Sunday, April 08, 2007

What Are You Reading?

I think I need to do a reading post every few months. The last one generated a torrent of cool ideas and suggestions….

* * *

I’m thinking back to what I hated most about grad school: being broke, of course. When I began teaching full time, suddenly I could buy all the books and music I wanted, and years later, I still haven’t gotten over the child-like wonderment and incredulity (silly, I know) of being able to do that.

But there are two personal challenges to grapple with. First, I’m a crawlingly slow reader who likes to dawdle on the page, mark it up, and write cranky notes in the margins. Second, I don’t have ADD (I don’t think) but I’m always in the middle of a couple of dozen books at any time. For both these reasons, it’s not uncommon for me to sometimes take several months to finish a book!

So, snail-like, I’m currently making my way through the following:

Film. Peter Wollen’s Signs and Meaning in the Cinema (three editions, all a bit different); Richard Roud’s biography of Henri Langlois, A Passion for Films; Noël Burch’s Theory of Film Practice; Geoffrey O’Brien’s The Phantom Empire; Sam Rohdie’s Montage.

Non-film Nonfiction. Walter Pater’s The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry; Donis Dondis’ A Primer of Visual Literacy; Dave Hickey’s Air Guitar; Ted Gioia’s The Imperfect Art: Reflections on Jazz and Modern Culture; Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music, edited by Christoph Cox & Daniel Warner.

Fiction. George Saunders’ Pastoralia; Mirrorshades, the cyberpunk anthology edited by Bruce Sterling; Mark Twain’s The Diaries of Adam and Eve; Thomas McGuane’s The Bushwhacked Piano; Borges’ Ficciones; Jaime Hernandez's Ghost of Hoppers.

And as the semester shudders to a finish in four weeks, I’ll be waiting to sink my teeth into two Serge Daney books: Postcards from the Cinema and Cinema in Transit.

So, if you feel like it: what are you reading, or have recently read, or are looking forward to reading? Perhaps we can give each other some good tips and ideas....

* * *

Here, for your pleasure, is some typically thought-provoking Peter Wollen. This is from his essay "The Semiology of the Cinema" in Signs and Meaning in the Cinema (1969):

"Von Sternberg was virulently opposed to any kind of Realism. He sought, as far as possible, to disown and destroy the existential bond between the natural world and the film image. But this did not mean that he turned to the symbolic. Instead he stressed the pictorial character of the cinema; he saw cinema in the light, not of the natural world or of verbal language, but of painting. 'The white canvas on to which the images are thrown is a two-dimensional flat surface. It is not startlingly new, the painter has used it for centuries.' The film director must create his own images, not by slavishly following nature, by bowing to 'the fetish of authenticity', but by imposing his own style, his own interpretation. 'The painter's power over his subject is unlimited, his control over the human form and face despotic.' But 'the director is at the mercy of the camera'; the dilemma of the film director is there, in the mechanical contraption he’s compelled to use. Unless he controls it, he abdicates. For 'verisimilitude, whatever its virtue, is in opposition to every approach to art'. Von Sternberg created a completely artificial realm, from which nature was rigorously excluded (the main thing wrong with The Saga Of Anatahan, he once said, is that it contains shots of the real sea, whereas everything else was false) but which depended, not on any common code, but on the individual imagination of the artist. It was the iconic aspect of the sign which Von Sternberg stressed, detached from the indexical in order to conjure up a world, comprehensible by virtue of resemblances to the natural world, yet other than it, a kind of dream world, a heterocosm.

The contrast to Rossellini is striking. Rossellini preferred to shoot on location; Von Sternberg always used a set. Rossellini avers that he never uses a shooting-script and never knows how a film will end when he begins it; Von Sternberg cut every sequence in his head before shooting it and never hesitated while editing. Rossellini’s films have a rough-and-ready, sketch-like look; Von Sternberg evidently paid meticulous attention to every detail. Rossellini uses amateur actors, without make-up; Von Sternberg took the star system to its ultimate limit with Marlene Dietrich and revelled in hieratic masks and costumes. Rossellini speaks of the director being patient, waiting humbly and following the actors until they reveal themselves: Von Sternberg, rather than wishing humbly to reveal the essence, seeks to exert autocratic control: he festoons the set with nets, veils, fronds, creepers, lattices, streamers, gauze, in order, as he himself puts it 'to conceal the actors', to mask their very existence."


Anonymous Chuck said...

