Monday, 10 October 2016

Book him Dommo.

A month in and I thought I should show a bit of leg. Just a bit, after all I've got to keep you coming back.

I recently moved house and as I packed (and then unpacked) all of the family stuff I found a couple of books that reminded me of some of the things that got me interested in films and film making in the first place.

I've always enjoyed films, I can't quite put a date on when I realised that I liked them but they've always been there. I can clearly remember watching Star Wars for the first time. I can recall with absolute clarity watching the opening of Akira with my jaw on the floor. And I have fond memories of watching Zulu and Bridge on the River Kwai with my father when he made one of his infrequent visits.

In fact, despite there not being half as much opportunity to watch films back then as there is now (in the dark days before the interweb, streaming and Netflix) I think I watched an awful lot, and a large variety of genres. From my no doubt rose tinted perspective television showed an awful lot of old movies at decent times (I have 6pm on BBC2 on a Monday evening lodged in my brain for some reason). So I grew up watching loads of old movies and, without really understanding it at the time, learning an awful lot about film history.

So, as I said at the top, I've always been interested in films. And it was when I did a bit on unpacking that I found a few books that I've kept hold of, which I can see now are milestones in my understanding of the movies.

Film-making on a budget.

The best film-making book I've ever read. That's a Dom fact.
I was told about the film El Mariachi by a friend of a friend. So I went on a mission to find it. It was a proper low budget classic and I eventually managed to track a copy down on VHS. It was one of the most inspiring movies I've ever seen as it completely stripped away all of the illusions that film-making was complex, expensive and hard to do. Along with Peter Jackson and Shane Meadows' early films, it was this that made me want to have a go myself. I managed to find a copy of the film diary too which rapidly became my go to book for film-making. When I was in my first year at university I made a terrible movie called "Karate Cops". Thankfully the tapes have been lost in time but this book was my bible, I think it was in my student bag for the best part of three years and it's definitely one of my most read books.

How Europe made Hollywood great.

It's got Robocop on the cover. That should be enough for anyone.

This is probably the first "proper" book I read about film history and, to an extent, film theory. As mentioned further up I grew up watching a lot of old movies and this book used a lot of films I'd seen to talk about the relationship between European film-making and the growth of Hollywood, particularly in the post-war years. There's a great deal that binds both together, especially when you consider that the Film Noir movement was massively driven by directors who had fled Europe at the onset of the rise of Hitler. This highlights the struggle countries have to keep hold of their own culture in the face of globalisation and mass markets, whilst at the same time acknowledging that they both feed each other. This was No Logo before I read No Logo.

The big one.

Best. Movie. Ever.
So I like Blade Runner. Quite a lot. Which one's my favourite? Probably the Final Cut, closely followed by the Director's Cut. Why do I like it? Without sounding too pretentious it's because this is the closest example of where film meets art. Yep, that was still pretentious! Sod it, I'm not going to be able to get across all the where's and why-fors of why this film means so much to me. I bought this book when I was at university and it answered every question I ever had about Blade Runner. All of them. Even the replicant thing. It's a fantastic combination of behind the scenes documentation, timeline of the film, warts and all struggles of production and retrospective. It is still a book that I can read and be surprised at the content. I've read a lot on Blade Runner and this book is by far the best (in my opinion).

It's also worth noting that I bought this as a US import copy from a back alley film shop in Stoke on Trent in 1997. Eat that hipsters!


  1. Interesting. I've not read the first two books but I read Future Noir what seems like a lifetime ago.

    Bladerunner is an interesting film. It's undeniably beautiful. Especially when you consider when it was made. It's rare to find a movie that in some regards is actually 'timeless'. But a recent viewing highlighted it's one big problem, one that nearly ruined the film for me. It's script.

    Ignoring Roy Battys final speech most of it is just bad. It might be that I've grown and expect more from films but it's so tropey. Women are either damsels or sexbots, some of the larger plot devices could have a bus driven through them (they're so huge).

    But even though I squirmed the first aerial shot of LA, the haunting Japanese / Chinese ads projected on the building and blimps and the fantastically lit urban decay seems to ameliorate all of that. Style certainly goes a long way :)

    1. All good points. I think that there is also the femme fatale element within the film too. I'd disagree that all the women fall into just those two categories. Visually it's a film that still stands up to modern equivalents, and I think it's a great example of physical effects, model making and non-physical effects (i.e. whatever we call it before it was CGI).