Read Instead…in Print

A photo of a good book about cinema. No discursive, pretentious analyses, no verbose scrutiny. Because the idea is to invite you to read the book, not read about it here. But instead of using social media, I use my journal. Back to basics. Take it as a wish to break free of over-reliance on social media (even if it’s just for posting a photo of a good book) for presenting my work, cultural finds and interests. These are things to be enjoyed as stand-alone pieces in a more substantial and meaningful way than showing them in the black hole of Instagram thronged with an audience with a short attention span. This is also a look through my voluminous collection of books about film that I use as research in my adamant decision to rely less and less on the online and more on more on print materials.

Read instead…in print #11

“Beautiful journalism”, John Huston said about Picture. No stylistic flourishing, no gratuitous metaphors, no speculation or gossip, just clarity and simplicity, a probing insight into filmmaking. Reading Picture, first published in 1952, has reminded me about what real journalism is about. Integrity. Objectivity. Responsibility. Power of observation. Respect for the privacy of your subjects.

Lillian Ross’ reporting of the making of John Huston’s The Red Badge of Courage is one of the most authentic and accurate documentations of how a movie is made, of how the big studio Hollywood mechanisms work and how an original, artistic film and a director’s uncompromising vision can be slashed into a whole different thing when the studio heads and producers step in and cut down by a third a film. The studio heads who think that you have to tell people what the movie is about because they can not think by themselves. The studio heads who disconsider any other kind of movie made outside Hollywood because they say those films want to harm the heart-warming, sentimental Hollywood motion-picture business. The producers who disturbingly admit that once the director is through, they can usually do whatever they want with a picture.

One of my favourite parts in the book were the John Huston passages. Every mention of his name has the capacity of revealing something from the character of this magnetic, bigger-than-life man, great director and talented artist, and to make the reader part of the moment. His wit, his humour, his ego, his search for simplicity and truth, his appetite for life and art. As Anjelica Huston says in the introduction to Ross’ book, “in the country recently, my husband, Robert Graham, and I were reading Picture aloud to each other. We were laughing and having a lot of fun when suddenly I realised that reading this book was like being in the same room with my father again.”

But what I believe Lillian Ross captured first and foremost, and so well and effortlessly, was that rare quality that John Huston had for looking at and making art with enthusiasm and curiosity but without intellectualisation. She was able to capture the essence of the artist, with his many facets, just by reporting the facts. That’s a rare quality, too.


Read instead…in print: Once Upon a Time in the West: Shooting a Masterpiece

The Lost Daughter: In conversation with costume designer Edward K. Gibbon

Read instead…in print: The Birds

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