Daily | Books | Fosse, Huston, Jarman

Moments That Made the Movies

An unforgettable moment indeed

The issue of the New York Times Book Review that appeared this weekend features not only the editors’ list of the “10 Best Books of 2013” and the “100 Notable Books of 2013” but also a round of fresh reviews of some measure of interest to cinephiles. We begin with Lisa Schwarzbaum on the latest from David Thomson: “Moments That Made the Movies is full of assured declarations, chatty asides and free-associative essays… accompanying images from 71 films (and one still-photo coda). And the result is both fun and not a little feverish, over­chatty and underweight.”


In Fosse, Sam Wasson “explains [Bob] Fosse’s achievement in prose that apparently is meant to summon the spirit of a Fosse show,” writes John McWhorter. “That spirit includes a melodramatic ‘behind the music’ quality that will turn off as many readers as it delights. Wasson titles the chapters as countdowns to the end of Fosse’s shortish life (‘Sixty Years,’ ‘Fifty-Five Years’ and so on); lingerie is ‘sexery’; the interior of the Palace Theater is ‘placenta red.’ Martin Gottfried’s earlier biography, All His Jazz, was less fannish. But Wasson’s narrative style—let’s call it snazzy—often captures the theatrical feel of Fosse’s work at its height.”

Anjelica Huston “was raised amid multiple servants, visiting film-world eminences and colorful locals in the kind of world that has disappeared, other than, say, in movies starring Keira Knightley,” writes Sheila Weller. “Out of this elegy for a vanished world, [Huston’s memoir, A Story Lately Told] becomes a seductive social history of the 1960s—and the story of her fractious separation from an indomitable father and grief for the loss of the mother who was the ballast of her life.” Oliver Gettell interviews Huston for the Los Angeles Times.

Jim Henson

And friends

Brian Jay Jones sees in Jim Henson “not just a visionary entertainer, but also a canny business mind: a Lee Iacocca of felt.” John Swansburg: “Though he lacked a C.E.O.’s steeliness—he hated conflict and couldn’t bear to fire people—Henson was uncompromising when it came to realizing his latest idea, whether it was a Christmas special about an otter jug band or a feature film about a baby-stealing goblin king with a fondness for very tight pants. Henson possessed what one colleague called a ‘whim of steel.'”

The Most of Nora Ephron runs 557 pages while still being far from a ‘complete works,'” notes Gail Collins. “But it’s a good reminder of some of the strengths of her remarkable career.”


Hollywood Costume, edited by costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis, is “a celebration of the trade in words, still photo­graphs and drawings, which accompanied an ambitious exhibit that opened a year ago at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and is now being published here at the beginning of red-carpet season,” writes Alexandra Jacobs. “It begins in the era of silent movies, whose actors were often costumed in clothes from their own closets; soldiers through the dull days of the Hays Code, when ‘even the slightest shadow that suggested cleavage could suspend production’; exhumes Queen Elizabeth Cheeto wigs and Barbarella chain-mail bibs; and ends with a consideration of the challenges that may arise in dressing characters created by C.G.I.”

“In her new book, The Power of Glamour, Virginia Postrel lays out the case for glamour as a life-shaping force, whether for good or for ill,” writes Leslie Camhi. “Neither a lament for a lost world nor—heaven forbid!—a mere encomium to glitz, Postrel’s cleareyed and exhaustive analysis looks not only at the history of glamour, but at how it works, developing a theory that explains, in her words, ‘how Jackie Kennedy is like the Chrysler Building or a sports car like a Moleskine notebook, or why some audiences might find glamour in nuns, wind turbines or Star Trek.'”


Alisa Solomon’s Wonder of Wonders: A Cultural History of “Fiddler on the Roof” is “as rich and dense as a chocolate babka,” writes Marjorie Ingall. “Delicious, yes, but so crammed with tasty layers you have to pace yourself. You appreciate the gazillion buttery striations while wondering if there had to be quite so many of them.”

From Peter Conrad‘s write-up on the art books of the year in the Observer: “Derek Jarman’s Sketchbooks began as little leather-bound volumes bought in Italy. Jarman painted over the covers, blackened the pages and wrote on them in gold ink, turning them into profane missals that he stuffed with stray feathers, pressed flowers, newspaper cuttings and saucy male pin-ups, even a £10 note, which was his entire fee for directing a film of Britten’s War Requiem. This facsimile is a precious relic of an era that was ‘pre-latop, pre-PhotoShop’ when creativity was manual not digital; it is also an entrancing vindication of the book—whether handmade or printed—as an object of art.”


The film’s poster, of course

At HTML Giant, Jared Woodland and Janice Lee take on Satantango, László Krasznahorkai’s 1985 book and Béla Tarr‘s 1994 film, offering “a collection of take-by-take notes on disc one of the film and the corresponding passages of the novel.”

Tim Lucas reviews Exorcising My Demons, “an autobiography by Eileen Dietz, an actress of notable (if not always noted) accomplishments who is best-known for her unbilled performance in William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (1973), in which she played the demonically possessed Regan McNeil in all the scenes which the role’s official actress—12-year-old Linda Blair—could not physically (or legally) play, as well as the subliminal flashes of the white-faced, demonic apparition known as Captain Howdy. Linda Blair may continue to reap most of the recognition for the former, but in the years since it has become more visible since the advent of home video and the pause button, the latter has become one of the most iconic images of the horror genre, full stop.”

Meantime, Kathryn Schulz writes up New York‘s top ten books of the year, while the AV Club‘s revisited its favorite books of 2013.

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