cover image Film on Paper: The Inner Life of Movies

Film on Paper: The Inner Life of Movies

Richard Schickel, . . Ivan R. Dee, $18.95 (292pp) ISBN 978-1-56663-759-6

Schickel, film critic for Time magazine, contends the majority books on film are by “hack journalists or dull-witted academics.” To help movie fans size up those books, Schickel has compiled his own book reviews into a user-friendly collection. It's well written and has the added virtue of expounding on the history of cinema. Originally published in the Los Angeles Times , Schickel's reviews cover books written between 1989 and 2007. He admits that covering the movie industry can be a daunting task. Myths that surround it are accepted without analysis. Directors' bios or interviews can be tricky, he adds, since the subjects often “refuse to illuminate their work.” A notable exception is On Film-making by Alexander Mackendrick (The Guns of Navarone ), which he calls a valuable guide for a novice director. Yet standard texts, such as The Genius of the System , are slammed for faulty logic rather than applauded for solid insights. For Schickel, Edward Epstein's The Big Picture illustrates the worst offenses: obvious deductions, vague theories and substandard writing. Yet he gives credit where it is due, honoring the commendable research in The Dame in the Kimono , an examination of the Hays Code. Schickel sets a high bar for film books and provides a trusted stamp of approval. (Apr.)