From Publishers Weekly
In combining his reviews from the Chicago Reader
with writing he's done for other magazines, Rosenbaum doesn't so much argue in favor of specific canons of film masterpieces as defend the very process of choosing films of artistic or cultural significance that deserve to be remembered and merit repeat viewing. His global approach is evident from the opening section, "Classics," which discusses films from Germany, France, Russia, Hungary, China and Belgium; even the two American selections (Greed
and Rear Window
) were made by expatriate directors. Rosenbaum largely ignores mainstream Hollywood; except for a review of Pretty Woman
(negative) and A.I.
(positive with reservations), Stanley Kubrick is about as commercial as it gets. Instead, Rosenbaum rails against an attitude he sees perpetuated by American studios and critics alike, in which a film isn't worthy of discussion unless it's in wide release or prominently displayed on the video shelves. He'd rather call readers' attention to things they probably wouldn't have seen otherwise, yet his treatment of individual films and filmmakers is accessible without being dumbed down, filled with perceptive insights and fascinating juxtapositions (the Coen brothers, for example, come up in a chapter-long comparison with Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski). A closing list of 1,000 favorite films is sure to spark debate among cineastes (Ishtar
) while offering a long checklist of films to watch.
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Film lovers seeking critical guidance more discerning than daily newspaper reviews but less daunting than scholarly journal articles depend on a handful of critics who write about rarefied films for a general audience. Among the best is Rosenbaum, who plies his trade in the weekly Chicago Reader
. This collection of his work is largely concerned with the formation of a canon of cinematic masterpieces. Nearly all the review subjects in the book are obvious canon fodder, including acknowledged classics Greed
and Rear Window
, such challenging recent films as Satantango
, the avant-garde works Flaming Creatures
and *Corpus Callosum
, and even such "disputable contenders" as A.I.
and Eyes Wide Shut
. Pieces on master directors, including Samuel Fuller, Orson Welles, and Hou Hsiao-hsien, offer glimpses of further canon-worthy films. Rosenbaum appends a list of his 1,000 favorites, "a personal canon" based on "pleasure and edification" rather than historical or popular impact. Every essay demonstrates Rosenbaum's fervent dedication to the cinema and, more important, that he has the knowledge and insight to support his impassioned opinions. Gordon FlaggCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved