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Secret Lives of Great Filmmakers Paperback
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“When Robert Schnakenberg's Secret Lives of Great Filmmakers arrived in my mailbox, I braced myself for 288 pages of future dinner-party tidbits. To my delight, it delivered.”—USA Today, Popcandy --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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It contains 36 chapters devoted to great directors, sequenced by the year of their birth and running from early masters D.W. Griffith, John Ford and Howard Hawks to more recent names like Pedro Almodovar, the Coen brothers, Spike Lee and Quentin Tarantino.
Each chapter includes a short biography of a filmmaker and a section of wild trivia, but along the way, author Robert Schnakenberg also periodically offers sections devoted to important movie moguls, unsung female directors and key genre figures.
The book's merits almost make it good enough to recommend it to fledgling film buffs. Unfortunately, the authorial tone running through "Secret Lives" is as bitter as cold lemon juice. Schnakenberg has an extensive knowledge of great directors, but he certainly doesn't seem to like them very much.
"If film directors truly are like voyeurs ... it's only fair that we turn the tables on them," he writes in his introduction, then goes on to introduce Francois Truffaut as "the bastard son of a Parisian wonton," to deem Lee "a tiny man filled with rage" and to dismiss novelist and screenwriter William Faulkner as an "unstable, alcoholic Mississipian."
Irreverence is one thing, but again and again the book is downright mean-spirited, filled with stories and scandalous accusations that usually appear without any attribution.
Everyone has character flaws -- and creative souls often collect them with a vengeance -- but Schnakenberg seems to resent the people he's profiling. At best, he seems to have lost sight of the fact that they're remembered or talked about today because, first and foremost, they created rich and fantastic works of art.