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May Books

André Bazin

Caboose, the independent publishing house based in Montreal, is having a remarkable season. Just released, The André Bazin Reader is the most comprehensive English-language collection of writing by the cofounder of Cahiers du cinéma and one of the most influential critics in the history of cinema. Along with the introductory essay by French scholar Jacques Aumont, generous excerpts from each chapter are available to sample online. The texts are translated by Timothy Barnard, who runs caboose and has written one of the three essays gathered in Montage, Découpage, Mise en Scène: Essays on Film Form, an illuminating and accessible guide to what have proven over the years to be difficult aesthetic terms to nail down.

Later this summer, caboose will publish Reading with Jean-Luc Godard, a collection of three-page mini-essays on more than one hundred books that appear in one form or another in the late director’s films. Already available to sample are Anna Shechtman’s contribution on Marcel Proust, who “haunts Histoire(s) du cinéma as one of the work’s ghosts of the twentieth century at its close,” and Michael Cramer’s brief analysis of Godard’s objections to Pier Paolo Pasolini’s proposed distinction between a “cinema of prose” and a “cinema of poetry.”

Speaking of Pasolini and poetry, let’s quickly note before turning to the rest of this month’s overview of new and noteworthy books that historian Adam Tooze recommends The Selected Poetry of Pier Paolo Pasolini, with its “truly marvelous introduction by Stephen Sartarelli,” and In Danger: A Pasolini Anthology, edited by Jack Hirschman. In that same newsletter, Tooze sends along “Victory,” a 1964 poem in which Pasolini honors the sacrifices made by Italian resistance fighters in the Second World War and “reflects in a haunting fashion on the appearance of the ghosts of the Partisans amongst the transformed world of ‘postwar’ Italy.”

The current issue of the Baffler includes two of Pasolini’s poems from 1969, and Pier Paolo Pasolini: Writing on Burning Paper, the collection from Fireflies Press that includes Sartarelli’s newly revised translation of “Poet of the Ashes,” has been longlisted for the Kraszna-Krausz 2023 Book Award. The winner will be announced next month. Fireflies, in the meantime, has announced that it will team up with FIDMarseille on a new series of monographs, One Two Many. The first volume, Whit Stillman: Not so long ago, with contributions from Serge Bozon, Nick Pinkerton, Haden Guest, and Beatrice Loayza, will be out in September.

Moviemakers

We’ve already weighed the critical response to Ian Penman’s Fassbinder Thousands of Mirrors, but let’s have another quick look. For one thing, it really is the book of the moment, and for another, Penman himself seems particularly impressed by William Harris’s piece for Jacobin. Harris first takes measure of Penman’s impact on music criticism and the culture at large in the late 1970s and ’80s before turning to the book.

“For Penman,” writes Harris, “Fassbinder finally seems too messy, too contradictory, and above all too productive to be folded into the vast, singular, magisterial story that we might expect from a treasured late-middle-age author’s first full-length book. It would take too long, feel too precious, and never really capture the many-sided man. And so, as if making a pact with his young review-churning self, Penman opted for a different strategy: to write quickly, finishing in a matter of months a critical portrait of Fassbinder in the style of Fassbinder—fast, made-to-deadline, bristling with ideas yet economical.” Other recent reviews of note come from Howard Hampton in Artforum and Chris Molnar in the Los Angeles Review of Books. And Screen Slate has published an interview with Penman by Michael Eby.

Scott Eyman, who has written biographies of Mary Pickford, Ernst Lubitsch, and Cary Grant, will have a new book out in the fall, Charlie Chaplin vs. America: When Art, Sex, and Politics Collided. “This one I’ve been thinking about for, oh, about fifty years,” tweets Eyman. It’ll be “a deep dive into why and how Charlie Chaplin was kicked out of his adopted country.”

Mia Farrow is the third of seven children born to writer and director John Farrow (The Big Clock) and actress Maureen O’Sullivan, who was best known for playing Jane opposite Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan and later appeared in Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters (1986). Marilyn Ann Moss tells all these stories in The Farrows of Hollywood: Their Dark Side of Paradise. “After reading this rigorously researched, perceptively written book,” the Washington Examiner’s Peter Tonguette finds that “in the Woody-Mia contretemps, only a fool would try to find the moral high ground. ‘What a mess’ is a more sensible reaction than any firm feeling about the parties’ innocence or guilt, let alone virtue or sinfulness.”

Lady Director: Adventures in Hollywood, Television and Beyond, a “brisk but lively” memoir by Joyce Chopra (Smooth Talk), “provides firsthand insight into the inherently precarious situation of being a woman in a man’s world, from a genuine, if woefully under-recognized, trailblazer of the art form,” writes Kat Sachs in the Notebook. “Her films explore a range of seemingly disparate subjects, but nevertheless evince a distinct, finely unsentimental view of the world and the way people within it relate to others, and then to themselves.”

