Archive for the ‘book review’ category
This month marks the 80th birthday of Roman Polanski: a man who remains one of the most controversial figures in popular culture, and one of the most brilliant filmmakers of all time. To coincide with the auteur’s birthday, James Greenberg (The Hollywood Reporter, Los Angeles Magazine, DGA Quarterly), has published a lavish, beautifully illustrated coffee-table book, Roman Polanski: A Retrospective, that tackles one of the most famous–and infamous–directors in film history.
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Oh Taschen. Yummy, delectable, I-want-to-devour-you-whole Tahhhh-Shen. So beautiful. So sumptuous. SO expensive. And yet, somehow, worth every blessed cent. Your anthologies agonize me with want. I covet your sweetly binded spines and secretly despise those who have your volumes proudly displayed on their hand-crafted cabinetry. I’m a hater, what can I say?
I own one Taschen volume, their recent , and countless other titles clutter my wish list. ( : Portrait of a CityThe Stanley Kubrick Archives, anyone?) But their newest release has been automatically scratched from any such “wish” list and sent straight to the top of “must have” indulgences.
My tongue hit the floor when I came across the latest Taschen catalog advertising … a decadently illustrated 300+ page volume chronicling ’60s Rock photographress supreme and the Mother of all Rock moms? I am SO on this one. : A Life in Photographs
Linda McCartney‘s life may very well be overshadowed by the incalculably large shadow of her legendary husband (she married a Beatle for goshsakes– and not just any Beatle, but one half of the greatest songwriting team of the 20th Century. And you can quote me).
But Linda was hardly a mere footnote in rock history.
She was a chronicler of it.
They met and fell in love like a good old fashioned romance novel. Down to earth, no-frills artsy girl happens upon society’s most eligible, rich, handsome bachelor, and the two fall madly in love, throwing convention to the wind. (The same, interestingly enough, is quite true of the couple’s acutely avant garde counterpart, John and Yoko; although to quite a different reaction … something that is another post altogether…)
Linda was never really just “Mrs. Paul McCartney.” Although she was an inextricable part of Paul’s life and work, straight up to her tragic death at age 56 from breast cancer, she was not only a wife and mother, but an artist.
A formidable one, in her own right, which this new Taschen anthology documents both exquisitely and authoritatively.
Sir Paul McCartney and his fashion-guru daughter Stella, along with siblings Mary, James and (half-sister) Heather, have collaborated to present this highly personal tribute to a striking artistic talent, devoted mother, and truly gracious lady.
The publisher’s description sums it up perfectly:
From her early rock ’n’ roll portraits, through the final years of the Beatles, via touring with Wings to raising four children with Paul, Linda captured her whole world on film. Her shots range from spontaneous family pictures to studio sessions with Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson, as well as artists Willem de Kooning and Gilbert and George. Always unassuming and fresh, her work displays a warmth and feeling for the precise moment that captures the essence of any subject. Whether photographing her children, celebrities, animals, or a fleeting moment of everyday life, she did so without pretension or artifice.
These photos are only a few from the selection of shots that will thrill any fan of 60s rock culture… or indeed, any true fan of photography itself.
All in all, Taschen’s tribute is endearing, heartfelt, and probably their most sentimental volume to date.
I leave you all with my personal favorite Paul and Linda moment. Paul’s campy but oh-so fun music video featuring Michael Jackson, “Say, Say, Say“ (1983), with Linda very much a part of Paul’s company, pitching in the best she can … bless her darling heart.
We love and miss you, Linda!
An MGM crew member once said of Jean Harlow, “We weren’t just workers on her set, we were real to her. If you were sick, she was the first one to notice. The first one to send flowers.” She was also the first one to tell her director ‘Let’s work late tonight so the boys can get to the football game tomorrow.’ And when a studio executive cut crew coffee breaks, she stormed to the office demanding ‘either they get a coffee break or I don’t work.’
While it was her platinum hair, sensuous body and brazen sexuality that made the Jean Harlow image an icon– it was her sincerity, warmth and gentleness of spirit that made her truly beautiful. And it is that beauty– the woman beneath the platinum locks– that the new book Harlow in Hollywood: The Blonde Bombshell in the Glamour Capital, 1928 – 1937 valiantly endeavors to present in a most unprecedented fashion. Read more ►
Taschen is the Rolls Royce of pictorial anthologies… with a price tag to match. But, I finally got my hands on a copy of Taschen’s new Los Angeles, Portrait of a City and have been thoroughly giddy with delight at this truly epic retrospective. Kevin Starr of USC is my personal favorite California historian and his insightful essays give this ever-so-beautiful pictorial history the sort of depth and complexity that is rarely associated with a city known for shallow gloss. But Jim Heimann’s inspired editing, along with Starr’s intimate understanding of this misunderstood city, and David Ulin’s literary intonations (the text is salted with words from Aldoux Huxley, Fitzgerald and the like), gradually unveil the surprisingly complex sociological, political and industrial ramifications that birthed a modern metropolis out of a barren desert.
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The same brand of white-hot prose and ever-so-clever historical fudging that made Glen David Gold’s magical Carter Beats the Devil a critical and popular smash, is alive and well in Sunnyside. Gold’s second novel is a sprawling, intricately crafted telling of the birth of celebrity culture in 20th century America and its worldwide sociological ramifications, with Charlie Chaplin as his muse.
Although Chaplin is very much the central character, Sunnyside isn’t so much about him as it is about the fact of him and, by extension, the mass hysteria caused by the public’s need to project onto a popular figure their own personal needs and desires. (Something that obsesses our society to this very day.) He was the first figure to enter into the world’s collective consciousness through the intensely personal experience of film and, fittingly, Sunnyside opens with an event of mass hallucination: Chaplin being spotted in over 800 different places at the same time on the same day.
From that point on, the fates of three men intertwine and intermingle—although never fully crashing head-on. Hugo Black, a spoiled, brooding man of priggish intellect and a misplaced sense of superiority. The “unfairly handsome” Leland Wheeler, a pleasantly shallow aspiring actor who believes he is destined for fame for reasons he cannot quite explain. And of course, Chaplin, a man who defies definition.
Their hot pursuit of what eludes them most (fame for Leland, affirmation for Hugo and the meaning of it all for Chaplin) results in an exhaustive narrative that travels from the trenches in France to the Russian wilderness to the virgin orange groves of Hollywood and back again, enlisting an all-star supporting cast along the way including Doug Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Kaiser Wilhelm, Adolph Zukor, Edna Purviance, Frances Marion —and my favorite surprise of the book—Rin Tin Tin.
Gold’s solid realization of Chaplin makes him far and away the strongest component of the novel’s narrative braid—he is at once charming, infuriating, hilarious and miserable and demanding of our every attention. When he’s on, we are so there. Which, to be honest, cripples the book somewhat in that the weight and import of Wheeler and Black are questionable. One or two of Sunnyside’s strands could have used cutting (Hugo Black feels an afterthought for purposes of being an object lesson) and this voluminous novel is not with out its share of 7th-inning stretch drags, but were are in the end dazzled enough with Gold’s scope and skill, that we can forgive his persistent flirting with the superfluous.
Gold’s mind-bending blend of imagination, history, reality, surrealism, drama, comedy, pathos, social comment and a dash of magic results in literary alchemy that is a probing page-turner nonetheless.