Friday, September 23, 2011

Five best film directors in fictional form

Award winning film historian Patrick McGilligan's new book is Nicholas Ray: The Glorious Failure of an American Director.

One of McGilligan's five best film directors in fictional form, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
The New Confessions
by William Boyd (1988)

In William Boyd's grand pastiche of a novel, a Scotsman named John James Todd learns to handle a camera while making battlefield propaganda films during World War I. He moves in the Berlin of the 1920s, where F.W. Murnau and Fritz Lang are turning silent-filmmaking into an art form. Todd has his own movie-making dream: a three-part epic of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's "The Confessions." He makes fitful efforts to film the story over the coming years, but romantic and professional complications intervene. Todd ends up in Hollywood making inferior westerns and honing his tennis game while still dreaming of his Rousseau project. During the postwar Hollywood blacklisting period, Todd's movie work dries up—his fellow-traveling during the 1920s is his undoing—and retreats to a Mediterranean villa to write his memoirs. "The New Confessions" may be the best of all novels involving a movie director, because it perfectly captures the monomaniacal quality common to filmmakers. I wonder why this darkly comic tour de force isn't more widely known; perhaps because, fortunately or not, nobody has made it into a movie.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue