July 6th, 2010 / 11:49 pm
Film

The Best Film Books?

Which are the most inspirational five books about film ever written? This was the question the British Film Institute asked 51 leading critics and writers, and their answers are printed here in full.

Those lists provided me with some new titles to check out. (I’ve just begun reading Stanley Cavell’s A World Viewed, which made it onto a good many of the lists.) At any rate, I’d love to learn about your favorite books on film. Here are my top five:

Gilles Deleuze — Cinema 1: The Movement-Image [&] Cinema 2: The Time-Image
Jean-Luc Godard — Godard on Godard
P. Adams Sitney — Visionary Film
Stan Brakhage — Essential Brakhage: Selected Writings on Film-Making
David Bordwell — Making Meaning: Inference and Rhetoric in the Interpretation of Cinema

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160 Comments

  1. Christopher Higgs

      I know, I know…I cheated by counting the two Deleuze books as one.

  2. Roxane Gay

      I really like bell hooks’s Reel to Real: Race, Sex & Class at the Movies.

  3. Brendan Connell

      I don’t remember the title but Kurosawa’s autobiography is very good. Mostly talks about how he spent all his money on beer.

  4. Saduharu Mandingo

      A Cinema of Loneliness by Robert Kolker

  5. Ridge

      Bordwell’s “Poetics of Cinema” is quite good.

  6. alan

      I second Manny Farber and David Thomson from many of the lists linked to above.

      Bresson’s “Notes on the Cinematographer” so utterly transcends this category that I’d be ashamed to include it, or to leave it out.

  7. Ogawa

      Herzog on Herzog.

  8. D.W. Lichtenberg

      The fact that this list does not mention Sydney Lumet’s Making Movies makes this list kinda soft.

  9. D.W. Lichtenberg

      In the Blink of an Eye is also a pretty standard awesome book for film peoples.

  10. Shane Anderson

      The Tarkovsky book is pretty dope, as are the Truffaut interviews with Hitchcock

  11. Christopher Higgs

      I know, I know…I cheated by counting the two Deleuze books as one.

  12. Roxane Gay

      I really like bell hooks’s Reel to Real: Race, Sex & Class at the Movies.

  13. Steven Augustine

      1. Final Cut by Stephen Bach; unusually well-written account of the Heaven’s Gate (the film, not the castrati cult responsible for the death of Uhuru’s brother) mess which sank the ship of United Artists. Dense with lore.

      2. All I Need Is Love (original version of the English title, I think) by Klaus Kinski. Autobio from a sick, sick man with a better sex life than yours.

      3. Everything is Cinema by Richard Brody. Kind of a velvet hatchet-job on Godard but good for that reason: more antihagiographic than Boyd on Nabokov… closer in temperament to Ellmann on Joyce (but less decorous, to match our era).

      4. Honorary book: this guy (Rob Ager: http://www.collativelearning.com/the%20shining.html ) does an über-anal, frame-by-frame analysis of some Kubrick films and generates a Unified Field Theory of Kubrick that resolves all those niggling contradictions and doubts (eg, “Why is The Shining not very good as a horror film?” or “Why all these sloppy continuity errors in a director known to do 85 takes on scenes with no dialogue?”). Ager’s theories are as right/wrong as interpretation will be, but his approach is very fresh and will help you to read the images of this dead super-genius (in my opinion, in the chess game between Stanley and Vladimir, Stanley won) with new eyes.

  14. Pemulis

      Someone should probably mention Robert Evans’ autobiography, The Kid Stays in the Picture. The movie’s even pretty OK and the audiobook is so good, they use it for background noise at schmancy Hollywood parties.

  15. Brendan Connell

      I don’t remember the title but Kurosawa’s autobiography is very good. Mostly talks about how he spent all his money on beer.

  16. Saduharu Mandingo

      the lumet book is good for film students who have never made a film.

  17. Saduharu Mandingo

      A Cinema of Loneliness by Robert Kolker

  18. Kristin
  19. Ridge

      Bordwell’s “Poetics of Cinema” is quite good.

  20. alan

      I second Manny Farber and David Thomson from many of the lists linked to above.

      Bresson’s “Notes on the Cinematographer” so utterly transcends this category that I’d be ashamed to include it, or to leave it out.

  21. Kyle Minor

      Getting Away with It by Steven Soderbergh
      Monster by John Gregory Dunne

  22. Ogawa

      Herzog on Herzog.

  23. David

      Ozu by Donald Richie.

  24. D.W. Lichtenberg

      The fact that this list does not mention Sydney Lumet’s Making Movies makes this list kinda soft.

  25. D.W. Lichtenberg

      In the Blink of an Eye is also a pretty standard awesome book for film peoples.

  26. Shane Anderson

      The Tarkovsky book is pretty dope, as are the Truffaut interviews with Hitchcock

  27. Christopher Higgs

      bell hooks kicks ass! Did not know she wrote a film book — will be picking that up asap. Thanks, Roxane.

