April Books

Sylvia Testud and Olivia Bonamy in Chantal Akerman’s La captive (2000)

Two robust packages, one from the Los Angeles Times and the other from Gagosian Quarterly, have arrived since last month’s roundup on new and noteworthy titles. Before we unwrap them, though, let’s flag a couple of upcoming events. To mark the publication of Devotion, a collection of essays and interviews, Garrett Bradley will be at Metrograph in New York on Saturday to host screenings of her short films and Time (2020), for which she won the U.S. Documentary Directing Award at Sundance and was nominated for an Oscar.

“Bradley’s body of work—which encompasses fiction and nonfiction filmmaking, episodic television, and gallery installation—is unbound by genre,” writes Doreen St. Félix. “How Time assumed its final, layered form is a testament to its director’s liberated process.” Bradley is “constitutionally an image-maker, not a documentarian per se.” On Sunday, Bradley will take part in a panel discussion before a screening of Satyajit Ray’s Devi (1960). “Even if a stretch,” says Bradley, “the film begs the question of how and to what, in a world where information has been so greatly and unprecedentedly afflicted, do we commit?”

On May 1, the Film Desk and Japan Society will launch the first English-language edition of Le Dépays, Chris Marker’s 1982 collection of black-and-white photos shot in Japan while he was working on Sans Soleil (1983). The event will feature a screening of an imported 35 mm print of the film in which we find Marker, as Catherine Lupton writes, “alert to memory’s self-serving distortions, but even more so to our deep human need for memory as a form of protection, a shield that keeps at bay the losses imposed by time, forgetting, and forced obliteration.” The Notebook, in the meantime, is running an excerpt from Eternal Current Events, a collection of Marker’s writing edited and translated by Jackson B. Smith.

The LAT Fifty

The Los Angeles Times has put together a ranked and annotated list of the fifty “best Hollywood books of all time,” and several contributors have expanded on their favorites. Topping the list is Play It as It Lays, the 1970 novel in which Joan Didion “paints the picture of an industry in decay, saturated with copycat movies, predatory men, hacks and hangers-on,” as Matt Brennan describes the book. “Indeed, the most remarkable aspect of Didion’s portrait is not the ruthless precision with which it renders the film business then, but the clarity with which it corresponds to the film business now.”

Peter Biskind’s Easy Riders, Raging Bulls (#9) is “almost but not quite that rare thing, a terrific idea for a book that actually became a terrific book,” writes David Kipen. For Manuel Betancourt, there is “no more quotable novel about Hollywood than Carrie Fisher’s roman à clef, Postcards from the Edge [#15],” and Mark Athitakis suggests that Steven Bach’s Final Cut: Art, Money, and Ego in the Making of Heaven’s Gate, the Film that Sank United Artists (#18) “rewards revisiting the way few Hollywood tell-alls do.”

You’ll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again (#31), by producer Julia Phillips (The Sting, Taxi Driver, Close Encounters of the Third Kind), is “a brave, foolhardy and one-of-a-kind Hollywood memoir,” writes Carolyn Kellogg. Donald Bogle’s Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films (#39) is “generally (and accurately) viewed as an accounting of the malicious stereotypes that the movies codified as only the movies can,” writes Chris Vognar, but “if Bogle’s book was a taxonomy, it was also a reclamation.” The book also makes a list at Literary Hub that Brittany Allen calls a syllabus for fans of Karina Longworth’s podcast, You Must Remember This.

In Raising Kane (#40), a book-length essay that appeared in 1971 in two consecutive issues of the New Yorker, Pauline Kael argued that Orson Welles had little to do with the writing of Citizen Kane (1941) and that full credit should go instead to Herman J. Mankiewicz. The piece has been dismissed as a hit job, but Amy Nicholson argues that its “value transcends the question of whether Kael was correct. (She kinda was, she kinda wasn’t.) What matters is she started a fight that forced all film fans to consider, and defend, their definition of a great director: Is it a big boss enforcing their will upon a set, or a humble collaborator who brings out the best in their team?”

