Sensory Deprivation

Toledo, Ohio, USA, 1974 Image © Bernd and Hilla Becher

Gas Tanks

Bernd and Hilla Becher

“The famous Düsseldorf photographers’ formal investigation of industrial structures displays their serenely cool, rigorous approach to the structures they photograph as variations on an ideal form. The Bechers make no attempt to analyze or explain their subjects. For more than 35 years, the Bechers have been creating a monument to the most venerable buildings of the industrial era through their photographic art. They have re-awoken the forgotten or unnoticed beauty of water towers, gas holders, lime kilns and blast furnaces, and their photographs have told the story of the process of industrialization. Their head-on, deadpan photographs express an almost Egyptial sense of man’s heroic effort to put his mark on the landscape. Gas Tanks presents four principally different forms of gas holders or gas tanks taken over three decades.”

Publisher: MIT
Hardback: 144 pages


Behind the Mask of Innocence: Sex, Violence, Crime—Films of Social Conscience in the Silent Era

Kevin Brownlow

An extensively researched look at the lost era of silent movies dealing with the seamier side of life (abortion, drugs, bootlegging, red-light districts, opium dens, political corruption, poverty, venereal disease) and political issues such as labor unrest, women’s suffrage and the Russian Revolution. Beautifully illustrated with stills from films like Human Wreckage, The Devil’s Needle, City Gone Wild, The Godless Girl (a women-in-prison flick directed by Cecil B. DeMille) and The Cocaine Traffic, many of which no longer exist in any form due to neglect. SS

Publisher: University of California
Paperback: 606 pages

Bela Lugosi

Edited by Gary J. and Susan Sveha

Bela Lugosi achieved Hollywood fame as Dracula and went out the same way, buried in the character’s cape and ring. As much as he tried, he couldn’t escape his “swarthy foreigner” typecasting. And that accent—like some Hungarian hillbilly! Female fans loved it, though, and even today Lugosi’s good looks still spell S-E-X. A series of essays by different authors, “this book covers Lugosi’s films from the pre-Dracula early sound era, details his Universal and 1930’s classics, investigates his stint on poverty row at Monogram and PRC in the 1940s, and explores his downward spiral, working with Ed Wood for drug money in the 1950s.” Undead, indeed. GR

Publisher: Midnight Marquee
Paperback: 312 pages

Billy Wilder in Hollywood

Maurice Zolotow

Bio of the legendary, cranky Kraut whose track record for quality films remains unparalleled. One of the most talented and evil people ever to work in Hollywood, this guy really could squeeze blood out of a stone! The epitome of the “sacred monster.” MG

Publisher: Limelight
Paperback: 396 pages

Black Action Films

James Robert Parish and George H. Hill

An alphabetical film-by-film listing of the classic blaxploitation films (Shaft, Superfly) which also covers related Hollywood fare like In the Heat of the Night, Rocky IV and 48HRS. Notable for digging up such obscurities as Black Gestapo and Dr. Black and Mr. Hyde, Black Action Films is valuable also for being one of the few sources for “making of” info on lesser-known blaxploitation gems as The Mack (a cinéma verité look at the rise of an Oaktown pimp starring the screenwriter of Cleopatra Jones and written by an incarcerated pimp) and The Spook Who Sat by the Door (the bloody tale of a renegade black CIA agent turned urban guerrilla). SS

Publisher: McFarland
Hardback: 385 pages

Bob Flanagan: Supermasochist

Edited by Andrea Juno and V. Vale

This in-depth book on one of the most honest artists of the 20th century gives riveting insight into the age-old issues of sex/death, pain/pleasure and the relationship between life and art. Bob Flanagan lived with the terminal disease cystic fibrosis (he died in early 1996) and spent a lifetime exploring the limits of his own flesh through a sadomasochistic relationship with Mistress and photographer Sheree Rose. Luckily for us, their relationship produced an important and insightful body of art, incorporating poetry, performance, photography and site-specific installations. In these 120 image-packed pages we see most of Bob’s life/work, from the early SM performances with Sheree (such as the Amok-sponsored “Nailed” event) to the seminal “Visiting Hours” exhibit at the Santa Monica Museum of Art. Several of his poems are published in full (he had published five books), the interviews are candid with the humor of a man bravely staring death in the face. A book in which the personal illuminates the universal, this is a not-to-be-missed journey of human transcendence through art. MDH

