ESSENTIAL CINEMA: On the Necessity of Film Canons

Jonathan Rosenbaum, Author . Johns Hopkins Univ. $35 (445p) ISBN 978-0-8018-7840-4

In combining his reviews from the Chicago Reader with writing he's done for other magazines, Rosenbaum doesn't so much argue in favor of specific canons of film masterpieces as defend the very process of choosing films of artistic or cultural significance that deserve to be remembered and merit repeat viewing. His global approach is evident from the opening section, "Classics," which discusses films from Germany, France, Russia, Hungary, China and Belgium; even the two American selections (Greed and Rear Window ) were made by expatriate directors. Rosenbaum largely ignores mainstream Hollywood; except for a review of Pretty Woman (negative) and A.I. (positive with reservations), Stanley Kubrick is about as commercial as it gets. Instead, Rosenbaum rails against an attitude he sees perpetuated by American studios and critics alike, in which a film isn't worthy of discussion unless it's in wide release or prominently displayed on the video shelves. He'd rather call readers' attention to things they probably wouldn't have seen otherwise, yet his treatment of individual films and filmmakers is accessible without being dumbed down, filled with perceptive insights and fascinating juxtapositions (the Coen brothers, for example, come up in a chapter-long comparison with Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski). A closing list of 1,000 favorite films is sure to spark debate among cineastes (Ishtar ?) while offering a long checklist of films to watch. (Apr. 27)

Reviewed on: 03/01/2004
Release date: 03/01/2004
Paperback - 449 pages - 978-0-8018-8971-4
Ebook - 468 pages - 978-0-8018-9514-2
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