"ROGER EBERT'S BOOK OF FILM: From Tolstoy to Tarantino, the Finest Writing from a Century of Film" by Roger Ebert

"ROGER EBERT'S BOOK OF FILM: From Tolstoy to Tarantino, the Finest Writing from a Century of Film"

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TV film maven and Chicago Tribune columnist Ebert (A Kiss Is Still a Kiss, 1984) gathers 100 pieces in belated tribute to the first century of the movies. In attempting to create an anthology of outstanding film writing that would reflect film's multifaceted nature--at once art and aphrodisiac, entertainment and commerce, myth and industrial product--Ebert has stumbled a bit; the book suffers from a jury-rigged structure that mainly illuminates the arbitrariness of Ebert's choices. The pieces he has assembled are wildly uneven, although many do shine. The overwhelming majority of the collection consists of excerpts from longer works, some of which don't entirely make sense out of context. For example, the passages from Larry McMurtry's novel The Last Picture Show, while evocative, seem unduly skeletal when stripped from the heart of the novel. Moreover, although Ebert's attempt to represent the widest possible range of writing about film is admirable, with almost no writer represented by more than one piece, does anyone believe that a piece from a Web site devoted to Quentin Tarantino, an excerpt from Janet Leigh's pedestrian little book on the making of Psycho, snatches of Mario Puzo's The Godfather, and Charles Bukowski's musings on film represent the best writing available on the medium? Too many of the directors' entries are self-aggrandizing, the mix of fiction and nonfiction is awkward, and sudden shifts, such as the one from a chronological grouping on silent films to a handful of essays on genre, are unhelpful. On the other hand, Ebert has drawn from some unjustly forgotten books, such as Jonathan Rosenbaum's elegiac and rigorous Moving Places, and Christopher Isherwood's delicate and charming Prater Violet. An entertaining hodgepodge, but a hodgepodge all the same.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1996
Page count: 777pp
Publisher: Norton