Gagosian & Film

The Gagosian & Film supplement in the latest issue of the Quarterly features a gallery of photos from Sofia Coppola: Archive 1999–2023.Carlos Valladares was recently in Paris, where he spoke with Frederick Wiseman, who mentioned that he’d been reading Maria Stepanova’s In Memory of Memory. Valladares had just finished Sodom and Gomorrah, the fourth volume of In Search of Lost Time. “‘Ahhhh . . . Proust!’ cried Fred, with a sigh of delight. ‘What else is there to read after that?’”

“It was my elder sister who turned me on to F. Scott Fitzgerald and Jane Austen,” Whit Stillman tells Valladares. The occasion for their conversation is the publication of Whit Stillman: Not So Long Ago, a collection from Fireflies Press. “And then at Harvard we had a very good teacher, Walter Jackson Bate, who was a specialist in eighteenth-century British literature and Samuel Johnson,” Stillman went on. “And over time, I guess I fixated on the second half of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century as sort of my affinity periods.”

Lee Chang-dong’s Burning (2018) and Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car (2021) are both adaptations of short stories by Haruki Murakami. “What makes Murakami adaptable?” asks Adam Dalva. “His half-baked men offer audiences the ability to project, and one can write a Murakami lead without the additional struggle of translating excess interiority into externally visible modes.” Burning and Drive My Car “[beef] up the supporting characters and the setting, creating fuller worlds. Because the stories are constrained and minimal, these changes are not acts of erasure, as they can sometimes be with adaptations, but instead are canny amplifications of preexisting narrative elements.”

With an emphasis on the contributions from screenwriter Guillermo Cabrera Infante and Gilda Texter, who appears as a nude hippie biker in Richard Sarafian’s Vanishing Point (1971), Robert M. Rubin, whose new book is Vanishing Point Forever, writes: “A generation after its initial release, the film is routinely appropriated by artists across multiple media. Worshiped by gearheads, French post-structuralists, and hardcore cineastes alike, the movie is mentioned as often in muscle-car magazines as it is in Film Comment or Cahiers du cinéma.

Hasumi on Ozu

When K. F. Watanabe met with Shiguéhiko Hasumi in Tokyo to interview him for the Notebook, he found the eighty-eight-year-old critic, author, editor, translator, and novelist more eager to discuss classic-era Hollywood than Ozu. He’d recently completed a monograph on John Ford, but in 1983, he wrote Directed by Yasujiro Ozu, which is the first of his books to be released in English. Translated by Ryan Cook, the book is out this month from the University of California Press.

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu is “one of the most influential Japanese film books ever written,” declares Watanabe. “Hasumi directly responds to the predominant interpretations of Ozu’s films by Western writers such as Donald Richie and Paul Schrader, of which he is very critical: Ozu is not a minimalist; his films are not concerned with mono no aware; his so-called ‘pillow shots’ are not external to the diegesis. Written with confidence and startling specificity in an idiosyncratic style, it is easy to understand how Directed by Yasujiro Ozu has influenced generations of cinephiles and filmmakers in Japan and beyond.”

“I’d like everyone to forget that Ozu is a Japanese director,” Hasumi tells Watanabe. “Of course Ozu was born and raised as a Japanese person, but what he loved most of all was Hollywood films. Truly good auteurs transcend gender and nationality.”

Kubrick at the Sticking Place

In the late 1960s, Neil Hornick was commissioned to write the first book devoted entirely to the work of Stanley Kubrick. The publisher, though, the Tantivy Press, had signed an agreement with Kubrick that gave him final approval. As Dalya Alberge reports in the Guardian, when Kubrick read a draft of The Magic Eye: The Cinema of Stanley Kubrick, he found it too critical—and killed the project.