  28. Christopher Higgs

      I keep putting off the Brody book on Godard…not sure why. Probably should check it out. I liked Colin McCabe’s Godard: A Portrait of the Artist at Seventy, and I also liked Wheeler Dixon’s The Films of Jean-Luc Godard…I’ll probably like the Brody…I’m pretty much a glutton for all things Godard.

  29. Steven Augustine

      1. Final Cut by Stephen Bach; unusually well-written account of the Heaven’s Gate (the film, not the castrati cult responsible for the death of Uhuru’s brother) mess which sank the ship of United Artists. Dense with lore.

      2. All I Need Is Love (original version of the English title, I think) by Klaus Kinski. Autobio from a sick, sick man with a better sex life than yours.

      3. Everything is Cinema by Richard Brody. Kind of a velvet hatchet-job on Godard but good for that reason: more antihagiographic than Boyd on Nabokov… closer in temperament to Ellmann on Joyce (but less decorous, to match our era).

      4. Honorary book: this guy (Rob Ager: http://www.collativelearning.com/the%20shining.html ) does an über-anal, frame-by-frame analysis of some Kubrick films and generates a Unified Field Theory of Kubrick that resolves all those niggling contradictions and doubts (eg, “Why is The Shining not very good as a horror film?” or “Why all these sloppy continuity errors in a director known to do 85 takes on scenes with no dialogue?”). Ager’s theories are as right/wrong as interpretation will be, but his approach is very fresh and will help you to read the images of this dead super-genius (in my opinion, in the chess game between Stanley and Vladimir, Stanley won) with new eyes.

  30. Pemulis

      Someone should probably mention Robert Evans’ autobiography, The Kid Stays in the Picture. The movie’s even pretty OK and the audiobook is so good, they use it for background noise at schmancy Hollywood parties.

  31. Joseph Riippi

      Laura Mulvey, Visual and Other Pleasures

      If only for its inclusion of the essay from SCREEN, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” without which that Bell Hook book doesn’t get written.

  32. Saduharu Mandingo

      the lumet book is good for film students who have never made a film.

  33. kristin
  34. Salvatore Pane

      For critical theory, Andre Bazin’s What is Cinema. For a just generally kickass book, David Thompson’s The Whole Equation.

  35. Kyle Minor

      Getting Away with It by Steven Soderbergh
      Monster by John Gregory Dunne

  36. David

      Ozu by Donald Richie.

  37. alan

      Maybe I don’t understand the comment, but I’ve always thought Boyd and Ellmann were as hagiographic as they come.

  38. winston

      Agreed on Bazin

  39. Steve

      I love that they polled David Thompson and David Thomson, and Thompson named a book by Thomson. And of course Armond White named one of his own books.

  40. Greg Gerke

      Just to mention those not mentioned:

      Kubrick: Inside a Film Artist’s Maze gives sound interpretations of all the films and it’s not awash in trivia.

      Antonioni: Poet of Images by William Arrowsmith, a classicist (but not a classist, I think) and translator, again sound interpretations often with classic texts as lynchpins to understanding.

      The Magic Lantern – Bergman’s autobiography – not solely about film, the man directed many, many plays and had many, many wives

  41. magick mike

      1/2 theory, 1/2 fun

      Immortal Tales: European Sex and Horror Films 1956-1984 by Pete Tombs & Cathal Tohill
      Eyeball Compendium ed. by Stephen Thrower
      Film Is by Stephen Dwoskin
      Poetics of Cinema 1 & 2 by Raoul Ruiz
      Title TK by Thierry Kuntzel (even though I haven’t finished it)
      Issues of Camera Obscura from the 70s and early 80s

      I also have a penchant for the Creation Cinema books, even though they are mostly crap.

  42. magick mike

      just as a note, possibly to be “provocative,” i will point out that it appears that i am literally the only person in the entire world who is totally “over” Herzog

  43. magick mike

      if I had made it all the way through both the SCREEN readers, they would probably make my list

  44. Colin Herd

      This is Called Moving: a Critical Poetics of Film by (the awesome filmmaker) Abigail Child

  45. Steven Augustine

      Herzog is the biggest sellout in cinema history, is all.

  46. Steven Augustine

      You will like the Brody (which isn’t to say that the last third of it won’t depress you)

  47. Steven Augustine

      My oldest friend is friends with Bruno S (the star of the best of Golden Age Herzog) and I was on the premises when Bruno emerged from the WC stating (with a convincing blankness of facial expression), “I’ve just f—d your toilet.”

  48. magick mike

      at least somebody’s willing to say it

  49. Steven Augustine

      Oh, there’s a fair amount of dirt in Ellmann’s Joyce (if only in how he doesn’t flinch in showing the suffering JJ could inflict on those who loved him enough to lend him money) and a little in Boyd’s Nabokov (eg, the cheating on Vera).