Cool question, Girish. Like you, I'm always reading half a dozen books, at least. I think I'll write a longer response on my own blog and hopefully turn this into a mini-meme.

April 08, 2007 2:38 PM  
Blogger The Shamus said...

G: I don't know how you do that. I do have piles of DVDs and CDs, but I keep books to one or two max in the house that I haven't read. So, right now, I am still crawling my way through WE TELL EACH OTHER STORIES IN ORDER TO LIVE, the collected non-fiction of Joan Didion. I just read TEN DAYS IN THE HILLS by Jane Smiley, which I liked much more than I thought I would, and re-read THE MOVIEGOER, by Walker Percy. And waiting on deck: LIVE AND LET DIE by Ian Fleming.

Tell me how you like THE BUSHWHACKED PIANO. I was just looking for that at the library yesterday. Haven't read it in years. My favorite of McGuane's was always PANAMA.

April 08, 2007 3:13 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Sounds good, Chuck. I'm also curious to see how your Google Analytics experiment works out....

Shamus, I'm lovin' The Bushwhacked Piano. To me, the language seems freer and more experimental than some of his other work I've read. I saw a New Yorker quote about him that stuck with me (not sure who wrote it): "McGuane shares with Celine a genius for seeing the profuse, disparate materials of everyday life as a highly organized nightmare." That really nails this book.

April 08, 2007 4:02 PM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

I'm afraid most of my reading has been for class, but aside from textbooks I've been dipping into Your Own Worst Enemy (a pop psychology book about self-sabatoging behavior), The Bent Lens (a review book of LGBT cinema), and The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. The last two are reference books, probably not meant to be read straight through, though I've been trying. What I keep finding is that reading them straight through (for me at least) results in intriguing discoveries which are quickly forgotten. Yet still I find the vast quantity of information in each of them to be too tantalizing to ignore; I'd rather not simply leave them on a shelf gathering dust.

April 08, 2007 5:22 PM  
Blogger David said...

What about that beautiful drowning scene in An American Tragedy--the lake easily the best thing about the movie--that it looks like were filmed at Lake Arrowhead ( The logistics, I guess, are really only a means to his end--it reminds me of the discussion Naruse scholars have been having about how Mizoguchi would move a house or film in a tank, while Naruse could find mood in the shot of a subway. The directors most torn by this debate, I think, are both English: Hitchcock and Michael Powell (and Pressburger), who loved nature in about equal quantity as they loved blatantly artificial painted backdrops of it. Anyway, thanks for the post--most of my reading has been for class as well.

April 08, 2007 8:22 PM  
Anonymous Chuck said...

My post is up. If you've read anything on my list, I'd love to know what you think.

April 08, 2007 11:29 PM  
Anonymous Chuck said...

BTW, too early to tell on Google Analytics. It gives me a lot more information than Site Meter does, but it doesn't seem to be catching all of the same visits.

April 08, 2007 11:30 PM  
Anonymous bayrat said...

Hey Girish, this is my first comment on your blog! Yay for that. I, like you, like to feast on a buffet of books. Here's my current reading list:

Film related: Movie Mutations (Rosenbaum and Martin) and Mizoguchi and Japan (Mark Le Fanu).

Non-fiction: Lectures on Fine Art (Hegel), The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell (Russell), Fashionable Nonsense (Sokal and Bricmont), and Art Since 1900 (Foster, Krauss, Bois, and Buchloh).

Fiction: Dramatic Works (Beckett), Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Joyce), and Shantaram (Roberts).

April 09, 2007 4:01 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Hey, Tuwa, David, Chuck, Bayrat -- Thank you, guys!

April 09, 2007 7:07 AM  
Blogger cineboy said...

Girish, I'll have to get back to you on the book list. Right now I've got my typical 25 to 30 books by my bed, and another 30+ stacked on my desk. And like you, I read slow, so it takes forever to get through any of them. Some would say, then don't read so many at the same time, but because I read so slow I find that I keep jumping to the next interesting book before I finish the previous one. I have to say that the library is a godsend - it keeps me from going broke!

I read Wollen's Signs and Meanings 3 or 4 times years ago and I remember that I loved it. But it's been so long that I don't really remember much about it. Maybe I'll have to re-read it again.

Chuck, I have experienced the same thing with Google analytics. It's an okay tool, but far from great. But then again, I'm not paying for it either. Oh well. If you find something better let us know.

April 09, 2007 8:47 AM  
Blogger Maya said...

