A rather eclectic group of books this instalment, which range from the serious to the paranoid to the smutty. Fabulous!
Parviz Jahed is an enthusiastic and knowledgeable authorial voice on Iranian cinematic matters to be added to a list which includes, among others, Ali Issari, Hamid Dabashi and Hamid Sadr. Jahed has been close to the Iranian film scene for many years and displays a deep historical knowledge from his unique vantage point as an Iranian and as a transplanted European. He has also been involved with filmmaking as his excellent documentary, Bonjour Mr Ghaffari, demonstrates. All these factors make his account of the historical and critical development of Iranian film, Iran: Directory of World Cinema, as authoritative as could be expected in this concise a book. As is the format for this series of Intellect Books (which seem to pop up like mushrooms on a very regular basis), the book consists of focused thematic essays followed by critical appraisals of key films. There can be a certain unevenness in the editorial quality, consistency and scholarly rigour of some of the titles in the series, but Jahed’s book exemplifies the best of them. He has taken on much of the essay writing himself and has turned a critical eye on many of the films – in many ways this could have been a single author work although there are some fine contributions from others, notably Saeed Aghighi’s essay, ‘The New Wave Movement 1969-1979’. Many claims have been made for New Wave and contemporary Iranian cinema as any recent university syllabus will illustrate, but what is most interesting in Jahed’s book is his overview of the lesser-known territory of early Iranian cinema through the fascinating account of Film Farsi (and the Jaheli cycles) and on to an overdue salute to the forerunners of the New Wave such as Farrokh Ghaffari and Ebrahim Golestan. All in all a fresh and intelligently pithy story of Iranian cinema.
Rimbaud called for a systematic derangement of the senses in order to capture poetic essence and authenticity – to open oneself up to a different world view. And it is a systematic derangement of all historical sense, as the Preface for Conspiracy Cinema points out, as well as logic and sometimes sanity that is called for in reading David Ray Carter’s utterly fascinating book. Little, if any, writing has been focused solely on this topic and Carter has opened up and shed light into this very dark basement of cinematic endeavour. The sheer range of these theories is breath-taking, and encountering them is to bathe in the unprovable, the illogical and the downright paranoid. All the usual conspiratorial topics are present and accounted for: the two Kennedy assassinations, the Martin Luther King assassination, Diana, the ‘extermination’ of Koresh and his followers at Waco, Elvis, 9-11, to name a few of the more familiar subjects. But these barely reach the wilder shores of HIV/AIDS conspiracy theories (Department of Defence experiments run wild, UN’s World Health Organisation administering the virus via smallpox injections in order to depopulate Africa, Soviet plots) or secret ionospheric auditory transmissions sent out by the government to alter planetary weather and chemtrails emitted by all passenger jets doctored with aluminium to reduce skin cancers in the service of insurance companies to cut down on skin cancer payouts – and these just suggest the rich but bizarre pickings to be found in Carter’s book. Having viewed hundreds of independently produced films on these and other topics, Carter organises his findings into eight themes and introduces each with a short synopsis of the facts, the official version and the conspiracy theories around them before he reviews the many films addressing each particular theme. Enough said: this book is a terrific, mesmerising and bizarre piece of weird scholarship. Un-put-down-able! Like Wilde said, ‘Beware the half-truth, you may have got hold of the wrong half’.
Finally, there is only space to sing the praises of another breath-taking piece of wonderfully weird cinematic scholarship of sorts, Simon Sheridan’s fascinating antidote to academic texts, Keeping the British End Up, in a new, revised edition. Scrupulously researched and generously illustrated within the covers of a quality Titan publication, the book recounts – in suitably cheeky prose – the, er, rise and fall of… well, you know what! Anyone with an interest in the ‘other’ British cinema, which takes us on a journey from Nudist Paradise through the Confessions series via chapters entitled ‘Comings’, ‘Doings’, ‘…Goings’ and ends with a who’s who of actors and actresses in ‘Knobs and Knockers’, will be unable to resist this book. â€œThe ‘Wisden’ of British smut’ as Matthew Sweet accurately called it.
James B. Evans
GONE… BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
In reviewing Simon Sheridan’s book, Keeping the British End Up, in this month’s Cine Lit column it is only fitting to pay homage to an earlier account of the ruder end (oooh missus!!) of sexy and soft core British cinema once – and still? – reviled and ignored by the critical establishment, the 1992 book, Doing Rude Things: The History of the British Sex Film, 1957 -1981 by David McGillivray. Published by the little-known sun tavern fields press, this was one of the first accounts to historically describe and archive this irresistible stream of sexploitation and low-budget films, which would be screened in only the seediest of Soho’s Macintosh brigade cinemas and no, that ain’t computers we’re referring to! McGillivray lovingly recounts those halcyon and opportunistic days (many a well-known ‘proper’ thespian appeared) and introduces many primary sources in the form of interviews and quotations from those involved. Pamela Green remembers how her nudie films caused such offence to some Women’s Hour listeners that she was invited on the programme to debate them – another time indeed. McGillivray is an informed and hospitable critic when reviewing the period and the films. Illustrations are copious – and copulatory. Copies of DRT are very difficult to find and sell for exorbitant amounts online. Save this book! JBE