In this new collection of reviews and essays, Jonathan Rosenbaum focuses on the political and social dynamics of the contemporary movie scene. Rosenbaum, widely regarded as the most gifted contemporary American commentator on the cinema, explores the many links between film and our ideological identities as individuals and as a society. Readers will find revealing examinations of, for example, racial stereotyping in the debates surrounding Do the Right Thing, key films from Africa, China, Japan, and Taiwan, Hollywood musicals and French serials, and the cultural amnesia accompanying cinematic treatments of the Russian Revolution, the civil rights movement, and the Vietnam War. From Schindler's List, Star Wars, Pulp Fiction, Forrest Gump, The Piano, and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective to the maverick careers of Orson Welles, Jacques Tati, Nicholas Ray, Chantal Akerman, Todd Haynes, and Andrei Tarkovsky, Rosenbaum offers a polemically pointed survey that makes clear the high stakes involved in every aspect of filmmaking and filmgoing.
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(229mm x 152mm x 22mm)
University of California Press
Publisher: University of California Press
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US Kirkus Review »
A spirited, frequently tendentious, collection of essays and reviews dissecting some of the more notable films of the last 20 years. While most film critics tend to hide their ideological biases behind the Oz curtain of objectivity, Rosenbaum (Moving Places, 1980, etc.), a film critic at the Chicago Reader, freely confesses his numerous ideological inclinations. This can lead to a distracting emphasis on autobiography, but it also allows us to see how and why Rosenbaum arrived at some of his more iconoclastic opinions: Movies today "are designed to splinter and isolate us from one another, not draw us together. Apparently someone figured out that more money could be made that way." He has a real talent for deconstructing movies, elucidating their subtler meanings, exposing the xenophobic impulses behind Star Wars, for example, or the radical, democratizing impulse behind the compositions in Jacques Tati's Playtime. Yet Rosenbaum rarely falls into the traps of shrill polemicizing or academic esotericism awaiting those who snub the mainstream. He has a buff's genuine love of movies and seems to have seen almost everything (his analysis of the seven versions of Orson Welles's Mr. Arkadin is particularly revealing). But his relentless resistance to "pure," nonpolitical aesthetic values, particularly in Hollywood films, seems unnecessarily limiting. His left-leaning politique des auteurs stance anchors his criticism, it also means his aesthetics tend to echo the old Marxian preoccupation with social utility - a work of art's real worth resides in its political attitudes. Typically, he writes of forcing himself to resist his gut-level enjoyment of Forrest Gump in order to focus on its political failings. The slippery-slope danger here, of course, is that art becomes valued only as propaganda. First-rate film criticism labored by second-rate social analysis. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Jonathan Rosenbaum
Jonathan Rosenbaum is film critic at the Chicago Reader, author of Moving Places (1995) and Placing Movies (1995), both published by California, editor of This is Orson Welles (1993), and a member of the New York Film Festival selection committee.