I've often said that, when I go to sleep at night, I cover myself with books. Or that when I go into the city, I always return home with one or two books stuck to me.

Books I am currently reading are:

The festival catalog to the 50th San Francisco International Film Festival.

Japanese Schoolgirl Inferno: Tokyo Teen Fashion Subculture Handbook--Patrick Macias.

Edmund Goulding's Dark Victory: Hollywood's Genius Bad Boy--Matthew Kennedy

Murder In Hollywood: Solving A Silence Screen Mystery--Charles Highman

Cinemachismo (yet again)--Sergio de la Mora. Sergio's just been nominated for the Lambda Award in the Arts & Cultures category.

City of Kings--Rosario Castellanos. I've been steeping myself in everything I can get my hands on of this consummate Mexican storyteller.

TCM's publications of Leading Ladies and Leading Men, with forewords by Robert Osborne and Introductions by Molly Haskell

The Shadow in the Horoscope: Four Essays on Jung's Concept of The Shadow--Glenn Perry

Diary of Andres Fava--Julio Cortazar.

April 09, 2007 8:58 AM  
Blogger Gareth said...

I think I have five on the go right now:

Kevin Myers: Watching the Door: A Memoir 1971-1978; a memoir by an Irish journalist of his time in Belfast, which has its moments but seems to have so personal a purpose that it's hard to fully engage with.

Ousmane Sembène: Les Bouts de bois de Dieu; I've just started, so no judgments yet!

Elizabeth George: In the Presence of the Enemy; this is disappointing compared to her other books, and seems interminable right now.

Thomas Pakenham: The Scramble for Africa; although there are too few African perspectives, that in some ways underlines the colonial mentalities being described (and sometimes skewered) - it's dense material, but very interesting.

Françoise Pfaff (ed.): Focus on African Films; an extremely readable essay collection with several outstanding contributions.

April 09, 2007 10:33 AM  
Blogger phyrephox said...

I love that except of Wollen girish, I read that very section last Fall and it inspired me to write a paper on the Sternberg/Dietrich cycle and iconicity for school. I'm just about to start Beller's THE CINEMATIC MODE OF PRODUCTION based off of Zach's many posts about it, and in non-film bookville, am about halfway through Pynchon's hilarious MASON & DIXON.

April 09, 2007 11:03 AM  
Anonymous Chuck said...

cineboy, yes, it's free, so no complaints. Combining that with Sitemeter gives me a good read on my blog's audience.

Maya and Gareth, interesting readings. Especially curious about Cinemachismo (great title!).

April 09, 2007 1:23 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Tucker, Michael, Gareth, Daniel, Chuck -- Merci!

So many interesting ideas and suggestions here...

A word about The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy: It's an engaging, user-friendly book and I peruse it often. I have truck-sized gaps in my basic Western knowledge (even stuff kids know) because I wasn't educated and socialized here.

Michael, I'm an unsconscionably promiscuous book acquirer; I ordered the Japanese teen fashion/subculture book sight unseen after you listed it. The description at Amazon sounded great.

And this is way cool: I discovered not long ago that my college is part of a network called "Connect New York" which includes a dozen other colleges including Vassar and Colgate. It takes just a few clicks to request a book from any of their (vast) collections and it arrives within a couple of days. What a pleasure! I've been using it a lot.

But I like to own books and write in them so that they also contain a record of my experience with them. (I was forbidden from writing in books when I was a child, so this behavior is pretty easy to explain!)

April 09, 2007 6:04 PM  
Blogger girish said...

For Abel Ferrara fans: here's a video of the book launch of Nicole Brenez's book at Monash University, with Edward Colless and Adrian speaking about Ferrara and Brenez.

(A little technical note: when I downloaded the video, it had a .mp4.txt extension; after downloading, I lopped off the .txt extension so it became a plain old mp4 file, and then it played just fine in Quicktime. I was accessing it on a Mac, btw. Haven't tried it on a PC, but I'm sure it would work fine.)

April 09, 2007 6:12 PM  
Blogger badMike said...

I just finished Midnight Movies by J. Hoberman and Jim Rosenbaum. Freakin' classic!

And I just started The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Setzer. It's a kids book about a French kid who finds out he's related to silent filmmaker George Melies. It's a combo prose with silent graphic novel touches. So far totally brilliant.

April 09, 2007 6:18 PM  
Blogger girish said...

