Singular books about singular movies

CoverYes there are heaps of books about movies. But a less common is A book about A movie.

Or, as Zona is subtitled – A Book about a film about a journey to a room.

Zona is all about Stalker, a film by Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky. Author Geoff Dyer (a brilliantly droll Brit who graced the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival this year) talks us through what is happening on the screen and his reactions to it.  I shudder at the thought of having the commentary turned on a DVD, but in a way this is just a booky version of that – but with way more room for digressions. Geoff goes on a bit about his childhood, and how his wife is a dead ringer for Natasha McElhone. We get to that via Tarkovsky made the original Solaris, and Natasha starred in the more recent adaptation of Solaris with George Clooney as lead).

This could/should be a literary subgenre. The film and your reaction to it, and digressions. It probably is only going to work when you are in the hands of a expert writer like Dyer.

It’s very odd that someone talking about a movie you’ve never seen is a brilliant read. I wonder what it’s like for someone who has seen the movie?

A review of Zona by Sukhdev Sandhu in The Guardian sums up with:

Beyond the book’s bravura formalism and in spite of the suspicion that it could be viewed as a highbrow take on live-blogging, it’s Dyer’s ability at moments like this to make pilgrims of his readers and to lead them on a journey in search of truths about love and about the nature of happiness that make Zona such an exhilarating achievement.

We have Stalker on DVD and other Tarkovsky stuff.

coverAnother good little volume about a movie is Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story. It is all about director Todd Haynes’ underground classic in which the tragic demise of Karen Carpenter is reenacted with dolls.

Freaky (and yet utterly compelling) stuff.

Are there any other books about a movies you reck0n are worth reading?

And if you were to write about a movie, which one would you deconstruct and report on? I’d do my alltime favourite movie Excalibur or the fantabulous TV movie version of Ivanhoe starring Anthony Andrews and Sam Neill!

6 thoughts on “Singular books about singular movies

  1. Marion 11 July 2012 / 10:16 am

    I haven’t read this book but the events it is based on are compelling. Arthur Miller wrote The Misfits; the story of a shoot and also wrote a play about. The film itself is great despite Marilyn Monroe and Montgomery Clift battling drug and alcohol abuse, John Huston gambling and drinking. Clark Gable suffered a heart attack two days after filming ended and died 10 days later, the film flopped at the box office … it goes on.

  2. Robyn 11 July 2012 / 10:44 am

    I’m sure I’ve bored you all before with my esteem for Geoff Dyer. I actualy bought Zona (there can be no higher praise) and read it with rapt attention, all the time finding it hard to believe I was reading an entire book about a film I would never see. Or even want to see really. It was Geoff’s footnotes that had me enthralled. Final Cut: art money and ego in the making of Heaven’s Gate is one of my favourite books about a movie – the spiral of waste and indulgence is absolutely fascinating and inspired me to see the uncut version of the movie at a festival a few years ago; I think it was three hours 40 minutes long.

  3. Donna 11 July 2012 / 10:57 am

    I’d better add those two to my “to read” pile. Geoff’s asides were fab (what about the honesty in admitting what would be in his “room”?).

  4. Marion 11 July 2012 / 11:06 am

    What about Apocalypse Now or Fitzcarraldo – they were pretty intense shoots from all accounts. We have Apocalypse on the set which includes the making of these, Heavens Gate and a few other film making dramas.
    I can’t imagine anyone wanting to write anything intense about the making of Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit but who knows?

  5. bronnypop 11 July 2012 / 3:22 pm

    You could go completely meta, and write a book about a documentary movie about making (or failing to make) a movie that’s based on a book … Lost in La Mancha – a 2002 film that details Terry Gilliam’s disastrous attempt to film the classic novel Don Quixote.

    • Michael A 12 July 2012 / 1:33 pm

      Fantastic movie – like a really brilliant Greek tragedy…the end is known and inevitable but oh, what a tale!

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