  50. magick mike

      oh my god
      i forgot the second most essential film book in the world

      :::::::::
      Film as a Subversive Art by Amos Vogel

  51. Dreezer

      In the Blink of an Eye, Walter Murch’s book on film editing, and Michael Ondaatje’s The Conversations, his book of interviews with Murch about film and sound editing.

      Also Hitchcock/Truffaut.

      Paul Schrader’s Transcendental Style in Film

      Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style by Silver & Ward (also useful are the related Film Noir Readers, of which there are at least three).

  52. magick mike

      I am very bad at this:

      Cinema and Sensation: French Film and the Art of Transgression
      by Martine Beugnet (Hardcover)

      Is the most relevant thing I’ve read recently.

  53. Christopher Higgs

      bell hooks kicks ass! Did not know she wrote a film book — will be picking that up asap. Thanks, Roxane.

  54. Christopher Higgs

      I keep putting off the Brody book on Godard…not sure why. Probably should check it out. I liked Colin McCabe’s Godard: A Portrait of the Artist at Seventy, and I also liked Wheeler Dixon’s The Films of Jean-Luc Godard…I’ll probably like the Brody…I’m pretty much a glutton for all things Godard.

  55. wax lion

      HOLLYWOOD BABYLON

  56. scott mcclanahan

      David Weddle: If They Move Kill Em’…The Life and Times of Sam Peckinpah
      Lillian Ross: Picture (a book about the making of The African Queen)
      Joseph Lanza: Phallic Frenzy: Ken Russell and His Films
      Persistence of Vision Series Volume 6: Anarchy and Alchemy: The Films of Alejandro Jodorwosky
      Andrew Sarris: The American Cinema

  57. scott mcclanahan

      The Ross book is about the making of The Red Badge of Courage. Where’s my head at today?

  58. Joseph Riippi

      Laura Mulvey, Visual and Other Pleasures

      If only for its inclusion of the essay from SCREEN, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” without which that Bell Hook book doesn’t get written.

  59. Steven Augustine
  60. Colin Herd

      Oh, my goodness yes. How could I forget about Anger?

  61. magick mike

      i want to read a book on ken russell

  62. Salvatore Pane

      For critical theory, Andre Bazin’s What is Cinema. For a just generally kickass book, David Thompson’s The Whole Equation.

  63. jereme

      eh, i am not a big fan of books about film theory. fucking snoreville.

      sorry.

      but books about the people who make film i dig.

      here are my picks:

      the diaries of hitchcock (big fucking book)
      scorcese on scorcese (there is a small piece on loneliness in it that has always stayed with me)
      rebel without a crew- robert rodriguez (specifically the 15 minute film school portion in the back)
      feature filmmaking at used-car prices
      breakfast with sharks (good for screenwriting introduction)
      quentin tarantino: shooting from the hip (read this book back in ’96. the end of the book has a list of tarantino’s fav films. that list started my quest for film. lot of good shit in it.)

      and one book i saw at a local rare books store here in hollywood:

      this book is a film

      it was all visual font tricks..

  64. jereme

      i would like to read that book on rohmer listed on that site.

  65. jonny ross

      The Films of John Cassavetes: Pragmatism, Modernism, and the Movies by Ray Carney

      If They Move . . . Kill ‘Em!: The Life and Times Of Sam Peckinpah by David Weddle

  66. jonny ross

      second

  67. alan

      Maybe I don’t understand the comment, but I’ve always thought Boyd and Ellmann were as hagiographic as they come.

  68. jereme

      oh and shit, HOLLYWOOD by buk

      he sums up the hollywood bullshit nicely.

  69. reynard

      love that book. if you get the chance (because it’s very hard to find), watch trinh t. minh-ha’s reassemblage; it is practically (though not actually) a book on the perils of ethnographic film.

  70. d

      Herzog is still awesome. Did you see his documentary about ‘Antarctica’? He discovers probably his greatest subject: suicidal penguins.

  71. winston

      Agreed on Bazin

  72. davidpeak

      Shocking Representation.

      http://cup.columbia.edu/book/978-0-231-13247-3/shocking-representation

      “In this imaginative new work, Adam Lowenstein explores the ways in which a group of groundbreaking horror films engaged the haunting social conflicts left in the wake of World War II, Hiroshima, and the Vietnam War. Lowenstein centers Shocking Representation around readings of films by Georges Franju, Michael Powell, Shindo Kaneto, Wes Craven, and David Cronenberg. He shows that through allegorical representations these directors’ films confronted and challenged comforting historical narratives and notions of national identity intended to soothe public anxieties in the aftermath of national traumas.”

  73. Steve

      I love that they polled David Thompson and David Thomson, and Thompson named a book by Thomson. And of course Armond White named one of his own books.

