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So Close to the Monster

Gilberto Perez: The Trouble with Being Cuban, 22 June 2000

On Becoming Cuban: Identity, Nationality and Culture 
by Louis Pérez Jr..
North Carolina, 579 pp., £31.95, October 1999, 0 8078 2487 9
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... and ‘Jr’, not Spanish at all. For a good many years in the US I used my full name, Gilberto Pérez Guillermo – the paired last names, my father’s followed by my mother’s, being the custom in Hispanic countries – but this meant that everybody called me by the last one unless I hyphenated the two. (It didn’t occur to me to join ...

Slices of Cake

Gilberto Perez: Alfred Hitchcock, 19 August 1999

Hitchcock’s Secret Notebooks: An Authorised and Illustrated Look Inside the Creative Mind of Alfred Hitchcock 
by Dan Auiler.
Bloomsbury, 567 pp., £20, May 1999, 0 7475 4490 5
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... Alfred Hitchcock is famous for planning everything beforehand, shooting his films in his head, never looking through the camera because he knew exactly what he would find. But the photographs in Hitchcock’s Secret Notebooks show him always sitting by the camera. He may not have looked through the viewfinder but he identified with the camera: the eye that knew exactly what it would find, the gaze for whose benefit everything would perform according to plan ...

Looking for Imperfection

Gilberto Perez: John Cassavetes, 23 August 2001

John Cassavetes: Lifeworks 
by Tom Charity.
Omnibus, 257 pp., £10.95, March 2001, 0 7119 7544 2
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Cassavetes on Cassavetes 
edited by Ray Carney.
Faber, 526 pp., £17.99, March 2001, 0 571 20157 1
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... I’m really against nudity in movies,’ Julia Roberts said a while ago. ‘When you act with your clothes on, it’s a performance. When you act with your clothes off, it’s a documentary. I don’t do documentaries.’ Quoting this bit of wit and wisdom in a recent New Yorker piece on Roberts, Anthony Lane wrote: ‘it shows … how remote she is from any European visions of cinema – not just from the relaxed, Old World attitude toward sex but from the European assumption (found lingering in the work of Americans like Robert Altman) that the scent of documentary can and should be allowed to flavour a fictional method ...

‘Who is this Ingrid Bergman?’

Gilberto Perez: Stroheim and Rossellini, 14 December 2000

Stroheim 
by Arthur Lennig.
Kentucky, 514 pp., £25, December 1999, 0 8131 2138 8
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The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini 
by Tag Gallagher.
Da Capo, 802 pp., £16.95, October 1998, 0 306 80873 0
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... He is the best novelist of the films,’ Erwin Piscator said of Erich von Stroheim, whose Wedding March (1928) he likened to a novel by Balzac. That was the last film Stroheim completed as a director. He may be better known as an actor (‘the man you love to hate’, La Grande Illusion, Sunset Boulevard), but in the history of film he made more of a mark as a director ...

Building with Wood

Gilberto Perez: Time and Tarkovsky, 26 February 2009

Tarkovsky 
by Nathan Dunne.
Black Dog, 464 pp., £29.95, February 2008, 978 1 906155 04 9
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Andrei Tarkovsky: Elements of Cinema 
by Robert Bird.
Reaktion, 255 pp., £15.95, April 2008, 978 1 86189 342 0
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... The first film Andrei Tarkovsky shot outside the Soviet Union was Nostalghia – spelled that way because ‘nostalgia’ is too weak an equivalent for the Russian word, the Russian emotion. Made in Italy in 1982-83, it begins with a visit to the Tuscan church where Piero della Francesca painted his fresco of the pregnant Virgin Mary, the Madonna del Parto ...

House of Miscegenation

Gilberto Perez: Westerns, 18 November 2010

Hollywood Westerns and American Myth 
by Robert Pippin.
Yale, 198 pp., £25, May 2010, 978 0 300 14577 9
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... The hero of the Toy Story trilogy is a toy cowboy. In Toy Story 3 when the toys belonging to Andy, now about to leave for college, find themselves at a daycare centre, and a kindly bear welcomes them into a community of toys freed from their owners, the cowboy alone stays loyal to Andy; and when the toy bear turns out to be a dictator worse than any owner, the cowboy, who was never persuaded by the rhetoric of toy solidarity, is proved right ...

It’s a playground

Gilberto Perez: Kiarostami et Compagnie, 27 June 2002

Close-Up: Iranian Cinema, Past, Present and Future 
by Hamid Dabashi.
Verso, 302 pp., £15, November 2001, 1 85984 332 8
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... A photograph of Abbas Kiarostami in Hamid Dabashi’s book shows him crouching over a frying pan that has two eggs in it. Beside him, and like him focused on the eggs, is the original movie camera invented by Lumière. The photograph was taken during the shooting of Lumière et compagnie, a film which, on the 100th anniversary of Lumière’s invention, enlisted film-makers from all over the world to make one-minute shorts using the original camera ...

Self-Illuminated

Gilberto Perez: Godard’s Method, 1 April 2004

Godard: A Portrait of the Artist at 70 
by Colin MacCabe.
Bloomsbury, 432 pp., £25, November 2003, 0 7475 6318 7
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... I have no use for a writer who directs my attention to himself and to his wit instead of the people he is interpreting,’ Jean-Luc Godard said in one of his early articles for Cahiers du cinéma. From the beginning Godard liked to be contrary. In a magazine that championed a cinema of personal expression and was to proclaim la politique des auteurs, he was declaring in favour of the self-effacing author ...

How We Remember

Gilberto Perez: Terrence Malick, 12 September 2013

... The family is moving out of town, and as the car drives away the mother looks back at the house they’re leaving behind. ‘The only way to be happy is to love,’ she says in voiceover. ‘Unless you love … your life will flash by.’ We cut to her point of view and, through the car’s rear window, see the pale green two-storey house receding down the quiet street ...

Bourgeois Nightmares

Gilberto Perez: Michael Haneke, 6 December 2012

... What I want,’ a young Luis Buñuel announced to the audience at an early screening of his first film, Un Chien Andalou (1929), ‘is for you not to like the film … I’d be sorry if it pleased you.’ The film’s opening scene, which culminates in a close-up of a straight-edge razor being drawn through a woman’s eyeball, is often taken as the epitome of cinema’s potential to do violence to its audience ...

Cheerfully Chopping up the World

Michael Wood: Film theory, 2 July 1998

The Material Ghost: Films and Their Medium 
by Gilberto Perez.
Johns Hopkins, 466 pp., £25, April 1998, 0 8018 5673 6
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On the History of Film Style 
by David Bordwell.
Harvard, 322 pp., £39.95, February 1998, 0 674 63428 4
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Gilles Deleuze's Time Machine 
by D.N. Rodowick.
Duke, 260 pp., £46.95, October 1997, 0 8223 1962 4
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The Aesthetics and Psychology of the Cinema 
by Jean Mitry, translated by Christopher King.
Athlone, 405 pp., £45, February 1998, 0 485 30084 2
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Signs and Meaning in the Cinema 
by Peter Wollen.
BFI, 188 pp., £40, May 1998, 0 85170 646 0
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... know if I’m entitled to call this horror a horror.’ ‘This is the gangster as comic hero,’ Gilberto Perez says of Goodfellas. The formulation sounds wrong, but only because we tend to think of comedy as comfortable. The voice-over narration, Perez says, ‘is in itself no more comic than the action, but the ...

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