The newest addition to the FilmCraft series library focuses squarely on what is perhaps the most challenging of cinematic roles: the director. However, despite the complexity of its subject matter, the esteemed Mike Goodridge is able to provide an indelible portrait of the nature of the profession through a diverse array of interviews and profiles of many of the directing titans from around the world (those both working and deceased). From the crusty and sparse work of American icon: Clint Eastwood, to the fantastical, Mexican New-Wave cinematic stories of Guillermo del Toro to the searing and politically charged style of Istvan Szabo, Goodridge fascinating collection of interviews is sure to both provide insightful information in addition to straight up entertainment for both established cinephiles and the curious layman.
FilmCraft Series: Directing is an enormously enjoyable book on both an information and aesthetic level. While obviously hampered by spacial constraints (each one of these directors could have multiple books devoted strictly to them) the book functions primarily at providing a rousing overview of each director’s professional life in addition to highlighting the main elements which constitute the foundation of each artist’s distinctive mise-en-scene. And, even with such constraints in place Goodridge is still able to extract anecdotes and insights that are indeed powerfully illuminating in regards to each respective director. An example of this is strongly realized in the section devoted to Peter Weir, where Weir describes how the age-old philosophy of “less being more” has deeply resonated throughout his work. Weir then describes, in fascinating detail, how this philosophy has directly informed his filmography (such as how much of the dialogue ended up being deleted from the climactic farewell of Harrison Ford’s character from the Amish community in Witness, thus augmenting its emotional power).
All this is well and good. However, film is a visual medium, isn’t it? In this department, FilmCraft also rises to a level of excellence, providing a cache of beautiful high-resolution photos in full color of each director’s most prolific work. The photos that are included focus on the action on both sides of the camera and are presented in full color with varying sizes – some of them encompassing nearly three fourths of a page. Now while these pictures provide yet another layer to the already substantial level of entertainment that the book projects, they are not really integrated into the book’s various explorations of each director’s style. They seem somewhat supplemental and almost utilized in more of a decorative fashion instead of being a primary tool that the book utilizes to visually articulate its content.
FilmCraft Series: Directing would easily be a welcomed addition onto the shelves of any even remotely serious film buff. Possessing a vibrant crop of intriguing, informative and entertaining interviews with some of best directors working today, which are punctuated by a occasional profiles of some of the directing gods (such as Bergman and Kurosawa) who have now left us, the book is a more than worthy buy for anyone even remotely interested in the cinematic arts. Still, outside of providing enjoyable and somewhat slight reading material any additional purpose of the book remains vague and obfuscated. The book is too slim to be considered an adequate source for anyone hoping to bone up on film theory and possesses visuals that add very little to understanding each director’s mise-en-scene or identifying their established tropes. FilmCraft Series: Directing could at best serve as an effective introductory resource for those wishing to broaden their minds away from the cinematic sludge of Michael Bay or Jerry Bruckheimer and discover the figures working to push the medium forward.