  74. ZZZIPP

      THAT WAS MY FAVOURITE MOVIE OF WHATEVER YEAR THAT CAME OUT

  75. Greg Gerke

      Just to mention those not mentioned:

      Kubrick: Inside a Film Artist’s Maze gives sound interpretations of all the films and it’s not awash in trivia.

      Antonioni: Poet of Images by William Arrowsmith, a classicist (but not a classist, I think) and translator, again sound interpretations often with classic texts as lynchpins to understanding.

      The Magic Lantern – Bergman’s autobiography – not solely about film, the man directed many, many plays and had many, many wives

  76. mike

      herzog is so BOOOOOOOORRING to me now (said in Herzog voice)

      i like him in harmony korine movies BETTER THAN I LIKE HIS OWN MOVIES.

      aguirre is boring, even dwarfs is boring, heart of glass is boring but cool due to the hypnosis shit, woyzeck i just completely and utterly didn’t care about (even though I like kinski a lot, he’s better in terayama & zulawski films), fata morgana (which i watched because one of my favorite movies is a spanish movie also titled fata morgana) was completely underwhelming, 70s short documentaries are entertaining, kaspar hauser is actually pretty good but that has little to do with herzog, that has more to do with THE MOVIE ITSELF (i go back and forth on a full engagement with auteur theory), anything else i’ve tried to watch i didn’t bother finishing, but OH WELL AT LEAST HE’S BETTER THAN TARANTINO RITE GUYS!?

  77. magick mike

      that seems interesting in concept, but i imagine i would have two bones to pick with it

      1) why do 95% of academic texts on horror film focus on literally the same “canonical” movies? (I suppose I answered my own question there)

      2) i can’t figure out from the description whether Lowenstein is presupposing these post-war horror films as allegory or if the cathartic, experiential nature is posited as how tehse are “confronting historical narratives.” if it’s the latter, i’m interested.

      (these are, of course, purely speculative, as I haven’t read it)

  78. magick mike

      1/2 theory, 1/2 fun

      Immortal Tales: European Sex and Horror Films 1956-1984 by Pete Tombs & Cathal Tohill
      Eyeball Compendium ed. by Stephen Thrower
      Film Is by Stephen Dwoskin
      Poetics of Cinema 1 & 2 by Raoul Ruiz
      Title TK by Thierry Kuntzel (even though I haven’t finished it)
      Issues of Camera Obscura from the 70s and early 80s

      I also have a penchant for the Creation Cinema books, even though they are mostly crap.

  79. magick mike

      just as a note, possibly to be “provocative,” i will point out that it appears that i am literally the only person in the entire world who is totally “over” Herzog

  80. magick mike

      damn, since the introduction is titled “the allegorical moment” i’m guessing it’s the former. that’s annoying.

  81. magick mike

      if I had made it all the way through both the SCREEN readers, they would probably make my list

  82. ZZZIPP

      YOU DIDN’T WATCH FITZCARRALDO???

  83. davidpeak

      i recommend giving it a shot. it may not exactly be mindful of the obscure, but the sections focusing on onibaba, deathdream, and shivers are particularly interesting. w/r/t your second question, it’s both.

  84. mike

      i had bought the herzog/kinski boxset and made it halfway through and by that point i didn’t even care and i have literally no motivation to watch it. would you like to know why? here is why:

      as evidenced above, I have actively found 4+ herzog movies “boring,” and boring, in my head, is equivalent with “not worth watching.” why should i waste time watching every herzog movie ever, just so i can continue to have the same opinion, when i could come up with a list of, seriously, 750 movies that i actively want to see? life is short, canons are dumb, the end.

  85. mike

      i don’t actually think the idea of canons are dumb when they are presented as aesthetically consistent collection, i think THE canon, the hegemonic canon as it stands, is dumb

  86. magick mike

      if it’s both i would probably find it problematic to be honest. this is due to the fact that i basically hate horror as “pure” allegory (case in point: the monumentally shit-tastic film adaptation of stephen king’s monumentally shit-tastic short story THE MIST), and also can’t see how allegory can be consistent with experience, outside of purely subjective response i guess.

      and i guess i should clarify, i’m not necessarily asking that [books on horror film] be more mindful of the obscure, i just wonder what the necessity of only writing about 15 different films over a period of 40 years is. i kinda feel like it also generally devalues theoretical position, because if the same 15 movies are used as textual support for like literally EVERY THEORETICAL POSITION YOU CAN TAKE then that screams “YOU ARE READING TOO FAR INTO THIS” and makes me less likely to willingly eat up some idea. whereas when unique movies are used then i feel like “oh this author actually came to this idea from watching the film instead of coming to an idea and forcing a film that everybody is okay with talking about within academia to fit the idea”

  87. Colin Herd

      This is Called Moving: a Critical Poetics of Film by (the awesome filmmaker) Abigail Child

  88. Ken Baumann

      The Stanley Kubrick Archive
      Stanley Kubrick: A Narrative and Stylistic Analysis by Mario Falsetto

  89. Steven Augustine

      Herzog is the biggest sellout in cinema history, is all.

