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More a notebook than a vital history. (62 b&w illustrations)

A bland account of a pulsating time in film history.

At a London cinema in 1958, Cowie watched Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal. The film stunned Cowie and shaped his career: as a journalist and the author of several books on film (Coppola, 1990, etc.), he went on to cover the “New Wave” of filmmakers who made going to the movies more adventuresome than ever before or since. It was a turbulent, exciting time—Cowie himself feared he might not be able to get out of Cannes when protestors rioted there at the 1968 festival. But he never captures the fervor of the period. In sweeping arcs, he moves from country to country—from Italy to France to Eastern Europe, Great Britain, and the US—as he surveys the films and directors whose work defines the period: Antonioni, Truffaut, Polanski, Godard, and many other auteurs. But as the innovative films of this time used the jump-cut to move without transition from one scene to another, Cowie also jumps from one director, one film, one country to another, often without making the kinds of connections that would give cohesion to his work. He offers, for example, interesting primary material (transcripts of his interviews with the period’s major filmmakers) but merely drops their remarks into the text verbatim, adding little comment. He covers many significant films, but often too briefly—he terms Deliverance a “masterpiece,” but devotes only a half-sentence to it. Anyone who has never seen the film, or the several others he glosses over, will not comprehend their influence. And his pedestrian prose fails to mirror the revolutionary style of the times. Hollywood exerts its “siren call,” movements begin “with a vengeance,” and Pier Paolo Pasolini lives “at the cutting edge of scandal.”

More a notebook than a vital history. (62 b&w illustrations)

Pub Date: June 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-571-20903-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2004

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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