"Even today there are people who think these harmless little books are dangerous." That's David Bordwell, talking to Malte Hagener in the latest issue of NECSUS about his 1985 books Narration in the Fiction Film and The Classical Hollywood Cinema, co-written with Janet Staiger and Kristin Thompson. The very first thing Bordwell says in the interview is: "I became interested in cinema by reading books about it, when I was 14-15 years old." It was in college that he began mainlining the canon—he mentions Akira Kurosawa, François Truffaut, Robert Bresson, Jean-Luc Godard, Ingmar Bergman, Michelangelo Antonioni—before eventually becoming one of cinema's most well-known scholars.

He tells Hagener that "my sense of cinema as an art is part of the ‘great tradition’: silent film aesthetics, Eisenstein, Bazin, etc. A poetics of cinema seems to me to have a lot in common with traditional film-as-art concerns, and certainly the tools I’d use to analyze films owe a lot to that tradition. On the other side, I think that drawing on cognitive science to some extent, along with poeticians like the Formalists (still very misunderstood, I think) and Gombrich, gives me some purchase on more advanced intellectual work."

As it happens, Bordwell posted a relevant entry about a week ago: "When the stack of books by friends threatens to topple off my filing cabinet, I know it’s time to flag them for you." He wishes the SMPTE Motion Imaging Journal a happy 100th anniversary and writes about Bertolt Brecht, who, in the 70s, "epitomized what an alternative, oppositional, or subversive cinema ought to be"; Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, the collection edited by Ted Fendt for the Austrian Film Museum; The Oliver Stone Experience by Matt Zoller Seitz ("The whole thing comes at you in a headlong rush"); and King of Jazz: Paul Whiteman’s Technicolor Revue, by James Layton and David Pierce, "an in-depth contextualization of the film, the studio, and the tradition of musical revues, both on stage and in film" and "a model of ambitious research, writing, and publishing"; Scott Higgins's Matinee Melodrama, which "fulfills the promise of its subtitle: Playing with Formula in the Sound Serial"; and The Poetics of Chinese Cinema, edited by Gary Bettinson and James Udden.


A Conversation with David Bordwell: Poetics of Cinema, Film Stylistics and Research Valorization from Ari Ernesto Purnama


Back to NECSUS. "Adam Lowenstein’s Dreaming of Cinema: Spectatorship, Surrealism, and the Age of Digital Media and Slow Cinema, a collection of essays edited by Tiago de Luca and Nuno Barradas Jorge, are attempts to come to grips with some of the different ways that digital technology has impacted on film culture," writes James Newton. "Lowenstein is concerned with providing an academic interpretation of film spectatorship in the digital age, whereas Slow Cinema investigates one of the ways digital technology has been utilized by filmmakers to experiment and expand cinematic techniques."

Alternative Projections: Experimental Film in Los Angeles, 1945-1980, edited by David E. James and Adam Hyman, "follows an intertwined path, alternating between a brand new ensemble of scholarly works and some of the most relevant essays and interviews by and with the filmmakers, film critics, programmers, exhibitors, and curators who shaped that ‘marginal cinema’ scene," writes Andrea Mariani. "Joan Hawkins looks towards the East Coast, presenting and revisiting the New York Underground scene in her collection Downtown Film and TV Culture 1975-2001," which "also alternates and mixes original scholarly works with interviews and reprinted articles from scholars, filmmakers, and producers. However, it does so in a more dynamic way, offering a freer structure than James and Hyman’s rather stiff collection."

Before leaving NECSUS, let's note that Catherine Grant has an essay here on the "audiovisual essay as performative research."

For the New York Times, J. Hoberman reviews Robert Bresson's Notes on the Cinematograph and Bresson on Bresson: Interviews 1943-1983, edited by Mylène Bresson: "For Bresson, motion pictures—which, at least before the digital revolution, recorded what occurred before the camera—were a form of truth. His belief in movies as an intrinsically authentic, essentially documentary medium explains his statement that 'to bring the past back to the present' is 'the privilege of cinematography.' The most spiritual of filmmakers was also the most devout of cinema realists."

A few weeks ago, the Paris Review posted Ben Lerner's words of introduction to a collection of photographs by Adam Bartos from a book that'll be out in February, Studio: Remembering Chris Marker. Now Daniel L. Potter alerts us to an excerpt in which Colin MacCabe recalls his first visit to that studio in the 20th arrondissement of Paris: "As I stood at the door of the house I wondered if I had wandered into a parallel universe."


The Thinking Machine: Always a Window, Adrian Martin and Cristina Álvarez López for De Filmkrant


For the Library of America, Kim Morgan tells the story of Horace McCoy, a stage actor who missed his mark in Hollywood and ricocheted between jobs before becoming "a bouncer for a marathon dance contest in Santa Monica. Ejecting desperate, often psychotically exhausted contestants from the depressing, mania-inducing competition—he knew he was doing them a favor. But from this soul-depleting job came the inspiration for his novel They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1935)." The 1969 movie, adapted by Robert E. Thompson and James Poe and directed by Sydney Pollack, "often feels surreal, but it’s a historically accurate depiction of those excruciating competitions."

The Literary Hub's posted an excerpt from On Story: Screenwriters and Filmmakers on Their Iconic Films, edited by Barbara Morgan and Maya Perez, in which Terry George looks back on his work with Jim Sheridan in general and, in particular, on In the Name of the Father (1993): "I equate when you make a movie, particularly a biopic or the adaptation of a book, to the process of making brandy. It’s all about distilling, finding the essence of what the story is, and boiling it down to those two or so hours of screen time."

"Nathalie Léger’s Suite for Barbara Loden covers an astonishing amount of ground," writes Emily Wells for the BLARB. "At once, it is fiction, biography, history, and the journey of all-consuming research…. It is fitting that Loden is the object of Léger’s fascination, given the inclination of both women to make art that blurs the lines between themselves and their work—'It’s like showing myself in a way that I was,' Loden said in a 1971 interview about Wanda [1970]."

On Friday, we took a look at the new issues of Senses of Cinema, Cineaste and cléo. Let's look again, focusing here on the book reviews. First, Soraya Roberts, author of In My Humble Opinion: My So-Called Life, tells Cathleen Evans in cléo that, writing about the mid-90s show, "I realized how close its airing was, historically, to the rise of third-wave feminist groups like the Riot Grrrl [movement], which gave the book an ideal backbone because both the movement and the show were giving a voice to teenage girls for the first time."


Cineaste gives us a good slice of Chris Fujiwara's review of Éric Rohmer: A Biography by Antoine de Baecque and Noël Herpe, who not only offer "abundant information about the production and reception of each of Rohmer’s films," but "also contribute intelligent critical commentary."

Larry Ceplair finds that Bernard F. Dick's The Screen Is Red: Hollywood, Communism, and the Cold War "is anything but a critical study…. He does not present a thesis; there are no summations of the chapters; and the conclusion is banal."

So. In Senses:


Contributors to the New Yorker look back on the "Books We Loved in 2016." And at Flavorwire, Sarah Seltzer has a paragraph for each of her "15 Best Books of 2016."