Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cinema Biographies

I have many cinephile friends--foremost among them The Siren--who have a great taste for cinema biographies. I've read far too few of them, and for no good reason.

André Bazin died 50 years ago last week. In remembrance, I re-read Dudley Andrew's superb, indispensable 1978 biography. Andrew also has an essay in the new Film Comment for the occasion (not online, alas).

Two of my favorite cine-biographies are memoirs: Jean Renoir's My Life and My Films and Luis Buñuel's My Last Sigh. I've returned to them several times over the years. There are many biographies--of Howard Hawks by Todd McCarthy, Fritz Lang by Patrick McGilligan, John Ford and Roberto Rossellini by Tag Gallagher--that I haven't read from start to finish. I'll dip into them after I've seen a movie by these directors, and read just the sections pertaining to the movie. Not a very systematic or exemplary way to approach this valuable genre of writing!

And so, I'm wondering: Any favorite cinema biographies--of filmmakers, performers, craftsmen, etc.--that you would like to recommend? I'd appreciate it.

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Some links:

-- The several online exclusives in the new Film Comment issue include the transcript for the panel "Film Criticism in Crisis?".

-- Catherine Grant has been doing an awe-inspiring amount of work at her blog Film Studies For Free. See, for instance, this recent post on authors of note with links to their writings.

-- At Dan North's blog Spectacular Attractions, several new posts on subjects including Hitchcock's cameos, special effects and the virtual actor, Jacques Tati's Playtime, and "How to Watch Werckmeister Harmonies".

-- Matthew Flanagan on "Towards an Aesthetic of Slow in Contemporary Cinema" in 16:9.

-- Brian Sholis, of Artforum and Bookforum, has a new blog called The Search Was The Thing. It's subtitled "Thoughts on Art, Literature and History".

-- David Hudson rounds up the new issue of Sight & Sound.

-- Marc Raymond on Very Short Introductions, the pocket-sized series of academic books from Oxford University Press.

-- In the New York Times: "Google signs a deal to e-publish out-of-print books."

-- David Cairns' Shadowplay is among the most enjoyable places in the entire film-blogosphere. Right now, David gives us: Frank Borzage Week.

-- David Bordwell on Charles Barr's classic 1963 essay on widescreen and Barr's useful idea of "gradation of emphasis".

-- Recent posts at Jonathan Rosenbaum's place: on Pere Portabella, Gus Van Sant's Psycho and Jacques Tati's Parade.

-- J. Hoberman in Bookforum on two recent books devoted to Andrei Tarkovsky.

-- Chris Fujiwara on Jerry Lewis at Moving Image Source.

-- Glenn Kenny gives us a preview of the upcoming Murnau/Borzage box set.

-- New addition to the Serge Daney trove of translations at Steve Erickson's place: "John Ford For Ever".

-- At Film of the Month Club, there are posts on Ed Howard's pick, Su Friedrich's Sink or Swim (1990).

-- Michael Hirschorn on Peter Watkins in The Atlantic.

-- Jon Jost blogs about seeing the Leighton Pierce installation The Agency of Time.

pic: A portrait of Jean Renoir and his nurse Gabrielle Renard by his father.

Friday, November 07, 2008

New Rouge

There's a brand new issue of Rouge, the first in almost a year. Here's a description from Adrian:

The long-awaited Issue 12 of ROUGE coalesces around the theme of the Archive. Vinzenz Hediger leads off with a proposal about film archives and cinephilia in the contemporary scene. American avant-garde filmmaker Jonas Mekas speaks of the archive he has collected, as well as the personal archive he has filmed. From Hungary, Péter Forgács speaks vividly about his practice of found footage cinema and its politics. Russian archives hesitate between fact and fiction in the recent film First on the Moon (analysed by Julia Vassilieva) and the New Zealand video Scuppered, presented by its maker Alan Wright. Harun Farocki’s cinema of montage and critique is surveyed by Christopher Pavsek. As well, there is an appreciation of Fatih Akin’s The Edge of Heaven by Yvette Bíró (author of the recently published Turbulence and Flow); an introduction to the Cinémathèque française Mitchell Leisen retrospective by Mark Rappaport; a tribute to the memory of Guido Mutis (director of the Valdivia International Film Festival 2007-8) by Juan Pablo Miranda; and Kent Jones’ reflection ‘Can Movies Think?’. And, on the eve of the US election, two glances back at 2004: in Jean-Pierre Coursodon’s celebration of Robert Altman’s little-screened Tanner on Tanner; and Gilberto Perez’s take on Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, an essay deemed too hot for The Yale Review. The special bonus of this issue is a dossier of essential articles devoted to the work of Manny Farber (1917-2008) as critic and painter, by Donald Phelps (1969), Jonathan Rosenbaum (1983), Patrick Amos & Jean-Pierre Gorin (1986), Bill Krohn (1988) and Adrian Martin (1999) – plus a little-known, knockout piece by Farber on radio hosts published in 1951.