Film Forum

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

This book is divided into sections focusing on such topics as cinematography, the actor, structure and rhythm, and the movie business. While this means that the observations of the filmmakers appear somewhat out of the context of the original in-depth interviews from which they are drawn, the selections are usually self-explanatory and well developed. More important, using this format allows the reader easy access to the diversity of opinion on any given subject. No one’s comments stand as the final words on a topic: Jean-Luc Godard’s emphatic distrust of professional actors, for example, is followed immediately by Robert Altman’s equally emphatic statement about how much a director can gain by trusting well-cast professional actors. Structured as it is, the book reads like the report of a huge symposium, gathering artists whose disagreements are always amiable and helpful because of their intense, shared passion for film-making.

More than anything else, Oumano’s book offers a wealth of anecdotal material that might otherwise be unavailable. For example, it is interesting to hear Martin Scorsese brood over the end of a great era in film in an interview given on the day Alfred Hitchcook died, a death that obviously troubled Scorsese greatly; and Dusan Makavejev tells a wonderful story about how worn-out prints of films can add unintended cinematic effects: Splices to repair breaks introduce jump cuts, and scratches built up over repeated screenings may show up as rain when projected.

The particular selection of filmmakers interviewed seems to reinforce the unfortunate but common notion that contemporary cinema is basically an American-European enterprise: Third World directors are nearly invisible here. Nevertheless, the range of filmmakers interviewed is impressive. Some are well-known (Godard, Altman, Lina Wertmuller, Milos Forman), while others are hardly known at all, especially to commercial film audiences (Benoit Jacquot, Philip Messina, Chantal Akerman). Especially because the interview format allows for a kind of immediacy and spontaneity that frequently result in fascinating comments on their art, Oumano’s book will draw new attention to the works of these contemporary filmmakers.