Not to Be Missed: Fifty-Four Favorites from a Lifetime of Film

Kenneth Turan. PublicAffairs, $24.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-58648-396-8
As a child, Los Angeles Times film critic Turan lost himself in the movies. Later, as a student at the Columbia School of Journalism, he took a seminar from Judith Crist, who told him that he could be watch films and write about them professionally. In this affectionate look at the movies that have meant the most to him, he chooses several films, beginning in 1913 with Louis Feuillade’s silent film Fantômas, and proceeds decade by decade up through Joseph Cedar’s Footnote (2011). He offers a brief introduction to the films of each intervening decade and then provides short and critically admiring analyses of his chosen films. The 1930s, he writes, were a “decade, as even the titles of the films like Bombshell and I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang indicated, that started with a ferocious burst of uncensored energy; the ability to speak filled the movies with a kind of dynamism that never went away.” Turan’s crisp and deft analysis of individual films offers fresh insights into them; of the length of Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai (nearly three and a half hours), Turan observes: “the passage of time has one final advantage: it shows us the entirety of the agricultural year, from planting to… final harvesting; that’s critical because the film’s final message is to reinforce the endurance of that kind of life.” Turan’s illuminating reflections do what the best essays on film always do: send us to watch the movie, whether for the first time or the 20th. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/14/2014
Release date: 06/01/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
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