Granta 86: Film – Edited by Ian Jacks

Granta Publications, Summer 2004
This summer issue of Granta is devoted to Film,
and there’s quite a lot of good reading here, mostly all of it non-fiction. Editor Ian Jack’s view of film centers around ’70s art cinema, which isn’t entirely a bad thing. There’s an lengthy excerpt from John Fowles’ diary dealing with the on-again-off-again making of “The French Lieutenant’s Woman,” which, typical to Fowles, disparages nearly everyone he comes into contact with. Interesting encounters with Dennis Potter, Harold Pinter, and more. There’s an account of being a rat trainer called on by Werner Herzog to populate his film Nosferatu with over 18,000 rats. Most die. (Being a Herzog film, many of the film crew nearly die too).
Jonathan Lethem’s piece on Cassavettes makes me want to rent several of his films (I’ve only seen Husbands, and I’m told this is not the place to start). There’s a memoir by Shampa Bannerjee about playing Durga, Apu’s sister in Pather Panchali, but this is mostly anecdotal. I also liked the remembrance by Andrew O’Hagan about his two years as the Telegraph’s film critic, from which he earned little respect.
It’s an easy read this issue, and brings back many names that used to be household (the trio of German directors–Herzog, Wenders, Fassbinder–who revolutionized their country’s cinema), if not for a reconsideration, but at least to blow the dust off the spines. But you may come away from the issue feeling that cinema has died and all that’s left is curation.

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