the same level of compassion and imagination.”

David Thomson has written more than forty books, including the occasionally revised classic, The New Biographical Dictionary of Film. His first book of this year is Remotely: Travels in the Binge of TV, which Peter Campion, writing for the Los Angeles Review of Books, calls “a pandemic book.” During lockdown, Thomson and his wife, photographer Lucy Gray, watched and talked about a lot of television, and “the book becomes a dialogue, with Lucy’s character speaking in italics. This form lends Remotely much of its poetry. But how so? For one thing, Thomson cunningly matches form and content. A direct descendant of radio, which film was not, television has its own origins in those domestic spaces it inhabits and tends to portray.”

Gerald Peary’s Mavericks: Interviews with the World’s Iconoclast Filmmakers gathers more than two dozen conversations from the early 1970s through the early 2000s. Interviewees include Ousmane Sembène, Bernardo Bertolucci, Hal Ashby, Margarethe von Trotta, Agnieszka Holland, Gillo Pontecorvo, Jim Jarmusch, Frederick Wiseman, John Waters, and Charles Burnett. In Film International, Jeremy Carr notes that Peary himself “acknowledges that by the end of the 1970s, his ‘hard-edged radicalism’ had softened, and when moving into the 1980s and 1990s, he became more ‘inclusive’ in his conceptualization of a ‘maverick’ director; he was interested in not only politically-minded individuals, but those with ‘private idiosyncratic universes.’”

NoZone: Reviews of Art, Cult, and Genre Cinema, 2003–2012 puts the complete run of Tim Lucas’s column for Sight and Sound between two covers. In an interview for Bear Manor Media, Lucas spotlights two favorite films from the period, Jonathan Weiss’s The Atrocity Exhibition (1998), which “achieves the impossible in filming a reputedly ‘unfilmable’ novel,” and Lech Majewski’s The Garden of Earthly Delights (2004), “a towering work of art” that “proved to me that the most important thing anyone can bring to a film is its idea, but that idea must have autonomy.”

Cannes looks back fifty years with a translation of an excerpt from Ces années-là, a 2017 collection gathering essays on crucial moments in what was then the festival’s seventy-year history. Olivier Séguret was only thirteen in 1974, but the films that premiered that year still mean the world to him. “The first names to jump out at my eyes, and cause a stirring under my waistband, were Fassbinder and Pasolini,” he writes. “Rainer Werner and Pier Paolo. They were both competing for the Palme that year, one with Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, and the other with Arabian Nights. Two films which, a few years later, would leave me awestruck as a young film lover and which were seared into my erotic imagination with a hot iron.”

Directors Writing

MIT Press has posted an excerpt from Cinema, Censorship, and the State: The Writings of Nagisa Oshima, 1956–1978, a collection edited in 1993 by Annette Michelson. “No matter how severe a human confrontation you are portraying,” wrote Oshima in 1974, “it immediately becomes mild the instant that even a little green enters into it. Green always softens the heart—well, I don’t know about foreigners, but at least it does in the case of Japanese. This was definitely true, at least as I have observed it in frames on movie screens. For that reason, I banished all green . . . The blue sky above the brown earth is sufficient to teach us the terror of human life.”

On and Off-Screen Imaginaries is a collection of six essays by artist and filmmaker Tiffany Sia on topics ranging from the Hong Kong Documentary Filmmakers collective to the Cold War. Talking with Sia for Film Comment, Catherine Quan Damman asks about the design of the “conveniently pocket-sized” book, noting that it’s “also completely monochrome, with film stills—both from your work and others’—interspersed throughout and captioned in a recto-verso format, rendering the fore edge with a cinematic quality of alternating ‘frames” of blacks and whites.”

Sia says she was “trying to summon cinema by other means—it’s montage. In the same way that montage attempts to create some sort of memory, the image and text are not perfectly aligned, but are meant to play into that kind of recall of image or of a description you read ten pages before. It’s important to experience the book from beginning to end, because, with the help of [designer Bryce Wilner], it is constructed to vivify this ‘cinema by other means’—a kind of offering to Pavle Levi [author of Cinema by Other Means].”

IndieWire has an excerpt from Darren Aronofsky’s new introduction to Pi: The Guerilla Diaries, which he wrote during the pre-production, production, and release of Pi (1998). “It was the first movie ever to have an entire title/credit sequence designed via computer,” notes Aronofsky, “as well as the first film to be available for download in the early days of the World Wide Web.”

Listen Up

On the latest episode of The Last Thing I Saw, Nicolas Rapold talks with Christine Smallwood about La captive, her new book on Chantal Akerman’s reworking the fifth volume of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. In his review of Smallwood’s contribution to the Decadent Editions series from Fireflies Press for Screen Slate, David Schwartz writes that “among the many achievements of her slender but potent book, in addition to the precision and depth with which she unpacks the film, is that she gives a comprehensive and concise overview of Akerman’s life and work; this may well be the best English-language book about Akerman currently in print.”

On Tuesday, Smallwood will be at Light Industry in New York to present an illustrated lecture examining “moments across Akerman’s work about sex, sleep, separation, mothers, and grandmothers. What is it about a woman asleep that so ignites desire?” Akerman’s La captive (2000) will screen at Metrograph on March 30, and Smallwood will take part in a post-screening Q&A moderated by Anna Shechtman before introducing Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958), “a film which, in Smallwood’s words, ‘haunts every frame’ of Akerman’s drama.”

Mike Gebert, the host of the NitrateVille Radio Podcast, talks with Bryony Dixon about her new book, The Story of Victorian Film, and with Maggie Hennefeld about hers, Death by Laughter: Female Hysteria and Early Cinema. Dixon is the author of 100 Silent Films, and as curator of silent film at the BFI National Archive, she has worked on a good number of restorations, including all nine surviving silent films directed by Hitchcock. Hennefeld cocurated Kino Lorber’s Cinema’s First Nasty Women set, and her previous book is Specters of Slapstick and Silent Film Comediennes.


At eighty-three, Al Pacino became a father for the fourth time last summer, briefly confused Oscars viewers last week, and as Adrian Horton reports in the Guardian, his first memoir, Sonny Boy, will arrive in October. July will see the release of Willow Catelyn Maclay and Caden Gardner’s Corpses, Fools and Monsters: An Examination of Trans Film Images in Cinema, and Noah Isenberg has announced that a tenth-anniversary paperback edition of his Edgar G. Ulmer: A Filmmaker at the Margins will be out in September.

John Bleasdale, host of the Writers on Film podcast, has recently spoken with Stephen Lee Naish about Music and Sound in the Films of Dennis Hopper and with Robert P. Kolker and Nathan Abrams about Kubrick: An Odyssey. Bleasdale’s own book, The Magic Hours: The Films and Hidden Life of Terrence Malick, will be out in December.


Reviewing Harry Dean Stanton: Hollywood’s Zen Rebel for Film International, Ali Moosavi notes that Joseph B. Atkins “has done extensive research, talking to many of Harry’s friends, family and colleagues and come up with truly fascinating stuff.” Moosavi passes along anecdotes from the sets of several films, including Monte Hellman’s Ride the Whirlwind (1966), Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973), Arthur Penn’s The Missouri Breaks (1976), Francis Ford Coppola’s One from the Heart (1981), Alex Cox’s Repo Man (1984), and of course, Wim Wenders’s Paris, Texas (1984).

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