The playwright/screenwriter/director/essayist (The Wicked Son, Oct. 2006, etc.) presents lessons on the movie industry, seasoned with realism.
Most of multi-hyphenate Mamet’s previous sallies on the business of filmmaking conveyed the impression that he thought the whole thing was not much more than a lark, a mechanical process easily mastered. Initially, this collection of stark essaylets expresses a similar point of view. “Moviemaking,” the author writes, “is an appallingly simple process. One needs a camera, film, and an idea (optional).” Subsequent pieces, however, give voice to a far deeper love of the form. In between lofting daggers at industry fools, he celebrates the joys of Preston Sturges and does his best to provide the reader with easily reducible lessons on the intricacies of film and its history. (One interesting digression examines the question of why all of Hollywood’s founding fathers hailed from within 200 miles of Warsaw.) Among the pithy advice proffered to students of the craft are “burn the first reel,” “if you think that perhaps you should cut, cut,” “nothing with a quill pen in it ever made a nickel” and “do not shoot the pretty girl’s close-up last.” Mamet does an estimable job of marrying his expected cynicism with a less predictable but no less vehement defense of film as art. That’s not to say he’s lost his bite: “Critics are a plague,” he contends, and “everybody on the production end always assumes the writer is stealing their money.”
A sleek and hardboiled seminar on cinema’s glorious highs and hellish lows.