  90. Steven Augustine

      You will like the Brody (which isn’t to say that the last third of it won’t depress you)

  91. Steven Augustine

      My oldest friend is friends with Bruno S (the star of the best of Golden Age Herzog) and I was on the premises when Bruno emerged from the WC stating (with a convincing blankness of facial expression), “I’ve just f—d your toilet.”

  92. davidpeak

      i think the difference is that i don’t hate horror as allegory. i think allegory is interesting. i like the mist as a story. i liked martyrs. and, though i haven’t given it a lot of thought, can allegory not be consistent with experience even it concerns istelf the idea of a “national” identity, or a “national” experience? do these things even exist?

  93. magick mike

      at least somebody’s willing to say it

  94. Steven Augustine

      Oh, there’s a fair amount of dirt in Ellmann’s Joyce (if only in how he doesn’t flinch in showing the suffering JJ could inflict on those who loved him enough to lend him money) and a little in Boyd’s Nabokov (eg, the cheating on Vera).

  95. magick mike

      oh my god
      i forgot the second most essential film book in the world

      :::::::::
      Film as a Subversive Art by Amos Vogel

  96. Dreezer

      In the Blink of an Eye, Walter Murch’s book on film editing, and Michael Ondaatje’s The Conversations, his book of interviews with Murch about film and sound editing.

      Also Hitchcock/Truffaut.

      Paul Schrader’s Transcendental Style in Film

      Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style by Silver & Ward (also useful are the related Film Noir Readers, of which there are at least three).

  97. magick mike

      I am very bad at this:

      Cinema and Sensation: French Film and the Art of Transgression
      by Martine Beugnet (Hardcover)

      Is the most relevant thing I’ve read recently.

  98. magick mike

      martyrs is one of my favorite films of the decade, but i think pushing it as allegory is totally limiting its scope/what it does. if a, for example, french filmmaker makes a film and it can be read as concerning itself with the idea of a french identity, how is that allegory? doesn’t that just mean that the filmmaker or the production team responsible for the film is at least subconsciously engaged with a politic? and i’ve always understood allegory to be some stringent intentional by-the-author thing… i will be the first to shout that it’s the audience writing the text, but does that still work with allegory?

  99. Blake Butler

      i’d be interested to hear more of your thoughts on martyrs, mike. i am conflicted by it. guest post?

  100. davidpeak

      yeah, i think i’d really just like to hear what you make of martyrs, because i think we may have had very different viewing experiences. and jesus, i would never want to limit the scope of anything. i’m not trying to fit something. for some reason, when i was thinking about allegorical film, martyrs popped into my head. that’s probably saying something about me…

      to me, allegory is any message being conveyed through “representation,” something other than the literal “this is what is happening.” so yes, i agree with you that it’s an “intentional by-the-author” thing, but i also think allegory is something that can be found by the viewer, reader, based on pre-existing life experiences (nationality, gender, etc.) *this* kind of allegory is what really fascinates me.

  101. d

      ‘Martyrs’ was an incredible film, but I want to forget it. Fucking hell.

  102. wax lion

      HOLLYWOOD BABYLON

  103. magick mike

      @blake
      i’ve been “working on” an essay on martyrs for a long-ass time (and by working on i mean i have lots of notes on it and i save documentation of all the arguments i’ve gotten into about it and intend on finally putting some form to it) that i will one day finish, but david already called it for transductions (and then it will end up on esotika, of course), but if he’s cool with it going up multiple places then i’d be down with posting it here too.

      @david
      refer to blake comment, heh. i’ve watched it three times now, and need at least one more viewing before i can actually put pen to paper i guess, but basically the second viewing was to confirm that how i felt after the first viewing was valid, and then the third viewing was to actually start cementing a critical interpretation, so i need one more to sort of “verifying” my notes and shit. i will say ahead of time there is a lot of bataille’s “depense” (an accent goes somewhere in that word but i don’t remember where) via the accursed share in my notes so far. there were also actually two more books i wanted to finish reading before the essay was completed.

      w/r/t allegory, that’s not really how i define allegory at all, so i suppose that’s how we diverge. i just encountered this romain gary quote about his novel the roots of heaven, but it seems apt here regarding my ideas of allegory:

      There is almost no limit to what you can make an elephant stand for, but if the image of this lovable pachyderm thus becomes for each of us a sort of Rorschach test–which was exactly my intention–this does not make him in the least symbolic [or the novel allegorical]. It only goes to prove that each of us carries in his soul and mind a different notion of what is essential to our survival, a different longing and a personal interpretation, in the largest sense, of what life preservation is about.

