The Phantom Empire

Overview

The Phantom Empire is a brilliant, daring, and utterly original book that analyzes (even as it exemplifies) the effect that the image saturation of a hundred years of moving pictures have had on human culture and consciousness.
In his intense and mysterious evocation of (seemingly) every kind of movie ever made, Geoffrey O'Brien erases the distinction between spectator and commentator and virtually reinvents ...

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Overview

The Phantom Empire is a brilliant, daring, and utterly original book that analyzes (even as it exemplifies) the effect that the image saturation of a hundred years of moving pictures have had on human culture and consciousness.
In his intense and mysterious evocation of (seemingly) every kind of movie ever made, Geoffrey O'Brien erases the distinction between spectator and commentator and virtually reinvents film writing in our time.

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Editorial Reviews

Voice Literary Supplement
“One of the most eccentrically engaging books to come out all year. . . . The Phantom Empire is an elegy for reality, the screenplay of a celluloid culture.”
Louis Menand - The New Yorker
“Ingenious and idiosyncratic . . . a work that somehow manages to be both a prose poem about the pleasures and distractions of movie-watching and an extremely compact history of the cinema.”
Stanley Kauffmann - New Republic
“O'Brien's stroboscopic images of a mind that the movies have made and remade, deformed and reformed, straitened and enlarged, are dazzling. They fuse into an aptly pyrotechnical celebration of film's first century.”
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Weaving observations on more than 600 mostly pre-1980 films into an incantatory second-person narrative, O'Brien ( Dream Time: Chapters from the Sixties ) posits a world of shared spectatorship shaped by the silver screen. His assumption of collective cognition may not always convince, but his insights often hit home. He muses on the resonant power of titles, from the dangerous single word ( Notorious ) to ``choreographic frivolity'' ( Everybody Does It ). O'Brien suggests cinema taught generations how techno-industrial society--the police, the government, the Mafia--really worked. He muses on Fritz Lang's invention of the art of directing, and how the best directors practiced ``the art of omission.'' He entertainingly assays the ``ultra-refined tawdriness'' of Hollywood's ``cheap twin,'' the Italian movie machine. While O'Brien looks at several genres, including horror films, he largely ignores comedies. Also, he chooses not to ponder how the ``movie century'' will fare in the age of television. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Oct.)
Library Journal
The publisher's promotional materials claim that ``what Susan Sontag did for still photography in On Photography , Geoffrey O'Brien does for the moving image in The Phantom Empire .'' He does nothing of the sort. The central idea of this overblown magazine ``think piece''--that movies and video are sinister alien invaders bent on controlling our minds--is a decrepit cliche, despite O'Brien's attempts to put a fresh postmodern cyberpunk gloss on it. The poet and critic A Book of Maps , Red Dust, 1989 does write in an incisive, lyrical style reminiscent of Sontag, but his random observations on cinema art and history aren't exactly revelations of Sontagian intellectual rigor. Most libraries can pass on this one.-- Anne Sharp, Ypsilanti Dist. Lib., Mich.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393312966
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/1/1995
  • Pages: 282
  • Sales rank: 1,432,456
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Geoffrey O'Brien is a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books and the author of Hard-Boiled America and Dream-Time: Chapters from the Sixties. He lives in New York City.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations 9
Mister Memory 13
The Garden of Allah 33
A Short History of Fun 57
Orpheus and His Brothers 81
Ghost Opera 101
The Author of the Visible 119
The Souk of Knowledge and the Wide Open Spaces 129
The Italian System 149
A Ticket to Hell 173
The Magic Cockpit 197
Dream Sequence 209
Index of films cited 227
Index 283
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