We’ll Always Have Casablanca by Noah Isenberg reviewed by Barry Forshaw William Goldman once said about Hollywood that ‘nobody knows anything’, and the enduring success of the Michael Curtiz classic Casablanca surely proves that notion: nobody involved with its making was quite able to explain why it became the most beloved film of Hollywood’s golden age. Actually, the answer is easy — the production line elements assembled for the film (stars – Bogart, Bergman, Lorre, Rains et al, director – Curtiz , writers – the Epsteins, score – Steiner, etc. ) were at the peaks of their creativity, though most regarded this as just another film. But here (particularly regarding the superb screenplay – ‘Round up the usual suspects!’- every element was perfectly judged. And Noah Isenberg’s insightful analysis of the success of the film fully justifies the book’s subtitle ‘The Life, Legend and Afterlife of Hollywood’s Most Beloved Movie’. The publisher Faber has a long and impressive record as a source of film books, and this fascinating study will add further lustre to their reputation. We’ll Always have Casablanca by Noah Isenberg is published by Faber
As someone who earns their crust writing about crime fiction and films, I have to confess that I particularly enjoy covering (whenever I can) another passion of mine: horror films. But in that area, I defer to my friend and colleague Kim Newman, who is the unchallenged doyen in this territory. His intelligent and often unsparing reviews have graced the pages of magazines from Empire to Sight and Sound to the late, lamented Video Watchdog. Although he and I have our disagreements about films (Kim doesn’t get The Exorcist), we concur on a great many things. But reading this weighty and fascinating collection of reviews written for his column in Empire magazine (heavily repurposed here – Newman is like Stanley Kubrick in that something by him is rarely finished), I realised – as if I needed reminding – that he is an omnivore of the horror field who brooks no rivals. In fact, I got to page 73 of the book before I encountered a film I’d seen (and I consider myself a connoisseur of the obscure). As a trawl through the (mostly modern) lesser-known byways of the genre, this collection will become a must-have addition for any collector’s library, particularly for those seeking something off the beaten track. You will search in vain for mainstream fare here; it is simply off the agenda. One of the real pleasures of the book (apart from the quality of the writing) is the fact that Newman is utterly even-handed in his discussion of the films under review, applying an unflinching cudgel to the dully meretricious, but finding merit in the films that try to do something unusual with the genre. It is an essential collection – but those with solely mainstream tastes will not be tempted.
Kim Newman’s Video Dungeon: The Collected Reviews is published by Titan
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me by Maura McHugh Maura McHugh is a writer with a pronounced taste for the bizarre and the off-kilter; her books include Twisted Myths and Twisted Fairytales, while her comics work (sometimes co-authored with Kim Newman) shows a similar predilection for the pleasingly unorthodox. All of which makes her the perfect author for a study of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, David Lynch’s cult film continuation of his groundbreaking television series. McHugh has the full measure of the director’s surrealistic vision, and in prose that is always cogent and expressive, she executes a double task: analysing material that resists analysis and obliging readers to pick up the DVD of Lynch’s film once again. And what more should a film book do?
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me by Maura McHugh is published by Midnight Movie Monographs/PS Publishing