      But, I will say, that I’m curious as to how you read Martyrs as allegory?

  104. davidpeak

      uh, i’m a little reluctant to say anything, because i’m seriously questioning why i read martyrs as allegory, or what allegory even is now, but i’ll just say that i spent a few years reading anything and everything related to the algerian war.

  105. scott mcclanahan

      David Weddle: If They Move Kill Em’…The Life and Times of Sam Peckinpah
      Lillian Ross: Picture (a book about the making of The African Queen)
      Joseph Lanza: Phallic Frenzy: Ken Russell and His Films
      Persistence of Vision Series Volume 6: Anarchy and Alchemy: The Films of Alejandro Jodorwosky
      Andrew Sarris: The American Cinema

  106. scott mcclanahan

      The Ross book is about the making of The Red Badge of Courage. Where’s my head at today?

  107. davidpeak
  108. ZZZIPP

      SORRY MIKE I JUST MEANT THAT’S USUALLY WHERE PEOPLE START. WHY DID YOU BUY THE BOX SET IF YOU HADN’T WATCHED HIM BEFORE???

  109. Steven Augustine
  110. Colin Herd

      Oh, my goodness yes. How could I forget about Anger?

  111. magick mike

      i want to read a book on ken russell

  112. magick mike

      despite my avowed francophilia i am still pretty historically ignorant, particularly in regards to the algerian war, so can’t argue with you there. also, thanks for the offscreen article, i haven’t checked offscreen for a while and the last time i was looking for critical articles on martyrs i found absolutely nothing

  113. magick mike

      i was sixteen and was spending all of my money on dvds and knew that he was harmony korine’s favorite director (and had seen even dwarfs… and heart of glass and i guess was convinced that i “liked them” at the time). so i had watched him before.

  114. jereme

      eh, i am not a big fan of books about film theory. fucking snoreville.

      sorry.

      but books about the people who make film i dig.

      here are my picks:

      the diaries of hitchcock (big fucking book)
      scorcese on scorcese (there is a small piece on loneliness in it that has always stayed with me)
      rebel without a crew- robert rodriguez (specifically the 15 minute film school portion in the back)
      feature filmmaking at used-car prices
      breakfast with sharks (good for screenwriting introduction)
      quentin tarantino: shooting from the hip (read this book back in ’96. the end of the book has a list of tarantino’s fav films. that list started my quest for film. lot of good shit in it.)

      and one book i saw at a local rare books store here in hollywood:

      this book is a film

      it was all visual font tricks..

  115. jereme

      i would like to read that book on rohmer listed on that site.

  116. DustinLukeNelson

      Jonathan Rosenbaum’s Moving Place and Placing Movies are favorites. As is The Maya Deren Reader. Her essays on film are brilliant early dissections on possibilities of the medium.

  117. jonny ross

      The Films of John Cassavetes: Pragmatism, Modernism, and the Movies by Ray Carney

      If They Move . . . Kill ‘Em!: The Life and Times Of Sam Peckinpah by David Weddle

  118. jonny ross

      second

  119. jereme

      oh and shit, HOLLYWOOD by buk

      he sums up the hollywood bullshit nicely.

  120. reynard

      love that book. if you get the chance (because it’s very hard to find), watch trinh t. minh-ha’s reassemblage; it is practically (though not actually) a book on the perils of ethnographic film.

  121. d

      Herzog is still awesome. Did you see his documentary about ‘Antarctica’? He discovers probably his greatest subject: suicidal penguins.

  122. davidpeak

      Shocking Representation.

      http://cup.columbia.edu/book/978-0-231-13247-3/shocking-representation

      “In this imaginative new work, Adam Lowenstein explores the ways in which a group of groundbreaking horror films engaged the haunting social conflicts left in the wake of World War II, Hiroshima, and the Vietnam War. Lowenstein centers Shocking Representation around readings of films by Georges Franju, Michael Powell, Shindo Kaneto, Wes Craven, and David Cronenberg. He shows that through allegorical representations these directors’ films confronted and challenged comforting historical narratives and notions of national identity intended to soothe public anxieties in the aftermath of national traumas.”

  123. ZZZIPP

      THAT WAS MY FAVOURITE MOVIE OF WHATEVER YEAR THAT CAME OUT

  124. Michel

      lol at the morons above hating on Herzog.

  125. mike

      herzog is so BOOOOOOOORRING to me now (said in Herzog voice)

      i like him in harmony korine movies BETTER THAN I LIKE HIS OWN MOVIES.

      aguirre is boring, even dwarfs is boring, heart of glass is boring but cool due to the hypnosis shit, woyzeck i just completely and utterly didn’t care about (even though I like kinski a lot, he’s better in terayama & zulawski films), fata morgana (which i watched because one of my favorite movies is a spanish movie also titled fata morgana) was completely underwhelming, 70s short documentaries are entertaining, kaspar hauser is actually pretty good but that has little to do with herzog, that has more to do with THE MOVIE ITSELF (i go back and forth on a full engagement with auteur theory), anything else i’ve tried to watch i didn’t bother finishing, but OH WELL AT LEAST HE’S BETTER THAN TARANTINO RITE GUYS!?

