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  • Writer's pictureGabriel Rhenals

Blog Post #120: Book Report, Part 2!

Updated: Jun 10

Here now, I present the latest set of entries of my reading journey (read about the first set here) along with a brief review prepared for each book at the time of completion:

20. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

Holy sustain'd rhyming scheme!

Such magnificent beauty I daren't dream!

A collection of tales with timeless moral teaching.

A page-turning delight without over-preaching.

Why did I wait so long to indulge?

In high school, no more than a bookbag's bulge.

I'm developing a passion for antiquity, it's true.

More narrative in verse, please; long overdue!

19. The Film Sense by Sergei Eisenstein

In this collection of analytical essays, Russian filmmaker and film theorist Sergei Eisenstein draws upon examples of art throughout history as well as his own filmmaking to further expand on the possibilities of montage and the potential of synthesizing multiple sensory experiences (i.e., color, sound and image) through film. When motion picture technology first arrived on the scene in the early 20th century, few seized its promise as staunchly and wrote about it as eloquently as Eisenstein. Another invigorating read!

18. The Futurist: The Life and Films of James Cameron by Rebecca Keegan

10 lessons I learned (or had validated) by reading about James Cameron:

• If you love what you do, don't expect a normal social life.

• Only delegate when you've maxed out your own capabilities.

• Being an asshole can do the job but undo your reputation.

• There's always overlap between the arts and sciences.

• In a world overflowing with pre-existing IP, originality is still king.

• Strive to collaborate with the brightest minds in any given field.

• Never lose the boundless fervor of adolescence.

• Choose challenging over safe creative projects every time.

• Embrace and harness your limitations.

• Excellence is a far more powerful motive than success.

17. Thinking in Systems: A Primer by Donella H. Meadows

I was introduced to the field of systems thinking by the late FIU professor, Dr. Daniel Blaeuer. My former professor had a strong affinity for community engagement and participatory forms of democracy. He was smitten by the potential, both in social organizations as well as in ecosystems, for self-organization and resilience; key principles as systems theory goes.

It was this spirited regard for these concepts that encouraged me to investigate systems thinking further and I'm so glad I did! Among other gained insights, I discovered that some of the principles that determine the behavior of complex systems (involving language, information, goals, rules, feedback, interconnectivity, responsibility, etc.) can also have considerable intrapersonal and even artistic relevance and application. So, thanks for your continued guidance and inspiration, Professor Blaeuer! You are deeply missed!

16. On Anarchism by Noam Chomsky

Dismantling illegitimate power structures.

Democratizing political and economic institutions.

Owning the products of one's labor.

Cultivating myriad knowledge and skills.

Exercising greater freedom of thought and inquiry.

Seeking social and ecological justice.

Yeah, definitely not chaos.

15. Isaac Newton by James Gleick

A captivating read about an intensely solitary man who retreated from the world in order to grasp some of its universal truths. As a result, humanity would never be the same.

Death may be The Great Equalizer but, on occasion, some do escape its relentless maw.

14. Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician by Christoph Wolff

Unbridled in examination yet lucid in presentation, this 640-page tome on the life and work of Johann Sebastian Bach mines extant accounts, letters, manuscripts, etc. from Bach's time to paint an exceptionally detailed picture of classical music's greatest forebearer. As a classical music aficionado since a young age, Bach's music has nearly always been a presence in my life but it wasn't until a few years ago that I became more acutely aware of its distinctive melodic and polyphonic qualities - among others, to say the least. Consequently, this book filled me with a grander understanding and appreciation of a man singularly devoted to the art (and science) of music and whose astonishing legacy will continue for as long as music does. Inspiring is hardly the word!

13. Film Form: Essays in Film Theory by Sergei Eisenstein

As filmmaking goes, few tendencies draw my ire more than a practitioner's emphasis on the pictorial beauty of individual shots at the expense of an intelligent, affective and dialectical editing together of multiple shots. The typically and infernally untapped power of the latter serves as the backbone of Soviet montage theory, an approach to filmmaking developed in part and practiced to historical acclaim by Russian filmmaker and film theorist, Sergei Eisenstein, in the early 20th century.

This book of his essays starts off with early musings on the development of the theory and later crystallizes into an extensive, deeply impassioned treatise on the potential of montage-driven cinema. Eisenstein's ideas about the medium have enraptured me since my first dabblings in filmmaking and it was rather poignant reading through these seminal theoretical texts after nearly twenty years a filmmaker!

12. Howard Kazanjian: A Producer's Life by J.W. Rinzler

"This book, my memoirs, was written not for the ego of it, but as a statement to young potential filmmakers and others about the challenges of our industry, both good and bad." -Howard Kazanjian

From learning the assistant director ropes as a young DGA trainee in a dying, traditional studio system to commanding production of some of the biggest blockbusters of New Hollywood, Kazanjian's story is an unblinkered look at the motion picture industry and a cool education about its variety and volatility. The late author J.W. Rinzler (who died of cancer earlier this summer before the book's release) combines a deftly flowing narrative with fascinating anecdotes (about Sam Peckinpah, Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg among others) from many of the key players involved. All in all, a captivating account of the career of a remarkable if unsung producing talent! Highly recommended to my fellow cinema enthusiasts!

11. The Art of Pure Cinema: Hitchcock and His Imitators by Bruce Isaacs

Before I recorded a single interlaced video frame for my first narrative short film, I spent many lunch periods and other pockets of available time in high school devouring numerous film theory and analysis books sourced from local libraries in a frenzied, autodidactic pursuit. I desperately endeavored to understand what made the films I loved so powerful and affecting so I could, in turn, attempt to harness that same ineffable magic on my own. Film theory in particular, as esoteric and highfalutin as it can be sometimes, was instrumental to my formative years as a filmmaker. So, this return to that intellectual wellspring after some time away was most welcome.

This book was about the films of Alfred Hitchcock, filmmakers influenced by them and Hitchcock et al.'s work as seen through the prism of pure cinema, a form of cinema characterized by the exploitation of the inherently unique qualities of the motion picture medium. A stimulating read!

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