-- "What Are You Reading?" posts at Chuck's and at Darren's.
-- Dave Kehr on Alain Resnais in the NYT:

"Mr. Resnais’s [early] films may have had scrambled structures, but they largely adhered to the naturalistic conventions of cinematic storytelling: psychologically rounded characters, a documentarylike fidelity to real-world locations, a desire to bind the viewer to the characters through the psychological process of identification. We experience “Muriel” more or less from Ms. Seyrig’s point of view, sharing her feelings and confusions.

But with “La Vie Est un Roman” (“Life Is a Novel,” released here under the sugary title “Life Is a Bed of Roses” in 1983) Mr. Resnais’s approach took a decisive turn. Working with one of Truffaut’s favorite screenwriters, Jean Gruault (“Jules et Jim”), he assembled a wildly free-form narrative, which he conceived through the old Surrealist game of automatic writing: One thing seems to follow another, with only the thinnest tissue of narrative connection, as the film moves between the original bohemian occupants of an eccentric chateau built as a utopian dream on the eve of World War II and the current guests of the chateau, now a conference center, who are attending a seminar on children’s imagination. Meanwhile those children are dreaming up an operetta set in the chateau’s imagined medieval past. Memory is not the complicating factor here so much as it is Mr. Resnais’s personal conception of the collective unconscious, a vast, subterranean territory filled with bit of high culture and low, of received ideas and revolutionary impulses, of spiritual yearnings and lustful desires.

The American art-house audience did not take to “La Vie Est un Roman,” most likely because of the new acting style — histrionic and highly self-conscious — that Mr. Resnais had developed with a new group of actors, including several who became regulars in his later films (Fanny Ardant, Pierre Arditi, Sabine Azéma, André Dussollier). The characters suddenly seemed cartoonish, and the actors’ delivery seemed more elocutionary than interpretive. Mr. Resnais had rediscovered the artificialities of the theater and began to use them, as he later said, to create “a movement back and forth between identification and distance, between sympathy and antipathy” for his characters.

A viewer raised on a diet of American television drama, with its tradition of light naturalism, would find little enough to identify with in the extreme posturing of “Mélo,” Mr. Resnais’s 1986 adaptation of a 1929 play, or the near-hysteria of “Pas Sur la Bouche,” his 2003 adaptation of a 1925 operetta. Characters who spontaneously sang were also at the center of “On Connait la Chanson” (“Same Old Song”), his 1997 variation on Dennis Potter’s technique of placing period pop hits in characters’ mouths. But it is precisely that sense of alienation that Mr. Resnais is looking for; he wants to discomfort his audience, to make us aware of the formal devices operating in any work of art, and particularly in the cinema."

April 09, 2007 6:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. No Future - Edelman, Lee
2. The Infant's World - Rochat, Phillippe
3. Words and Music - Morley, Paul
4. The Ernest Becker Reader - Leichty, Daniel
5. Going Places - Michaels, Leonard
6. Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees - Weschler, Lawrence
7. The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum - Boll, Heinrich
8. The Ice Age - Drabble, Margaret
9. The Lights - Korder, Howard

April 09, 2007 6:39 PM  
Blogger weepingsam said...

Right now, I'm reading Marshall Fine's biography of Cassavetes - Accidental Genius. And I have a copy of the Baseball Prospectus near at hand... I'm almost done with the Cassavetes book - I don't know what I'll try next. I read Bordwell's History of Film Style right before this - I've been poking around in Deleuze's Cinema 1 and Noel Burch's Life to these Shadows; I might commit to them... I also have the Altman on Altman book, about half read....

Meanwhile - for the last 6 months or so I'd been reading Terry Pratchett feverishly - got through about half his books before I ran out of steam. I might pick them up again...

April 09, 2007 8:28 PM  
Anonymous jesse said...

Like it seems most other people who have responded, I also used to be the type with a dozen or so books stacked next to my bad. But I hated that it took so long to get through a single title, and so I forced some limitations on myself. Now I try to keep to one novel, one book of poetry and one volume of theory/non-fiction at any given time (though as it so happens, I'm cheating slightly at the moment). I've also found that forcing myself to finish one book before I can buy another serves as a nice incentive to keep up the pace.

So currently:

Novel (well, kind of) - The White Album by Joan Didion

Poetry - Men After Hours by Anne Carson

Theory - Late Style: Music and Literature Against the Grain by Edward Said and On Photography by Susan Sontag

April 09, 2007 9:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm reading and travelling through Southeast Asia. Finished reading the forgotten Nobel Prize-winning Aussie Patrick White's "Voss" a couple weeks ago. Best novel I've read in years. And a collection of Ivan Bunin short stories and Blaise Cendrar's "Moravagine." Now on Ben Okri's "The Famished Road."