Publisher: V/Search
Paperback: 130 pages

Bridge of Light: Yiddish Film Between Two Worlds

J. Hoberman

As established in the recent cultural history An Empire of Their Own, the monolithic Hollywood studio system has, from its inception, been primarily a Jewish-run operation. Yet by delving into the low-budget movies shot in Yiddish and made for a primarily Jewish audience, Village Voice film critic J. Hoberman has excavated not only an overlooked chapter of film history but also a compelling history of the real-life Jewish experience from the era of the Russian pogroms until the establishment of the Hebrew-speaking state of Israel. He brings to life Yiddish cinema and its relation to the once-roaring Yiddish theater world of New York (also a breeding ground for such Hollywood talent as Edward G. Robinson and Eddie Cantor) and shows how ironically they both functioned as a secularizing force setting both American and Soviet Jews on the road from blind tradition and rabbinical oppression.
Hoberman also establishes Yiddish film’s connections to Hollywood movie history with examples such as Jimmy Cagney’s fluent, rapid-fire cameo as the Yiddish-speaking, Irish-American cabbie in Taxi! (1932) and the early Yiddish talkies of B-movie directing genius Ed Ulmer (Detour, The Black Cat), who is regarded as having created the greatest artistic moment in Yiddish film with the earthy shtetl-nostalgia flick Grine Felder (Green Fields). Bridge of Light also explores the Yiddish-language European art films such as the truly gloom-laden, Hasidic-Gothic of The Dybbuk, shot in the years before the almost total demise of the Jewish population of Poland. This book contains the story of how Yiddish-speaking, often culturally avant-garde, politically radical, sexually libertine and ultimately tragic Jews, persevered to create their own cinema under adverse circumstances which would make the Sundance Festival-feted “scrappy” indie filmmakers of today shrink back in abject terror. SS

Publisher: Pantheon
Hardback: 350 pages

Broken Mirrors/Broken Minds: The Dark Dreams of Dario Argento

Maitland McDonagh

“In the final analysis films are films and dreams are dreams: no one can reasonably deny that they’re the end results of different processes, with different life spans, frames of reference and spheres of influence. And yet there are respects in which they resemble one another, and horror films—more than any other genre-flirt with the patterns of enunciation associated with dreams. In this respect you can hardly resist the temptation to speak of Dario Argento’s films as dark dreams of death and night and blood, to borrow Yukio Mishima’s rapturously apt phrase.”

