Regular readers of Horrorview are probably growing weary of the praise I lavish upon the books released by Focal Press, but I just can’t help myself! Focal Press is responsible for some of the most invaluable resources for filmmakers, photographers, and anyone who aspires to be a player in the visual arts, and there’s a level of care and attention to detail so often absent in volumes released by lesser publishers. As a photographer, I’ve amassed quite a collection of Focal Press titles that I consider essential to my work, but, as a fan and student of cinema, I’m equally drawn to their ever-growing stable of books about the motion picture industry, especially their superlative FilmCraft series.
Mike Goodridge, co-author of the series’ debut title, Cinematography, returns with Directing, which continues the FilmCraft tradition of in-depth, “in their own words” style dissections of some of the best filmmakers working today, as well as the legendary masters who inspired many of them. Consisting of essays, extensive interviews, and hundreds of photographs (and, in some cases, actual storyboards, notes, and assorted scribblings), the book is something of a master class conducted by sixteen of the world’s most acclaimed directors, including Clint Eastwood, Pedro Almodovar, Michael Haneke, Stephen Frears, as well as genre favorites Guillermo Del Toro, Terry Gilliam, and Park Chan-wook.
The thing I enjoy most about this series is the fact that no two chapters are alike, with each subject presented in a unique fashion befitting their style, and Directing continues that trend. Eastwood’s chapter, for example, is delivered in a first-person folksy narrative by the director, himself, in which he “discusses” (through interview snippets and quotes”) his films, inspirations, and approach to the craft in great detail. Conversely, the chapter focusing on Del Toro’s work is more dynamic, with breakdowns of his Hellboy films, a discussion about his childhood in Mexico and how it influenced his work, and an emphasis on the fantastical elements that he incorporates into his movies. It’s not only the content that differs from chapter to chapter, but also the way said content is laid out, with jazzier colors and sidebars adorning the decidedly more maverick directors’ pages, and a more staid design employed for the “classic” practitioners. There are also a series of Legacy essays focusing on Hitchcock, Bergman, Godard, Ford, and Kurosawa, each featuring a brief-yet-thorough overview of their most important works.
I’m sure many readers are wondering how anyone can write a book about the craft of directing and not feature the likes of Scorcese, De Palma, Coppola, or Spielberg. Personally, I applaud Goodridge’s choice not to include such obvious choices as much deserved ink has already been spilled about them. The directors assembled here offer readers a much more varied, truly international look at the craft, with both veterans (Frears, Peter Weir, Eastwood) and comparatively young guns (Park, Del Toro, Olivier Assayas) well represented. I also appreciated the inclusion of lesser-known (at least to American audiences) maestros such as Hungarian director Istvan Szabo, Turkish up-and-comer Nuri Bilge Ceylan, and Israel’s Amos Gitai.
As with all of the books in this fantastic series, FilmCraft’s Directing should be considered essential reading, not just for film students, but for fans of cinema in general. The interviews and essays are fascinating, the hundreds of color photographs are a feast for the eyes, and the care and attention to detail with which the book is assembled makes it a both a joy to read and an attractive volume for your collection. Highly recommended!