April 09, 2007 11:53 PM  
Blogger aaron said...

Film: The Good, The Bad and the Dolce Vita: The Adventures of an Actor in Hollywood, Paris and Rome by Mickey Knox. A rambling memoir by sometimes actor Knox (WHITE HEAT), who calls Norman Mailer a great friend (he contributes an introduction); his exploits with Sergio Leone and Orson Welles (circa CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT) have been most rewarding.

Scott MacDonald's first volume in the Critical Cinema series, of which I've been most digging interviews with the B's and George Kuchar (not to mention the delightful discovery of a host of a-g directors I haven't even heard of!)

Fiction: some short story collections, including "Modern Masters of Horror", featuring George Romero's only foray into fiction, and the Harlan Ellison-edited "Dangerous Visions" series (J.G. Ballard's "The Recognition" being the stand-out).

Charles Willeford's Cockfighter, as well as the second in the Hoke Moseley series, New Hope for the Dead.

April 10, 2007 1:31 AM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

Off the top of my head:

Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid in the World, Chris Ware.

Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, Thomas Ricks

North Carolina Barbecue: Flavored by Time, Bob Garner

The Black Dahlia, James Ellroy. There's an article here somewhere, tracing the differences between novel and film, and why De Palma made the choices he did.

A Passage to India, EM Forster which to my shame I never read before (some thoughts on the novel here

The Iliad, WHD Rouse prose translation--sacrilage, I suppose, but it's an interesting exercise, I think; some of the devices--the naming of the gods (Zeus Shootafar?) seems to come straight out of Marvel comics, and the occasional break in action to name an opponent's family tree seems more artificial in prose than when stylized in poetry.

April 10, 2007 3:13 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Bad Mike, Weeping Sam, Jesse, Aaron, Noel, and Anonymouses -- Thank you for the suggestions and ideas!

Too bad that first volume of Critical Cinema is out of print, although it's not hard to locate using ILL. I saw Scott Macdonald give the keynote speech at the Images Festival a few years back--what an engaging, dynamic guy. I bet he's a terrific teacher...

And re: Deleuze, I've resolved to delve into him this summer.

Some links:
-- Acquarello has been filing dispatches from the African filmfest in New York.
-- Robert Koehler continues to blog from Buenos Aires (latest: Reg Harkema).
-- If you've seen Tropical Malady, Brian Darr has a great post for you about an interactive viewing session, with Apichatpong, of the film.

April 10, 2007 7:58 AM  
Anonymous bayrat said...

Noel, how do you like 'Jimmy Corrigan'? It's definitely one of my favorite graphic novels.

April 10, 2007 10:24 AM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

Thank you for the link to that Adrian video on Brenez' Ferrara book. It's great. It almost makes me want to like Ferrara now. I think I remember you've read it Girish right? Did you like it? I should read it too.

My reading list is on stale. I'm still on Deleuze "Cinema 2". I found a great book right on topic for "contemplative cinema" by Yvette Biro : "Turbulence and Flow". And still writing down notes on José Moure's "Vers une esthétique du vide au cinéma".
I've recently picked up Eisenstein's "MLB" and the 1994 catalog for the Austrian AG retrospective at the Paris MoMA.
Also Edward T. Hall's "The Silent Language".

April 10, 2007 10:31 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Hey there, Harry and Bayrat.

"It almost makes me want to like Ferrara now."
Harry, this is funny...!

But yes, the book is truly amazing; I haven't read any film book remotely like it. It wasn't easy for me to read (I mean that in the best possible way). It's unorthodox and dense and furiously brilliant and One to keep returning to...

Thanks for those ideas, Harry. I picked up Yvette Biro's Savage Mythology a few months ago. The book you're reading must be a recent one...

And I wish I knew of more video on the Internet featuring film experts/scholars, etc. I wonder if film studies departments at universities make and archive such material on the web...

April 10, 2007 5:07 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

It's a 2007 French edition "Le temps au cinéma" (end of January I think, I found it just after my blogathon) but it is said to have been published in English before under the title I cited above.

The mutual appreciation of Adrian and Brenez is very enthousiastic and eloquent! I wish I could attend Brenez' Sorbonne masterclasses.

April 10, 2007 7:34 PM  
Blogger Bob Turnbull said...