Publisher: Citadel
Paperback: 299 pages

Bruce Lee: Fighting Spirit

Bruce Thomas

First, I should confess to being something of a Bruce Lee virgin. I have not read any other books or articles on him, nor owned a poster of his famous, glistening, muscle-happy torso. Indeed, I hadn’t even seen one of his movies until, in 1996, I finally saw Enter the Dragon. I counted my ignorance a huge advantage in appraising this labor of quite obsessive love by the ubiquitous pop guitarist and dedicated Bruce Lee apologist Bruce Thomas, even as I found my frail sensibility freezing under his unnecessarily repetitive bludgeoning with an overpowering surfeit of insistent adoration.
Certain “wise” lessons and speculations as to Bruce Lee’s motives are clumsily repeated and paraphrased over and over again, in a flawed and ungainly attempt to direct the reader’s opinion. One feels sure that Bruce Thomas wrote and rewrote certain key paragraphs, initially intending to use the best and most flowing (ironically, just like Lee’s jeet kune do) but that in the end he used all of them without discernment, either because he could not honestly select the most effective or because he was too indecisive to act.
Undisciplined writing style aside, the reader is vividly presented with a churlish and rather brutal Bruce Lee who revels in violent street fights and the physical dominance of any and all peers. A pragmatic misfit whose initial attraction to the more formal wing chun system seems to have been primarily to improve his ability in order to beat more rivals into bloody submission, in many ways Lee is a classic “nasty piece of work.”
He was a narcissistically motivated man whose fanatacism grew exponentially to the point of him becoming completely devoid of any socially or self-imposed boundaries as to what he could achieve. Such ambitious amorality resonates throughout this revealing book alongside Lee’s increasingly contradictory but refreshingly clear comprehension of the poetic and mystical implications of his extraordinary martial skills.
There is a feeling that his entire career became a synthetic metaphor for a modern cultural collision: Chinese tradition focused by mercurial American commercialism and the fervor of notoriety induced by Hollywood fame, counterbalanced by the deceptiveness of his Asian blend of joviality and occasional obsequiousness. Yes, this guy was a compelling mess: a stunningly balletic thug with an inferiority complex so voracious and gross that his insatiable ego seems to have expired from the sheer shock of realizing that all media projections are entirely vacuous.
As Bruce Lee’s nature unfolds, he is revealed as a psychotically driven victim of his own ambitious, greedy fantasy, a disintegrating genius who, despite his credulous confusion over the altruism of fame, still remained one hell of a sight in those fight scenes and, apparently, a truly inspiring asshole of a teacher.
Was he that good? That fast? Thomas quotes director Robert Clouse: “All I can say is, he had the fastest reflexes I’ve ever seen. In one shot… In order to see his hand lash out and hit… we had to speed the camera up to 30 frames a second. At normal speed it didn’t show on film.” So there you have it. Oh, and yes, drugs were involved in his death. A rare “allergy” to hashish in his brain was the discreet source of his demise.
As to his legacy. Well, thousands of martial arts teachers all over the world with a thousand names and variations of mind-body discipline are making a decent enough living, which is probably no bad thing. Although it remains a truism and a practical reservation to ask what good is any of this when one is faced with a nervous idiot with a gun? His other surprising legacy? Well, I would suggest that more than anything else, Bruce Lee legitimized for the first time the phenomenon of “normal” hetero “real” men drooling and fawning over the compact and perfected physique of another male without phobic guilt, even to the extreme of it being OK to grow up with pin-up posters of that stripped-to-the-waist icon on their bedroom door. GPO

Publisher: Frog
Paperback: 329 pages

Bruce Lee: The Tao of the Dragon Warrior

Louis Chunovic

An amazing treasure trove of Bruce Lee photos, rare black-and-white film stills, and color spreads, compiled with the cooperation of his family. The text tells the story of Bruce Lee from his Hong Kong boyhood to his martial arts superstardom. Chapters include: “Yip Man and the Hong Kong Kid,” “Small Screen, Big Impact,” “The Tao of Hollywood,” ending with “The Game.” Dynamic, deluxe Hong Kong graphic design shows that their film directors aren’t the only ones leading the pack. OAA

Publisher: St. Martin's
Paperback: 104 pages


Rose-Marie and Ranier Hagen

Working in the second half of the 16th century, Bruegel was naturally acquainted with the work of his countryman Hieronymus Bosch, who died several years before Bruegel was born. And he followed Bosch’s lead in depicting diabolical demons and phantasmic, apocalyptic visions. But this book demonstrates that in addition to being a mysterious and satirical social commentator, Bruegel was, perhaps more interestingly, a philosopher. His biblical or mythological paintings emphasized an extreme naturalism integrating contemporary detail and sensibility into universal themes. And he was an empirical scientist interested in up-to-date scientific achievements as well as in expressing advanced knowledge of perspective and techniques of depiction. With simplicity, the authors describe the times in which the work was produced, and give voice to its relevance. JTW

Publisher: Taschen
Paperback: 96 pages