Next week, nearly fifty-five years later and a quarter of a century since Kubrick’s death, Sticking Place Books will publish The Magic Eye with, as Alberge puts it, “three prefaces reflecting its subject’s ruthlessness in trying to block publication and control his image.” In one of those prefaces, Hornick, now eighty-four, writes: “I thought I’d finished with Kubrick. But, as I’m sure others before and after me have also discovered, one is never really finished with him. If you’ve once been bitten—or is the word ‘smitten’?—by the Kubrick bug, it kind of gets into your bloodstream and stays with you for life.”

2024 is turning into quite a year for Sticking Place Books and publisher Paul Cronin. Next week will also see the release of A Shared Cinema, a collection of N. T. Binh’s interviews with the late critic and Positif editor Michel Ciment, as well as Nathan Réra’s Playing Among the Stars: Conversations with Damien Chazelle. And three books on Brian De Palma are in the works: Réra’s study of Casualties of War (1989), a collection of interviews from Samuel Blumenfeld and Laurent Vachaud, and an essay collection from Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin.

Bodies Bodies Bodies

Early in her new book, Trophy Lives: On the Celebrity as an Art Object, Philippa Snow tells her readers that she’ll be tracing two lines of thought, “that of celebrities as the subjects of fine art, and that of celebrities as artists—or as artworks—in their own right.” The Paris Review has an excerpt in which Snow offers close readings of Richard Phillips’s short film Lindsay Lohan (2011), three portraits—two Elizabeth Peyton paintings and an Urs Fischer wax figurine—of Leonardo DiCaprio, Sam McKinniss’s portrait of Whitney Houston, and Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Diptych (1962). Trophy Lives is “short but splendid,” finds the Telegraph’s Megan Nolan, and Snow discusses her book with Isabelle Bucklow (AnOther), Halima Jibril (Dazed), and Lydia Eliza Trail (Plaster).

Literary Hub is running an excerpt from Candida Royalle and the Sexual Revolution: A History from Below, historian Jane Kamensky’s account of the life of Candice Vadala, a sex-positive feminist who produced and directed explicit movies for women. “No, she didn’t rebuild the industry in her image,” writes Margaret Talbot in her review of this “assiduously researched, elegantly written new biography” for the New Yorker. “But she—along with writers and performers such as Susie Bright, Nina Hartley, and Annie Sprinkle—did help make sure that feminist porn was no longer regarded as a punch line or a paradox.”

“As she follows Royalle from the Eisenhower era through feminist consciousness-raising groups to San Francisco’s drag scene and L.A.’s porn industry, and finally to the talk show circuit and the halls of academe,” writes Fred Turner in the Los Angeles Review of Books, “Kamensky shows that the sexual revolution was always only partly about sex. It was also about technological transformation; about personal branding, the search for authenticity; and about the blurring of private life and screen life. We may think of these things as artifacts of our digital age, but Candida Royalle knew them well. She lived her politics as many of us live ours today, in her body and on the screen simultaneously.”

Hollywood Moments

As the Supreme Court deliberates a case that will likely determine how cities and states treat their homeless, the publication of Pamela Robertson Wojcik’s Unhomed: Cycles of Mobility and Placelessness in American Cinema couldn’t be timelier. “Hollywood has engaged in a kind of NIMBY denial of the discomfort close to home,” writes Wojcik, and in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Ned Resnikoff notes that “Wojcik demonstrates at length that Hollywood’s denialism is a break from precedent: earlier American films show a consistent preoccupation, even fascination, with homelessness and housing insecurity.”

Daniel de Visé’s The Blues Brothers: An Epic Friendship, the Rise of Improv, and the Making of an American Film Classic is about a lot more than the 1980 movie directed by John Landis and starring Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi. “It’s a triple-helixed biography of the main contributors to the counterculture comedy revolution of the post-’60s,” writes Ty Burr in the Washington Post. “It’s a tale of Hollywood excess—both budgetary and pharmaceutical—that beggars belief. And, at its essence, it’s the story of a great American bromance, a partnership that was kept alive by one man’s creative discipline before crashing on the rocks of another man’s addictions.” De Visé’s book is also “a well-told story.”