Hey Girish,

As many have said, I'm in the same boat as you...Got about twenty different books on the go. Just a few off the top of my head:


- "The Great Moviemakers Of Hollywood's Golden Age At The American Film Institute" by George Stevens Jr. has a whole bunch of transcripts of appearances by directors such as Frank Capra, Hitchcock, Fritz Lang, King Vidor, Howard Hawks, etc. A wide disparity so far in approaches to filmmaking.
- "Movie Wars" by Jonathan Rosenbaum is subtitles "How Hollywood And The Media Limit What Movies We Can See. So far he's building a strong case. It also contains more context to his well known alternative 100 list to the AFI Top 100.
- "The Mind Of The Modern Moviemaker" by Josh Horowitz contains interviews with 20 of the young generation (Michel Gondry, Doug Lima, Jon Favreau, etc.).
- A whole mess of Japanese and Asian cult film books lined up but not yet started: "Japanese Horror Cinema"; "Tokyoscope: The Japanese Cult Film Companion"; "Asia Shock"; "Yakuza Movie Book"; "Outlaw Masters Of Japanese Film"


- "This Is Your Brian On Music" by Daniel J. Levitin is what happens when a former session musician becomes a neuroscientist and tries to put the science behind how humans perceive music. Very interesting so far, though the early going might be slow for those already well-versed in music theory.


- I've started but yet to pickup again "How To Be Good" by Nick Hornby and "Proxies" by Laura J. Mixon. The former I'll get to, but the latter has gone through three attempts so far and I haven't got past page 14...

April 10, 2007 7:59 PM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

bayrat: I don't quite know yet. It's fascinating, and I admire the skill and art, but emotionally it hasn't hit me yet. Is it going to cohere into a single narrative, is this as obtuse and ellipitical as it gets, or does the going get even more difficult? Actually went through Forster while still struggling through this.

April 11, 2007 12:09 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Bob -- Speaking of Asian cinema books, I've been meaning to pick up the Midnight Eye guide to Japanese film.

I'd love to read a nice and meaty book-length study devoted to a handful of contemporary Japanese filmmakers like Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Takashi Miike, etc.

Harry -- "The mutual appreciation of Adrian and Brenez is very enthousiastic and eloquent! I wish I could attend Brenez' Sorbonne masterclasses."

Yes, very rousing! I'd love to take classes with them. In our technologically mutating world, surely such a notion is not limited by mere physical costraints of geographical location anymore? And perhaps you could quietly crash Brenez's 9 am Saturday morning class at the Sorbonne and blog about it? :-)

Speaking of Brenez and Adrian, I just read terrific essays by them in the collection Hong Kong Connections: Transnational Imagination in Action Cinema, edited by Meaghan Morris, et al. [the link is to a review at PopMatters]. Highly recommended.

And now I'm off to Jacksonville to a conference to present a couple of papers. Assuming the hotel has wi-fi, I'll pop up here before too long...

April 11, 2007 8:35 AM  
Blogger celinejulie said...

I can’t give you any suggestions about any books, because I’m reading a Thai book now. It’s called THE 8 MASTERS, and it’s about Wim Wenders, Werner Herzog, Aki Kaurismaki, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Jacques Tati, Shuji Terayama, Ritwik Ghatak, and Jacques Rivette. I feel very keen to read about Jacques Rivette, because he is my favorite director, and it’s difficult to find a book about him in English or Thai here.

I have had time to read only some short stories, including “The Documentary Artist” by Jaime Manrique, “Two Telegrams” by Michelangelo Antonioni, “Just Space” by Sam Shepard, and “A Fever in the Blood” by Ethan Coen.

Girish, I also notice that SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY is in your favorite new film list for 2006. I can’t tell you how much I envy you and acquarello, because you two have seen this film, while I don’t know when I will have a chance to see it. SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY IS CENSORED IN THAILAND!. The Thai censorship board wants to cut 4 scenes out of this film, but Apichatpong Weerasethakul cannot accept this. So now the film is allowed to be shown only in film festivals, not in general theatres in Thailand.

I thought you might be interested in what Apichatpong said about this, so I quoted him here:

``I, as a filmmaker, treat my works as I do my own sons or daughters. I don't care if people are fond of them or despise them, as long as I created them with my best intentions and efforts. If these offspring of mine cannot live in their own country for whatever reason, let them be free. There is no reason to mutilate them in fear of the system. Otherwise there is no reason for one to continue making art.''

