In today’s mail: Directory of World Cinema: Belgium, edited by Marcelline Block and Jeremi Szaniawski. Bristol, UK/Chicago, USA: Intellect Books, 332 pp., $31.95 from Amazon.
Discovered today on the Internet (at YouTube): 17 films by James Benning: five shorts (Two Cabins, Short Story, Two Faces, Postscript, Youtube) and a dozen features (Twenty Cigarettes, Ten Skies, One Way Boogie Woogie, Easy Rider, The War, Faces, After Warhol, Small Roads, Nightfall [see above photo], BNSF, casting a glance, Stemple Pass).
In both cases, untold riches. Just for starters, the book offers countless reviews and essays by 38 contributors exploring multiple facets of a neglected subject, the first detailed account I know in English of all the features of André Delvaux, fascinating interviews with Chantal Akerman and Boris Lehman (including the former’s description of The Misfits as “a documentary about Marilyn Monroe undergoing a depression” and the “extremely accurate, just relationship” between people and space in John Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath), reflections on Jean-Claude Van Damme and “Belgium as Cinematic ‘Non-space’”. The Benning bounty includes five film that I’ve already seen and a dozen more that I haven’t .
Demurrals and caveats: Many of the essays and reviews are translations into English (a plus), not always idiomatic or graceful (a minus), so that we’re told that Delvaux “considered his bi-cultural background to be a riches [sic],” and, in the useful bibliography, three separate essays by Frédéric Sojcher are said to have been published in a “special issue about Cahiers du Cinéma” rather than a “special issue of Cahiers du Cinéma”. And YouTube is far from being the best way to look at James Benning’s films; seeing his single-shot Nightfall (2013) at Chicago’s Music Box was one of my key viewing experiences of last year, but I doubt it would have registered at all if I’d watched it on my computer.
Mixed bags, in other words. But undoubtedly plentiful ones that we obviously have to contend with, until or unless the world around us changes so radically that all the riches of the book become available to us in better English and all the films of Benning become available on movie screens. [4/24/14]