Independent choice: film books

Pick of the week

Imagining Reality: The Faber Book of Documentary

Documentary film is a curiously neglected art - routinely underfunded, pushed out of schedules by TV franchises. Yet there's a case to be made that documentary, and not the plays of Dennis Potter, represent the true innovative soul of TV. Recent mainstream cinema successes like Hoop Dreams and Crumb seem to prove its enduring appeal, and innovations in camcorder technology allow it to cover new territories, as the BBC's superbly Reithian Video Nation proves.

We can, reckon the editors of the exceptionally good Imagining Reality: The Faber Book of Documentary (Faber, pounds 20), expect to see a new wave of film directors come forth from bedsits with nothing more than a Hi-8 camcorder. Just as the 1970s bred directors from commercials and the 1980s from pop promos, Kevin Macdonald and Mark Cousins predict that home-movies will breed the next Orson Welles. It's a convincing and optimistic hypothesis, another example of that elusive swinging-Sixties re-run that cultural commentators claim to see everywhere in England.

Though Imagining Reality looks a little pedestrian from the cover, it contains a wealth of brilliant editorial choices (including the extraordinary documentary segment where Alan Clark, unrepentent to John Pilger about the export of arms to dodgy regimes, admits he's more worried about the lot of animals than humans). By concentrating on the words of the film- makers, the editors have avoided the abyss of film studies and kept to a more creative tack. From Nanook of the North to Leni Reifenstahl to the live murder during the Rolling Stones' Gimme Shelter or Warhol filming Marcel Ophuls drinking a quart of whisky, there seems no end to the richness of the genre. It's a rare thing for a definitive reference book to be so inspirational, as this certainly is.

Meanwhile, the BFI provides another treat in the guise of new additions to their Film Classics series (all pounds 6.99), an imaginative venture that has included Salman Rushdie on The Wizard of Oz. Les Enfants du Paradis by Jill Forbes is a fascinating account of the production of Marcel Carne's film against all the odds and a German occupation. Alberto Manguel's feisty critique of James Whale's Bride of Frankenstein teases out the film's homoerotic strands and produces a dextrous meditation on the cinematic idea of the monster. Scots novelist A L Kennedy has written a good appreciation of Powell/Pressburger's masterpiece Colonel Blimp - the film Churchill tried to ban as unpatriotic. Kennedy's downbeat Scots scepticism on the British class system makes her a vivid writer on the subject. David Thomson turns in a respectable The Big Sleep, the Bogart-Bacall classic he claims inaugurates a "post-modern, camp, satirical view about movies" of the type now favoured by Tarantino.

Howard Hawks (who directed The Big Sleep) is also honoured in a collection of essays from BFI Books, Howard Hawks: American Artist (pounds l3.99). And Martin Scorsese discusses Hawks' big influence on his own films in Scorsese on Scorsese (edited by David Thompson and Ian Christie, Faber, pounds 8.99), an excellent book of occasional pieces from the most cinematically literate of all current American directors.

Some lively polemic appears in Ill effects: The Media/Violence Debate (edited by Martin Barker and Julian Petley, Routledge, pounds 12.99). These essays show how easy it is to demolish the arguments of the pro-censorship lobby, and the media's dishonest pandering to it. Mark Kermode seems to touch on a core theme: that the desire to control others' viewing in some way mirrors the parent's fear of losing control over a teenager. A prime candidate for the red pencil is, of course, David Cronenberg's script of Crash (Faber, pounds 7.99), which you'll just have to make do with until we get a chit from nanny. Otherwise, hop on the Eurostar and see it in Paris.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone