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Jacques Tourneur: The Cinema of Nightfall Paperback – May 10, 2001

4.6 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Fujiwara has at last provided a much needed critical study of the director whose consistent atmospheric style is noticeable to those familiar with his work... A long overdue journey into the labyrinth of Tourneur's films, and has shed some invaluable light on this auteur of darkness.

(Ronald W. Wilson Film-Philosophy)

Jacques Tourneur has long been a favorite of horror fans, French critics, and a few sensible American observers like Manny Farber... Fans who have wished to better understand Tourneur have had to cobble together a biography, production histories, and analysis from widely scattered sources― obscure academic journals like Film and Psychoanalysis, zines like FilmFax and Photon, French-language studies for those who can read them, and one of the several books devoted to Val Lewton. The Edinburgh Film Festival issued an anthology of essays in English devoted entirely to Tourneur, but that book was aimed squarely at academics. It's Chris Fujiwara's book, which straddles the academic and popular, that will likely be the standard reference in English for the foreseeable future... A worthy, well-written and -researched tribute to an auteur who deserves a higher ranking than Sarris, and too many other critics, has given him.

(Gary Morris Bright Lights Film Journal)

Masterful... Fujiwara's comprehensive study of Tourneur's entire output, rather than a few well-known films, provides a necessary antidote to the perception that the 'gentility' of Tourneur's films often mitigated their dramatic impact... The strength of Fujiwara's study, other than his comprehensive analysis of each feature film, resides in an ability to reveal consistent stylistic and thematic patterns from seemingly discrete scenes in different genres... Fujiwara's book is a perceptive study of a great director.

(Geoff Mayer Screening the Past)

Chris Fujiwara, one of our most perceptive writers about film, has put together a critical study of a great but somewhat obscure American director... Fujiwara's book will serve as an excellent guide for anyone who wishes to explore Tourneur's unique work. Furthermore, Martin Scorsese has provided a heartfelt and insightful foreword. The Cinema of Nightfall is essential reading for true movie lovers.

(Bob Stephens San Francisco Examiner Magazine)

Chris Fujiwara has researched what must have been a very difficult topic assiduously and written it well; his book is both a biography and a critical appreciation, with emphasis on the latter. Tourneur is long overdue for both parts of the equation.

(Scott Eyman Palm Beach Post)

Even seasoned film buffs sometimes confuse the role of producer Val Lewton with that of director Jacques Tourneur. But it was Tourneur who actually directed such classics of horror and noir crime drama as Cat People, Night of the Demon, I Walked with a Zombie, Out of the Past, and a variety of other sometimes neglected small classics... The story of why he's not exactly a household word, even now, is treated fairly and fascinatingly in film historian/critic Chris Fujiwara's The Cinema of Nightfall... Fujiwara appears to know his subject matter exhaustively... [A] necessary addition to the reference shelf of anyone seriously interested in the best of what the cinema of the fantastic can accomplish.

(Edward Bryant Locus)

Chris Fujiwara succeeds in arguing that Tourneur was an auteur of note... [A] brisk, elegant book... Tourneur has spent too long on the verge of undeserved obscurity, thankfully negated by this scholarly, impeccably researched reappraisal.

(Ian Grey Baltimore City Paper)

An estimable combination of consummate research and keen critical judgment. It's also the first book study ever of the 'cult' filmmaker.

(Gerald Peary Boston Phoenix)

Fujiwara's scholarly but immensely readable tone offers a fascinating account of the Cat People auter's life, work, and unique approach to filmmaking.

(VideoScope)

A valuable examination of one of Hollywood's most neglected talents.

(Film Review)

Every director of importance deserves a book-length, in-depth study. Jacques Tourneur remains underrated, but fully merits this treatment. In this book, Chris Fujiwara has set out the reasons why we should take Tourneur seriously, not merely for the accepted classics, but for a great deal of interesting, surprising and powerful work in horror, noir and the Western.

