cover image Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother: Memoirs of a Neurotic Filmmaker

Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother: Memoirs of a Neurotic Filmmaker

Barry Sonnenfeld. Hachette, $29 (368p) ISBN 978-0-316-41561-3

Sonnenfeld recounts harrowing childhood experiences followed by his success in the film business in this episodic and uneven debut memoir. En route to becoming a respected cinematographer in the 1980s and then a hugely successful comedy director in the ’90s, Sonnenfeld’s difficult relationship with his parents is a recurring theme—the title comes from an incident when his mother had Madison Square Garden interrupt a Jimi Hendrix performance to page Sonnenfeld about missing his curfew. Sonnenfeld employs a deadpan narrative style, an effective choice when recounting his early work in the 1970s porn industry and, later on, dealings with Hollywood players such as Penny Marshall and Scott Rudin, but jarring when dealing with childhood trauma, including repeated molestations by his mother’s cousin and, as a five-year old, being asked by his father to convince his distraught mother not to commit suicide. Since these incidents are only treated superficially, the complicated dynamics underlying his relationship to his parents never become truly clear. Sonnenfeld is on surer ground discussing his artistry, with his look at cinematography proving a particular highlight. Readers will wish this intermittently entertaining and enlightening book had a sharper focus. (Mar.)