RogerEbert.com is running a brief excerpt from Scout Tafoya’s new book, But God Made Him a Poet: Watching John Ford in the 21st Century. How Green Was My Valley (1941) “beat Citizen Kane for best picture, which is just as well,” writes Tafoya. “Orson Welles’s reputation as the least appreciated man in Hollywood starts there. He was an art punk. Ford was Hollywood’s brusque, distant, alcoholic father figure.”

Michael Zryd’s Hollis Frampton: Navigating the Infinite Cinema—impressively blurbed by Erika Balsom and Luke Fowler—has just arrived on shelves, and a new second edition of Casa de Lava: Scrapbook, a selection of material Pedro Costa drew from while working in his second feature, will be out next month.

Adaptations

A few years ago, Tom Hanks reintroduced himself as a writer with a generally well-received collection of short stories, Uncommon Type. Hanks is now being met with split critical response to his first novel, The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece. In the late 1940s, a troubled veteran of the Second World War tells his story to his young nephew, who, in the 1970s, turns that story into a comic that becomes an underground hit. Hanks’s novel then shifts to the present day and the set of Knightshade: The Lathe of Firefall, where a hotshot director is overseeing an adaptation of that book.

Writing for Air Mail, Stuart Heritage finds that while “not much happens in terms of story, as a love letter to the profession that made the author’s name, The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece couldn’t be sweeter.” The Guardian’s Xan Brooks, though, finds that the novel is “a bland busman’s holiday dressed up as literary fiction, a bungled behind-the-scenes tour that can’t see the wood for the trees.”

In a very fine and lengthy profile of Hanks for the Atlantic, Chris Heath pauses for a moment to jot a quick review, writing that the novel’s “strength and distinctiveness—and maybe its weakness, too, for anyone expecting a breezy, streamlined surge of pure entertainment—lie in the way it is guided by Hanks’s relentless curiosity, and his apparent fervor to share what he knows or has seen or experienced. The book is not so much full of digressions as it is a compendium of overlapping digressions. Meet someone, and their rich backstory is usually only seconds away—often less because it’ll be necessary to know any of this later on than because it feels like Hanks just wants to know and generously assumes that you’ll feel the same.”

Dorothy B. Hughes was hardly as kind to Hollywood as Hanks when she wrote her 1947 novel In a Lonely Place, and as Imogen Sara Smith points out, Nicholas Ray’s 1950 adaptation “savagely sketches the vulgarity and shallowness of Tinseltown—the autograph hunters, the crassly arrogant stars, the vacuous audience, and the moneymen eager to feed its appetite.” On the Unburied Books podcast, Farren Smith Nehme discusses both the book and the movie as well as a few of her other favorite noirs.

In the New Yorker, Colin Marshall walks us through the many adaptations of stories and novels by Haruki Murakami. “Though all of these films offer something of interest to Murakami fans—‘Harukists,’ as they’re called, especially when Nobel season rolls around—few achieve a full artistic existence independent of their source material. But the Murakami movies of recent years, especially [Lee Chang-dong’s] Burning and [Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s] Drive My Car, have proved that, at least in the hands of the right auteurs, his peculiar themes can be combined and molded into coherent, even powerful cinematic shape.”

Just One Film

Repulsion, Jeremy Carr’s analysis of Roman Polanski’s 1965 psychological thriller, is “a fascinating study that examines themes mostly, but not exclusively, central to feminist visual representations, without losing sight of the paradoxes that shade contemporary approaches to Polanski’s work in the light of the #MeToo movement,” writes Dávid Szőke for Film International.

Two new books mark the fiftieth anniversary of the release of Sydney Pollack’s The Way We Were, starring Barbra Streisand as a Jewish left-wing activist and Robert Redford as an athletic WASP. Writing for the Los Angeles Review of Books, Harry Waksberg finds that Tom Santopietro’s The Way We Were: The Making of a Romantic Classic “desperately clutches to any disagreement or challenge as evidence of a deeply troubled production,” while Robert Hofler’s The Way They Were: How Epic Battles and Bruised Egos Brought a Classic Hollywood Love Story to the Screen “wisely tells the story of the movie’s production with such involved, gossipy detail that the reader hardly cares if the production was a disaster (it wasn’t).”

Nainsukh, the Film: Still Lives, Moving Images is Srikanth Srinivasan’s follow-up to his first book, Modernism by Other Means: The Films of Amit Dutta. Produced by Swiss art historian Eberhard Fischer, Dutta’s 2010 film is what Srinivasan calls a “formally playful biography” of Nainsukh, an eighteenth-century miniature painter from the hills of northern India.

Endnotes

From Friday through July 2, New York’s Museum of the Moving Image will present Queer Cinema, Top to Bottom, a series guest-curated by Kyle Turner, whose new book, The Queer Film Guide: 100 Films That Tell LGBTQIA+ Stories, is out today. On Saturday, Turner will be on hand to sign copies and introduce Karyn Kusama’s Jennifer’s Body (2009).

Screen Slate founder Jon Dieringer has guest-edited the twenty-first issue of A24’s zine. Never Coming to a Theater Near You is a collection of trade magazine ads for movies that never got made, e.g., David Cronenberg’s Frankenstein and Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Cocaine.

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