  126. magick mike

      that seems interesting in concept, but i imagine i would have two bones to pick with it

      1) why do 95% of academic texts on horror film focus on literally the same “canonical” movies? (I suppose I answered my own question there)

      2) i can’t figure out from the description whether Lowenstein is presupposing these post-war horror films as allegory or if the cathartic, experiential nature is posited as how tehse are “confronting historical narratives.” if it’s the latter, i’m interested.

      (these are, of course, purely speculative, as I haven’t read it)

  127. magick mike

      “lol”

      the plurality is just me, basically

  128. magick mike

      damn, since the introduction is titled “the allegorical moment” i’m guessing it’s the former. that’s annoying.

  129. ZZZIPP

      YOU DIDN’T WATCH FITZCARRALDO???

  130. davidpeak

      i recommend giving it a shot. it may not exactly be mindful of the obscure, but the sections focusing on onibaba, deathdream, and shivers are particularly interesting. w/r/t your second question, it’s both.

  131. mike

      i had bought the herzog/kinski boxset and made it halfway through and by that point i didn’t even care and i have literally no motivation to watch it. would you like to know why? here is why:

      as evidenced above, I have actively found 4+ herzog movies “boring,” and boring, in my head, is equivalent with “not worth watching.” why should i waste time watching every herzog movie ever, just so i can continue to have the same opinion, when i could come up with a list of, seriously, 750 movies that i actively want to see? life is short, canons are dumb, the end.

  132. mike

      i don’t actually think the idea of canons are dumb when they are presented as aesthetically consistent collection, i think THE canon, the hegemonic canon as it stands, is dumb

  133. magick mike

      if it’s both i would probably find it problematic to be honest. this is due to the fact that i basically hate horror as “pure” allegory (case in point: the monumentally shit-tastic film adaptation of stephen king’s monumentally shit-tastic short story THE MIST), and also can’t see how allegory can be consistent with experience, outside of purely subjective response i guess.

      and i guess i should clarify, i’m not necessarily asking that [books on horror film] be more mindful of the obscure, i just wonder what the necessity of only writing about 15 different films over a period of 40 years is. i kinda feel like it also generally devalues theoretical position, because if the same 15 movies are used as textual support for like literally EVERY THEORETICAL POSITION YOU CAN TAKE then that screams “YOU ARE READING TOO FAR INTO THIS” and makes me less likely to willingly eat up some idea. whereas when unique movies are used then i feel like “oh this author actually came to this idea from watching the film instead of coming to an idea and forcing a film that everybody is okay with talking about within academia to fit the idea”

  134. Ken Baumann

      The Stanley Kubrick Archive
      Stanley Kubrick: A Narrative and Stylistic Analysis by Mario Falsetto

  135. davidpeak

      i think the difference is that i don’t hate horror as allegory. i think allegory is interesting. i like the mist as a story. i liked martyrs. and, though i haven’t given it a lot of thought, can allegory not be consistent with experience even it concerns istelf the idea of a “national” identity, or a “national” experience? do these things even exist?

  136. Ken Baumann

      I keep looking at the top photo; I want that in my house. The colorful chairs, white walls…

  137. magick mike

      martyrs is one of my favorite films of the decade, but i think pushing it as allegory is totally limiting its scope/what it does. if a, for example, french filmmaker makes a film and it can be read as concerning itself with the idea of a french identity, how is that allegory? doesn’t that just mean that the filmmaker or the production team responsible for the film is at least subconsciously engaged with a politic? and i’ve always understood allegory to be some stringent intentional by-the-author thing… i will be the first to shout that it’s the audience writing the text, but does that still work with allegory?

  138. Blake Butler

      i’d be interested to hear more of your thoughts on martyrs, mike. i am conflicted by it. guest post?

  139. davidpeak

      yeah, i think i’d really just like to hear what you make of martyrs, because i think we may have had very different viewing experiences. and jesus, i would never want to limit the scope of anything. i’m not trying to fit something. for some reason, when i was thinking about allegorical film, martyrs popped into my head. that’s probably saying something about me…

      to me, allegory is any message being conveyed through “representation,” something other than the literal “this is what is happening.” so yes, i agree with you that it’s an “intentional by-the-author” thing, but i also think allegory is something that can be found by the viewer, reader, based on pre-existing life experiences (nationality, gender, etc.) *this* kind of allegory is what really fascinates me.

  140. d

      ‘Martyrs’ was an incredible film, but I want to forget it. Fucking hell.

