Stolen Glimpses, Captive Shadows: Writing on Film, 2002-2012

Overview

“We watch what is moving fast from a platform that is also moving fast,” writes Geoffrey O’Brien in the beginning of Stolen Glimpses, Captive Shadows. This collection—gathering the best of a decade’s worth of writing on film by one of our most bracing and imaginative critics—ranges freely over the past, present, and future of the movies, from the primal visual poetry of the silent era to the dizzying permutations of the merging digital age.

Here are 38 searching essays on ...

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Stolen Glimpses, Captive Shadows: Writing on Film, 2002-2012

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Overview

“We watch what is moving fast from a platform that is also moving fast,” writes Geoffrey O’Brien in the beginning of Stolen Glimpses, Captive Shadows. This collection—gathering the best of a decade’s worth of writing on film by one of our most bracing and imaginative critics—ranges freely over the past, present, and future of the movies, from the primal visual poetry of the silent era to the dizzying permutations of the merging digital age.

Here are 38 searching essays on contemporary blockbusters like Spider-Man and Minority Report; recent innovative triumphs like The Tree of Life and Beasts of the Southern Wild; and the intricacies of genre mythmaking from Chinese martial arts films to the horror classics of Val Lewton. O’Brien probes the visionary art of classic filmmakers—von Sternberg, Fod, Cocteau, Kurosawa, Godard—and the implications of such diverse recent work as Farenheit 9/11, The Passion of Christ, and The Sopranos. Each of these pieces is alert to the always-surprising intersections between screen life and real life, and the way that film from the beginning has shaped our sense of memory and history.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Stolen Glimpses, Captive Shadows

“There is something for all movie lovers in this expertly written, often thought-provoking collection.” —Library Journal

"The author’s insights into these familiar icons are unfailingly intelligent and delivered in polished prose." —Kirkus

Library Journal
Accomplished film writer and critic O'Brien (editor in chief, Library of America; The Fall of the House of Walworth: A Tale of Madness and Murder in Gilded Age America) has collected a sampling of his essays from 2002 to 2012. Written for such publications as the New York Review of Books and Art Forum, among others, they range over a wide spectrum of films and filmmakers, the latter including Fritz Lang, Jacques Tourneur, and Val Lewton. He also gives a nod to the late film writers Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris. His musings cover films from the silent era (and recent films about the silent era, e.g., The Artist and Hugo) to Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill and such television icons as Columbo and Tony Soprano. There is also a lengthy piece about the debonair Cary Grant. Some of the films discussed are well known to a wide audience of filmgoers (Spider Man; The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance); many others will be familiar only to a smaller coterie of cognoscenti. VERDICT Whether one agrees or disagrees with O'Brien's opinions, there is something for all movie lovers in this expertly written, often thought-provoking collection.—Roy Liebman, formerly with California State Univ., Los Angeles
Kirkus Reviews
Multitasking writer/editor O'Brien (The Fall of the House of Walworth, 2010, etc.) showcases his work over the past decade as a film critic and historian. The historian gets more of an outing in this new collection; substantially more than half the pieces, many of which were written to accompany DVD re-releases, cover such staples of college classes and museum retrospectives as directors Fritz Lang and Jacques Tourneur and vintage film ranging from Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes to Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless. The author's insights into these familiar icons are unfailingly intelligent and delivered in polished prose, though there's little here that any reasonably literate movie buff hasn't read before. His take on contemporary blockbusters (including a single TV series, The Sopranos) is often more idiosyncratic and interesting. "Spider-Man, the movie…has a ponderousness its model altogether lacked," he writes, contrasting the scrappy Marvel comics that inspired it with the Hollywood franchise that "descends from above, trailing clouds of magazine covers and licensed toys." His take on Steven Spielberg's Minority Report is similarly well-informed about its pop-culture source (a Philip K. Dick story) and appreciative of Spielberg's abundant moviemaking gifts, while holding the film to a higher intellectual standard than its director seems interested in meeting. O'Brien, editor-in-chief of the Library of America, tends to take a serious, quasi-academic approach to movies; obituaries for his predecessors Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris are appreciative and shrewd about both critics' essential qualities, but he's clearly more in sympathy with the "reverence for film history" he praises in Sarris' work than with Kael's fierce advocacy for "the sovereignty of her own taste." In general, the author is less an innovative thinker than a tasteful summarizer of received cultural wisdom, right down to the concern expressed in his preface that movies are part of the semisinister digital revolution. Smart, careful reviews covering a reasonably representative swathe of movies past and present.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781619021709
  • Publisher: Counterpoint Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/2013
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 983,150
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Geoffrey O’Brien is the editor in chief of the Library of America and a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books. His latest books are Early Autumn and The Fall of the House of Walworth. (September 2012). He is a widely published poet, critic, editor, and cultural historian and has been honored with a Whiting Award and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the New York Institute for the Humanities. He lives in New York City.

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