You can read the news in my blog.

April 11, 2007 9:31 AM  
Blogger Ryland Walker Knight said...

Being BACK in undergrad has its advantages and one is all the great books we get to plumb through.

This instant I'm reading/using these books for papers, in no particular order other than they pop into my brain:

Black Skins, White Masks - Frantz Fanon
Visual Pleasure - Laura Mulvey
Mythologies - Barthes
The medium is the MASSAGE - McLuhan
Pursuits of Happiness - Stanley Cavell
Cities of Words - Stanley Cavell

other recent reads that are pure dope:

Poetical Dictionary - Lohren Green
"On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense" - Nietzsche
"Borges & I" (you can read my "A-" paper on it on my blog, right here)

April 11, 2007 11:45 AM  
Blogger Bob Turnbull said...


"Speaking of Asian cinema books, I've been meaning to pick up the Midnight Eye guide to Japanese film."

It's quite good. It helped push me further into Suzuki, Fukasaku, Imamura, Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Kitano. I've dabbled in a few others like Tsukamoto as well. The book isn't visually stunning (all pictures are black and white), but the information and writing style is solid.

"I'd love to read a nice and meaty book-length study devoted to a handful of contemporary Japanese filmmakers like Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Takashi Miike, etc."

The Films Of Kiyoshi Kurosawa: Master Of Fear

From the description: "The book traces Kiyoshi Kurosawa's humble beginning in the pink film industry through his evolution into yakuza movie director and the celebrated filmmaker of gripping works like Cure and Pulse. Included are essays on twenty-five films, a filmography, and a sit-down interview."

It's on my wishlist at the moment.

April 11, 2007 6:46 PM  
Blogger Ignatius Vishnevetsky said...

I've got a bad library habit. Every few weeks, I have to write them a check for late fines. I've been checking out so much I forget what I've got at home. Books on everything--lately: photography and collections of letters or interviews. Novels and poetry, too, but I'm reading those always
Yesterday I started DOWN AND OUT IN PARIS AND LONDON by George Orwell. Before that it was LANARK by Alasdair Gray.

On the "non-fiction" front, it's a collection of Tarkovsky interviews; last week I picked up a slim book collecting 60 Polaroids he's taken around the time he was shooting NOSTALGHIA, mostly views of Russia and Italy.

Akhmatova and Verlaine, too, and the first volume of Pasternak's collected poems.

April 12, 2007 2:53 AM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

girish: if it's books on Asian cinema you're interested in--hell, I might as well come out and suggest this one.

And you can check out the few available Filipino films on DVD just to see what I'm talking about...

April 12, 2007 2:55 AM  
Anonymous Peet said...

The last few weeks I keep returning to two books: Amid Amidi's glorious "Cartoon Modern"(a coffeetable-book in the best sense of the word) about fifties animation design, and Ward Kimball's "Art Afterpieces": a Classic Dada-excercise by the most iconoclastic of Walt Disney's "Nine Old Men."

April 12, 2007 6:09 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Hey there folks! Thank you mucho--CelineJulie, Ryland, Bob, Ignatius, Noel, Peet.

Wow, thanks for posting the SYNDROMES news! I had no idea. I'm baffled what scenes they were looking to snip. Okay, Blissfully Yours I can imagine which scene, but this one makes no sense. The film does have US distribution, CelineJulie, so eventually it will end up on DVD but I hope the film eventually gets released in Thailand; it's an uncommonly immersive big-screen experience.

Speaking of library fines, I've paid my (un)fair share over the years. Recently, my public library automated some of their operations and now send me an email before a book is due, which is indispensable. Also (big relief) my college doesn't charge fines for faculty unless you flagrantly ignore their late notices.

I forgot this great line from Olaf Moller's review of Noel's book: "Vera, like all of us, has his pantheon as well as a long and lovingly cultivated shit list--and he makes no secret of either."

And Bob, thanks for the link to Kurosawa's book! How timely; it's coming out in a couple of weeks...

April 12, 2007 4:26 PM  
Blogger girish said...

So here I am in Florida, my first-ever trip here, but it's a quick one. The presentations went fine. Afterwards, this afternoon, I scouted around for a movie theater to perhaps catch Grindhouse but I'm staying at this downtown Jacksonville hotel smack dab in the middle of a steel-and-glass jungle with no cinema in sight. But the temps are in the 80s (it was snowing in Buffalo a couple of days before I left) and the hotel's on the river, which makes up for it. (And I brought a DVD or two for back-up...) I'll head home early tomorrow.

