Reposted in order to include the cover of Iranian edition (at the beginning), published today (on October 17, 2015), and Adrian’s latest books (at the end). — J.R.
May 19, 2014
I guess it must seem excessive, starting off a book composed largely of letters with yet another letter –- and rounding off a neat dozen of them with an unlucky thirteenth in the bargain. Skeptics who might find the following correspondence too chummy and cozy for comfort are apt to be equally or even more irritated by this Preface, but I can’t see any way out of this dilemma. And the same problem has applied to subsequent translations of these letters, originally written in four separate languages, into five others—Croatian, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, and now Persian—and often accompanied or followed by new letters by younger (or older) cinephiles with different tastes and orientations.
Considering that the first and last of the dozen letters by nine individuals that follow, written respectively in April 1997 and March 2002, are already mine, what could I hope to add in an introduction to make them more user-friendly to the world outside our artificially constructed little circle? To which someone -– meaning any reader –- might reply, “Well, for starters, you might try addressing the reader outside this circle.”… Read more »
Written for the Fall 2015 issue of Film Quarterly. — J.R.
The Writers: A History of American Screenwriters and
Their Guild by Miranda J. Banks
This is clearly a creditable, conscientious, intelligent, and
useful book, but I feel obliged to confess at the outset that
I don’t feel like I’m one of its ideal or intended readers. The
subtitle loosely describes its contents, but “A Business
History of Hollywood Screenwriters and Their Guild”
would come much closer to the mark, even if it might make
the book less marketable to me and some others. And the
unexceptional simplification of the title and subtitle is part of
what gives me some trouble: it’s the business of Hollywood,
after all, to convince the public that “American screenwriters”
and “Hollywood screenwriters” amount to the same
thing. And the moment that any meaningful distinction
between the two collapses, then the studios, one might argue,
have already won the battle.
I don’t expect my own bias about this matter to be shared
by many of Film Quarterly’s readers. Writers who blithely
and uncritically toss about terms like “Indiewood” designed
to further mystify the differences between studio work and
independent work probably don’t think they’re working for
the fat cats, but from my vantage point as a journalist who
thinks that these distinctions deeply matter, they’re the worst
kind of unpaid publicists.… Read more »
The following was commissioned by and written for Asia’s 100 Films, a volume edited for the 20th Busan International Film Festival (1-10 October 2015). — J.R.
The House is Black is the most acclaimed of all Iranian documentaries. It was directed by Forough Farrokhzad (1935-1967), widely regarded as the greatest of all Iranian women poets and the greatest Iranian poet of the 20th century, who died in a car accident when she was only 32. It was Farokhzad’s only film, produced in 1962 by her lover Ebrahim Golestan (an important filmmaker in his own right, for whom she also worked as an editor, and who serves as one of the film’s narrators). The film observes the tragic life of lepers in an isolated leprosy hospital (a hell on earth and a nest of suffering and death) near Tabriz in northwestern Iran. The Society for Assisting Lepers commissioned the film, and the director’s intention was “to wipe out this ugliness and to relieve the victims.”
Farrokhzad avoids infringement by creating a close relationship with the lepers, and by searching for the seeds of joy and vitality within the hopelessness. She depicts the inhabitants in their daily occupations, having meals, praying, the children playing ball and attending school.… Read more »