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An articulate moviemaker brings us not-quite-up-to-date in a thoughtful memoir of a life he has sometimes re-created on film.

Boorman’s evocative film Hope and Glory told the story of his youth in wartime Britain. Here, he recalls more of his middle-class life by the Thames in Shepperton. There’s the church choir, bowling googlies in cricket, and reading once-popular John Cowper Powys, all in a small world of semis and bed-sitters. The decided Briticisms fade as Boorman advances from hitches in the army and the BBC. He steps forward from cricket pitch to backlots around the world to become a first-rank filmmaker, one who appreciates the form’s debt to D.W. Griffith and Billy Bitzer. You may not have seen Leo the Last or even Zardoz, but just consider Deliverance. An extended journal extract recaps an exploration to a tribe in the jungles of Brazil. Buffs will lap up insider bits about script-timing, budgeting, and such. There are asides about sets, locations, jumpcuts, dubbing, looping, color desaturation, negative pickups, and completion bonds—all nicely accessible. There’s also commentary about negotiations with distributors, actors and crews. And there are the people, like talented Jon Voight, antic Burt Reynolds, and mendacious James Dickey. The requisite anecdotes are agreeably presented. Regard the one that ends with a traffic cop pulling Boorman over to inquire, “Do you know you have Lee Marvin on your roof?,” or the one in which Lew Grade cedes control of rushes, rough cut, and final cut and—“I don’t even want to see the picture when it’s finished!” Boorman is as clever with a memoir as he is with a script. Like a true pro, he hits all his marks. If only there were more tales of the recent films. Maybe next time.

A warm, intelligent story of life in film with family, friends, and fable by Merlin of the Movies. (40 b&w photos in text)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-571-21695-1
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2003