A couple of links:
-- A month's worth of viewing at The Listening Ear.
-- A bunch of links on the new Jack Smith doc at Greencine.

April 12, 2007 4:53 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Great, large post at The House Next Door: "My Tarantino Problem and Yours," a conversation between MZS and Keith Uhlich.

April 12, 2007 5:01 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Zach on Charles Burnett's Killer of Sheep.
Can't wait to see this. I've seen just one Burnett, To Sleep With Anger, when it came out 15 years ago. I don't remember it much. My friends Rob Davis and Doug Cummings really like the film he made for Disney, Nightjohn. Perhaps someone will think about rustling up a retrospective...

April 12, 2007 5:13 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Glenn Kenny interviews Alain Resnais at his Premiere blog.

April 12, 2007 7:14 PM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

Thanks, girish.

Loved Nightjohn, Selma, Lord Selma, and The Glass Shield.

To Sleep With Anger is a great film (an exploration of the tensions in a middle class black family, and of folk culture and superstition as incarnated by Danny Glover playing the Devil); and I'd put Killer of Sheep above Mean Streets easy (I think they're both investigative/immersive films of their respective ethnic groups--with the proviso that Killer doesn't resort to violence as a means of jumpstarting its drama).

Selma, Nightjohn and Glass Shield are on DVD. I've been waiting forever for the DVD of To Sleep With Anger, though Facets has a VHS. Killer I only got to see because Burnett happened to lend me his copy.

April 13, 2007 5:20 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

KILLER OF SHEEP has been near the top my "Holy Grail" list for a number of years and I'm thrilled it's coming to the Castro Theatre for a week in May. The Pacific Film Archive did mount a 9-film retrospective in 2004, but KILLER OF SHEEP was left off the program, as was SEMLA, LORD, SELMA (which I subsequently caught on video, but must admit I couldn't really extract from its Disney-formula trappings). My favorite of his so far is still TO SLEEP WITH ANGER, which I'm convinced must have been some kind of an influence on Altman's SHORT CUTS (and thus MAGNOLIA, CRASH, etc.)

As for SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY, I'm finally seeing it tonight!

April 13, 2007 3:53 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks, Noel and Brian.

I'm also thrilled that Killer of Sheep is playing Buffalo in early May. I'm thinking of organizing an expedition of my faculty colleagues.

Brian, I look forward to your thoughts on Syndromes. And here's Michael Guillen's just-posted interview with Apichatpong.

April 13, 2007 4:51 PM  
Blogger Kenneth R. Morefield said...

I'm reading an anthology edited by Andrew Sarris called Interview with Film Directors that's pretty much what it sounds. I thought I could read a chapter a week and watch the accompanying film and that would be like a crash course in auteur theory.

Lot's of funny, interesting anecdotes. My favorite exchange so far was this one:

Ian Cameron: "Why do you treat the burning partly as a subjective shot of the cross being obscured by smoke."
Robert Bresson: "I think you want me too much to explain what I did."

April 13, 2007 10:53 PM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

I wrote about Selma, Lord Selma here. I do agree to some extent--it's a Disney production, and it has some preciousness. But I do think Burnet transcends, at least in part, the material.

April 14, 2007 4:07 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks, Ken and Noel.

A coupla links:
-- Acquarello has a list of upcoming DVD releases.
-- Michael Sicinski interviews Mary Jordan, director of the Jack Smith doc, at Screengrab.
-- Article on Jon Jost in the L.A. Times by Kevin Thomas.

April 14, 2007 2:00 PM  
Blogger girish said...

-- David Bordwell has a post on camera angles and perception.
-- At Nerve, Steve Erickson has an interview with Paul Verhoeven.
-- At Dr. Mabuse's Kaleido-Scope, Jason Sperb blogs about Christian Metz and cinephilia.

April 15, 2007 1:25 PM  
Anonymous JD said...

First time poster, longtime lurker.

Let's see...well, I'm reading Derrida's "Specters of Marx" and "Rogues" for a class.

Obama's wonderfully lyrical memoir, "Dreams From My Father"

Philip Short's exhaustive "Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare"

Delilo's funny but cheaply misanthropic "Americana"

Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" is next, after I'm done with the Delilo.

No film books right now. Mostly just film reviews and blogs.

April 20, 2007 10:12 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks, JD!

April 20, 2007 10:14 PM  
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