(Kim Newman Catholic Library World)

About the Author

Chris Fujiwara is a freelance writer whose work frequently appears in Hermenaut and the Boston Phoenix. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press; 1st edition (May 10, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801865611
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801865619
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.7 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,831,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Eddie Kasica on May 12, 2003
Format: Paperback
Chris Fujiwara is one of the world's best film critics. (Look for his soon-to-be-published work on Otto Preminger.) "The Cinema of Nightfall" is specifically about the great(and vastly underrated) Jacques Tourneur, but it is much more than that. It is one of the best books ever written about how to see and experience movies. Fujiwara goes inside the process of just how a film creates meaning, using Tourneur's very subtle genius as his base. The chapters on the more famous works("Cat People", "I Walked with a Zombie" and the immortal "Out of the Past") are the best analyses ever written on those titles. However, perhaps the most impressive part of Fujiwara achievement is his coverage of the more obscure Tourneurs: "Stars in My Crown", "Canyon Passage", "Berlin Express", the shorts. (His chapter on "Nightfall" is worth the price of admission -- a whole film theology in miniature.) "Cinema of Nightfall" is a model of film understanding and film love.
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Format: Paperback
Jacques Tourneur has long been a favorite of horror fans, French critics, and a few sensible American observers like Manny Farber as a creator of some of cinema's most subtly potent effects, particularly in his trio of B-horror films for Val Lewton at RKO in the early 1940s and his Lewtonesque Curse of the Demon in 1958. His most famous film noir, Out of the Past, is also widely considered one of the genre's greatest. Fans who have wished to better understand Tourneur have had to cobble together a biography, production histories, and analysis from widely scattered sources -- obscure academic journals like Film and Psychoanalysis, zines like FilmFax and Photon, French-language studies for those who can read them, and one of the several books devoted to Val Lewton. The Edinburgh Film Festival issued an anthology of essays in English devoted entirely to Tourneur, but that book was aimed squarely at academics. It's Chris Fujiwara's book Jacques Tourneur: The Cinema of Nightfall, which straddles the academic and popular, that will likely be the standard reference in English for the foreseeable future.

Fujiwara begins by persuasively rescuing Tourneur from one of Sarris' gulags: the dreaded third ranking in American Cinema. Sarris' backhanded praise in phrases like "subdued, pastel-colored sensibility" and "a certain French gentility" has been seconded by many critics, who attributed the virtues of the Lewton-produced films to Lewton and the brilliance of Out of the Past and Night of the Demon to Tourneur's "intelligent" manipulation of prosaic generic elements.
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Format: Hardcover
Jacques Tourneur was a uniquely talented director with a string of distinctive films to his credit, including Cat People, Canyon Passage, I Walked With a Zombie and Out of the Past. Tourneur's best films look and sound like no one else's, stylish, subtle and strangely...quiet. At last there is an intelligent, discerning book on the subject of the talented Frenchman. Perhaps a bit more background on the making of the films would have been appreciated, otherwise this is an excellent and eye-opening bit of original film scholarship.
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Format: Paperback
Jacques Tourneur, as Martin Scorsese remarks in his introduction to this book, still dwells in the realm of "underappreciated" artists. But he is also proof that great artistry can be found in areas of endeavor that are thought to be secondary or inferior---such as "B" movies.

Chris Fujiwara did an incredibly thorough job of researching Tourneur's life and his movies (including the many that have fallen into neglect). His conclusion is that Tourneur's self-effacing personality, and his willingness to accept any film project in the belief that it would stretch his abilities, sabotaged his directorial reputation. I am not sure why Tourneur continues to be pushed into the shadow of Val Lewton... unless, because Lewton managed to create another classic movie, "Seventh Victim", with Mark Robson in place of Tourneur, and that led some to believe that the overriding vision was always Lewton's.

In any case, Fujiwara does a good job of debunking such notions by revealing instances of Tourneur's brilliance that cropped up even in his lesser known projects. Fujiwara outlines Tourneur's development, from his beginnings learning about filmmaking by assisting his father (an established director of silent movies), then getting a rigorous training in second unit work, and short subjects, before he was offered any feature films to direct.
Fujiwara establishes that even in the short subjects, Tourneur was showing evidence of a singular approach to storytelling.

Tourneur's style was marked by great conciseness, fluid camerawork, and an odd sort of distancing that made interludes in his films seem dreamlike and ambiguous.
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