Listening to Writers

On the New Books Network, Miranda Melcher talks with Maggie Hennefeld, who coedited the latest issue of Feminist Media Histories and whose latest book is Death by Laughter: Female Hysteria and Early Cinema. Film International has an excerpt from the book that silent-era enthusiast Paul Joyce calls “both enlightening and thoroughly entertaining.”

Scott Drebit, the author of A Cut Below: A Celebration of B Horror Movies, 1950s–1980s, talks with Jason Bailey and Mike Hull, the hosts of A Very Good Year, about Alien and other scary movies that came out in 1979. Writers on Film host John Bleasdale chats with Neal Alcock about his first book, Hitchology: A Film-by-Film Guide to the Style and Themes of Alfred Hitchcock.

On the Film Comment Podcast, Adam Shatz, whose latest book is The Rebel’s Clinic: The Revolutionary Lives of Frantz Fanon, discusses “Fanonian” cinema and works by Med Hondo, Claire Denis, Ousmane Sembène, and many others with editors Devika Girish and Clinton Krute. Girish and Krute also talk with Christine Smallwood about her book on La captive, Chantal Akerman’s 2000 loose adaptation of The Prisoner, the fifth volume of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. There are aspects of Smallwood’s approach in her book that Lori Marso appreciates, and there are others that seem to bug her, but her overall concern in her piece for the Los Angeles Review of Books is Akerman.

New and Forthcoming

That brings us to Œuvre écrite et parlée. For Éditions L’Arachnéen, Cyril Béghin has edited a three-volume collection of Akerman’s writing. It may be a while before we see the nearly 1600 pages of Œuvre écrite et parlée appear in translation, but it’s encouraging to see that the publisher offers a description of the project in English.

Other new books to know about include Doug Dibbern’s experimental memoir, Alone in the Dark: Cinephilia and the Heroic Imagination; Morgan Quaintance’s Ironic Resonance, Anti-sound Design and Radical Cacophony in Jia Zhangke's Xiao Wu; and two collections freely available as open access publications: Serge Daney and Queer Cinephilia, edited by Pierre Eugène, Kate Ince, and Marc Siegel, and Technics: Media in the Digital Age, edited by Nicholas Baer and Annie van den Oever.

Baer has been an editor and contributor to several books, and his first as the sole author, Historical Turns: Weimar Cinema and the Crisis of Historicism, will be released in July. Noah Gittell’s Baseball: The Movie will be out next month with a foreword by John Sayles. Griffin Dunne, who starred in Martin Scorsese’s After Hours (1985) and directed a documentary about his aunt, Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold (2017), will have a new book out in June, The Friday Afternoon Club: A Family Memoir.

July will see the release of My Affair with Art House Cinema, a collection of essays and reviews by Phillip Lopate, who edited American Movie Critics: An Anthology From the Silents Until Now for the Library of America in 2006. Then, in August, we’ll see the new book from former Philadelphia Inquirer film critic Carrie Rickey, A Complicated Passion: The Life and Work of Agnès Varda.


Since David Bordwell passed away on February 29, there have been many, many tributes and remembrances, and the one to recommend comes from James Naremore, a friend of Bordwell’s, a fellow scholar, and the author of books on Charles Burnett, Stanley Kubrick, and Orson Welles. “Bordwell was the Aristotle of cinema study,” writes Naremore for the BFI. “He gave us a full-scale poetics of the feature film, and his clearly articulated writings transcend the boundaries between academic research, journalistic criticism, and the practice of filmmakers . . . David was a great critic, and I’ve gained more inspiration and practical knowledge from him than from any other writer on film.”

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