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The following book has been received and needs a reviewer.
The Material Ghost: Films and Their Medium
(Johns Hopkins University Press,1998)
Publication date: 19 April 1998
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Gilberto Perez's love of film dates to his childhood in Havana, 'a great
town for going to the movies.' His favorite theater was the Capri, which
showed an astonishing variety of films from all over the world. And his
regular companion at the movies was his father, a doctor who brought a
passion for literature and the arts to his enjoyment of film -- and passed
that sensibility to his son. 'I grew up with the movies as art,' writes
Perez, 'and with art not as something stuffy and affected but as something
vital, like the movies.'
In _The Material Ghost_, Perez draws on his life-long love of the movies as
well as his work as a film scholar to write an engaging study of films and
filmmakers and the nature of the art form. For Perez, film is complex and
richly contradictory -- a medium both lifelike and dreamlike, both
documentary and fictional, where real details create imaginary worlds,
where figures appear before us like actors on a stage and yet are removed
from us like characters in a novel. He investigates these complexities by
discussing a breathtaking range of works from the earliest days of cinema
to the present.
From the silent era, he explores the work of Keaton and Chaplin, Griffith
and Eisenstein, the haunting anxiety of Murnau's _Nosferatu_ and the epic
lyricism of Dovzhenko's _Earth_. From the classic era of sound cinema, he
discusses the searching realism of Jean Renoir and the memorable westerns
of John Ford, Bunuel's corrosive documentary _Land without Bread_ and
Hitchcock's mesmerizing _Vertigo_. From the sixties and seventies, he
examines the shifting parables of Jean-Luc Godard and the arresting
uncertainty of Antonioni's _Eclipse_, Straub and Huillet's reflective
_History Lessons_ and such explosive Hollywood films as _The Wild Bunch_
and _The Godfather_. He also comments on the current scene, including the
refashioned gangster films of Martin Scorcese and the philosophical realism
of the Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami.
_The Material Ghost_ is a book for all intelligent movie watchers, offering
new theoretical conceptions and penetrating critical insights that work
together to deepen our awareness of the art of film. 'The images on the
screen,' writes Perez, 'carry in them something of the world itself,
something material, and yet something transposed, transformed into another
world: the material ghost. Hence both the peculiar closeness to reality and
the no less peculiar suspension from reality, the juncture of world and
otherworldliness distinctive of the film image.'
Gilberto Perez is professor of film studies at Sarah Lawrence College and
film critic for the _Yale Review_.
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