From Cannes to the Far East, author Zarchy, a professional cinematographer, tells of exotic places and people he has met (and sometimes filmed) in his international career.
Subtitled “Tales of Filming From Bombay to Brazil,” this work is a roving anthology of reminiscences, presented roughly in reverse chronological order by Zarchy, a San Francisco–based professional cinematographer, primarily for corporate PR, advertising and scientific-industrial films. Star-struck movie fans will have to wait until late in the book for the gossip about diva starlets, tyrannical directors or alternate endings even though journeyman Zarchy has worked for Morgan Freeman’s production company. Travel-style vignettes (most previously published in trade journals, newspapers, blogs and the Chicken Soup for the Soul series), with an emphasis on cultures of Asia and the Far East, fill the book. The title essay refers to an impromptu bowling tournament with clients in Tokyo: Normally reserved Japanese business people loosened up and showed their emotions while Team Zarchy was distracted by the surreal fiasco of the 2000 presidential elections back home. On a road trip between Mumbai and Pune, India, the American film crew used dark humor to cope with the poverty and squalor surrounding them. In Shenyang, on assignment for a Dutch company, the San Franciscan discovered a Filipino band doing 1980s pop-song covers in a Bavarian-themed Chinese dive—true globalization. Not all the shoots are in such far-flung venues; Zarchy made promotional videos around the U.S. for Apple and a “prickly” Steve Jobs (including the opening of the very first Apple store, which, Zarchy reminds us, Business Week predicted would be a resounding retail failure), and he bonded with Bill Clinton while doing an Emmy-winning White House special. TMZ followers might be sated by a long, penultimate chapter in which the author recalls his near “big break” in mainstream entertainment as a novice director doing preproduction in the Philippines for a low-budget Japanese sci-fi film, engendering friendship and loyalty from his motley collaborators even as the financing fell through. In contrast to many movie-insider tell-alls, Zarchy’s congenial voice is never mean-spirited or score-settling, and one is glad to be on his crew. He’ll eat lunch in this town/world again. Likely sushi or sashimi.
Thumbs up for this filmmaker’s collection of postcards from the edge.