Gods and Monsters: Thirty Years of Writing on Film and Culture from One of America's Most Incisive Writers
Peter Biskind. Nation Books, $15.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-1-56025-545-1
Best known for his popular book on 1970's cinema, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, Biskind has strung together a compendium of his magazine articles, dating from his tenure as editor-in-chief at American Film up to his current post as a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. While Biskind at his best provides uniquely bracing film critique, far too much of this volume is of little merit to today's readers. The strongest pieces are Biskind's profiles of master agent Sue Mengers, ""a female Billy Wilder,"" and Charlie Feldman, an unknown figure today who in his time combined his talents to be both a legendary Hollywood producer and agent. It's hard to reconcile these humane, illuminating profiles with Biskind's review of an old Clint Eastwood film, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, which appears to be obsessed with the film's latent homosexuality. There's also a dated analysis of George Lucas's Star Wars films that not only does not consider the latest additions to the series but includes such overblown analysis as ""The Jabba episode culminates in an explicit vagina dentata fantasy as Luke and his pals have to walk a phallic gangplank..."" Because Biskind is, as billed, an incisive writer, readers will wish he bothered to update such statements as, ""Vietnam was the first television war, and ... it may be the last."" Here's hoping next time around, Biskind will give his loyal readers something new to chew on.
Reviewed on: 11/08/2004