Is it too wretched of a pun to say that I’m on record as being a huge fan of Continuum’s 33-1/3 books? I love the package, those beautiful little paperbacks in which various writers go in deep about the albums that moved them, and they’ve been consistently good as well. From Andy Miller on The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, which kicked off the series in September 2003, to Jessica Suarez on Weezer’s Pinkerton, which will be out next March, you’re pretty much guaranteed to find something intelligent, passionate, geeky, and literate about music you love (or don’t).
So what could be better than Soft Skull taking the same tack with film? Not much, I think. The series, Deep Focus, will launch this fall with Jonathan Lethem holding forth on John Carpenter’s They Live, to be followed by Christopher Sorrentino on Death Wish. They’re selling it as “a populist approach to cinema,” which is a fine idea—although I have to agree with Conversational Reading that the film criticism for people who don’t like film criticism approach flattens things a bit. This looks like film criticism for people who like to read about pop culture from people who like to write about it, and that’s about the only selling point necessary—
Taking into consideration the work of Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, James Brown, Frederik Jameson, Shepard Fairey, Philip K. Dick, Alfred Hitchcock, and Edgar Allan Poe, not to mention the role of wrestlers—including They Live star “Rowdy” Roddy Piper—in contemporary culture, Lethem’s They Live provides a wholly original perspective on Carpenter’s subversive classic.
I’m clearing off some shelf space, and if I happen to fall into a happy daydream involving the good folks from Soft Skull showing up on my doorstep, begging for a 125-page disquisition on Nights of Cabiria… hey, a series means there’s always room for one more.