  141. magick mike

      @blake
      i’ve been “working on” an essay on martyrs for a long-ass time (and by working on i mean i have lots of notes on it and i save documentation of all the arguments i’ve gotten into about it and intend on finally putting some form to it) that i will one day finish, but david already called it for transductions (and then it will end up on esotika, of course), but if he’s cool with it going up multiple places then i’d be down with posting it here too.

      @david
      refer to blake comment, heh. i’ve watched it three times now, and need at least one more viewing before i can actually put pen to paper i guess, but basically the second viewing was to confirm that how i felt after the first viewing was valid, and then the third viewing was to actually start cementing a critical interpretation, so i need one more to sort of “verifying” my notes and shit. i will say ahead of time there is a lot of bataille’s “depense” (an accent goes somewhere in that word but i don’t remember where) via the accursed share in my notes so far. there were also actually two more books i wanted to finish reading before the essay was completed.

      w/r/t allegory, that’s not really how i define allegory at all, so i suppose that’s how we diverge. i just encountered this romain gary quote about his novel the roots of heaven, but it seems apt here regarding my ideas of allegory:

      There is almost no limit to what you can make an elephant stand for, but if the image of this lovable pachyderm thus becomes for each of us a sort of Rorschach test–which was exactly my intention–this does not make him in the least symbolic [or the novel allegorical]. It only goes to prove that each of us carries in his soul and mind a different notion of what is essential to our survival, a different longing and a personal interpretation, in the largest sense, of what life preservation is about.

      But, I will say, that I’m curious as to how you read Martyrs as allegory?

  142. davidpeak

      uh, i’m a little reluctant to say anything, because i’m seriously questioning why i read martyrs as allegory, or what allegory even is now, but i’ll just say that i spent a few years reading anything and everything related to the algerian war.

  143. davidpeak
  144. ZZZIPP

      SORRY MIKE I JUST MEANT THAT’S USUALLY WHERE PEOPLE START. WHY DID YOU BUY THE BOX SET IF YOU HADN’T WATCHED HIM BEFORE???

  145. magick mike

      despite my avowed francophilia i am still pretty historically ignorant, particularly in regards to the algerian war, so can’t argue with you there. also, thanks for the offscreen article, i haven’t checked offscreen for a while and the last time i was looking for critical articles on martyrs i found absolutely nothing

  146. magick mike

      i was sixteen and was spending all of my money on dvds and knew that he was harmony korine’s favorite director (and had seen even dwarfs… and heart of glass and i guess was convinced that i “liked them” at the time). so i had watched him before.

  147. Dustin

      Jonathan Rosenbaum’s Moving Place and Placing Movies are favorites. As is The Maya Deren Reader. Her essays on film are brilliant early dissections on possibilities of the medium.

  148. Michel

      lol at the morons above hating on Herzog.

  149. magick mike

      “lol”

      the plurality is just me, basically

  150. Ken Baumann

      I keep looking at the top photo; I want that in my house. The colorful chairs, white walls…

  151. Michel

      Didn’t bother to really absorb the names. Saw magick mike and a shorter name which turns out to be mike and I guess they’re probably the same person. And some guy calling him a sell-out but that could be a joke. Either way, lol.

  152. Jeff

      “Born in Flames” by Howard Hampton.
      It’s more than just film, but consider the stray bits about Wire, Anthony Braxton, Walter Benjamin, and Phoebe Gleckner as a bonus.

  153. Michel

      Didn’t bother to really absorb the names. Saw magick mike and a shorter name which turns out to be mike and I guess they’re probably the same person. And some guy calling him a sell-out but that could be a joke. Either way, lol.

  154. Jeff

      “Born in Flames” by Howard Hampton.
      It’s more than just film, but consider the stray bits about Wire, Anthony Braxton, Walter Benjamin, and Phoebe Gleckner as a bonus.

  155. lee

      mid-period Pauline Kael

  156. lee

      mid-period Pauline Kael

  157. Nadia

      Hello, I’m just a high school student but I would love to familiarize myself with the thematic arts- I just came across this discussion looking for the best film books and I was wondering;
      Out of ALL the books on the market and the ones above, for a beginning film maker, what is the best out there?
      The most eye-opening autobiographies/detailed directing books would be super helpful.
      I’d like to start shooting some things but to get at least some knowledge prior to be most prepared
      Thank you all!
      PS: Are the ones on amazon helpful?

  158. Nadia

      Hello, I’m just a high school student but I would love to familiarize myself with the thematic arts- I just came across this discussion looking for the best film books and I was wondering;
      Out of ALL the books on the market and the ones above, for a beginning film maker, what is the best out there?
      The most eye-opening autobiographies/detailed directing books would be super helpful.
      I’d like to start shooting some things but to get at least some knowledge prior to be most prepared
      Thank you all!
      PS: Are the ones on amazon helpful?

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