Shots in the Dark - Jonathan Baumbach

Film Desk Books


Shots in the Dark: Writings on Film by Jonathan Baumbach, preface by Philip Lopate / ISBN 9780999468340 / 192-page paperback from Cat Thread Books / Film Desk Books


Shots in the Dark collects all of novelist and critic Jonathan Baumbach’s writings on film together for the first time. Includes major essays on directors such as Jean-Luc Godard, Michelangelo Antonioni, Orson Welles, Brian De Palma and Robert Bresson, an autobiographical reflection on how his cinephilia has influenced his writing, a set visit to the debut film directed by his son Noah Baumbach, a consideration of fellow critic Pauline Kael, and a film-inspired poem written toward the end of his life.

Jonathan Baumbach (1933-2019) was born in Brooklyn and was the author of seventeen books, including, Separate Hours, Reruns, Babble, The Life and Times of Major Fiction and A Man to Conjure With. He taught in the English department at Brooklyn College for over 30 years where he helped establish the MFA in creative writing. In 1974, he co-founded the Fiction Collective with Peter Spielberg, the first American non-profit author-run publishing house for experimental fiction. He has written extensively on film and is a former two-time chairman of the National Society of Film Critics. His first reviews were written in 1957 for Jonas Mekas’s Film Culture when he was 23 years old and in the army. From 1973 to 1981, he was the regular film critic for Partisan Review.

“With this welcome collection, Jonathan Baumbach, known for his wry, take-no-prisoners experimental fiction, is revealed in retrospect to have been a brilliant film critic. In an era bristling with formidable commentators on the movies, Baumbach, we see now, was one of the sharpest. Writing for quarterlies such as Film Culture and Partisan Review, he could absent himself from the hype-manufacturing competition of daily/weekly reviewers, and weigh in with thoughtful, elegant prose, astute judgment and a dose of skepticism after the initial hoopla had died down… His film criticism brings us into the healing presence of a fully evolved, lively intelligence. We are grateful to have this scintillating and engaging and long-overdue collection.”—Philip Lopate, from his Preface.

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