David Bordwell's website on cinema   click for CV




Perplexing Plots: Popular Storytelling and the Poetics of Murder

On the History of Film Style pdf online

Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling

Film Art: An Introduction

Christopher Nolan: A Labyrinth of Linkages pdf online

Pandora’s Digital Box: Films, Files, and the Future of Movies pdf online

Planet Hong Kong, second edition pdf online

The Way Hollywood Tells It pdf online

Poetics of Cinema pdf online

Figures Traced In Light

Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema pdf online

Exporting Entertainment: America in the World Film Market 1907–1934 pdf online


Hou Hsiao-hsien: A new video lecture!

CinemaScope: The Modern Miracle You See Without Glasses

How Motion Pictures Became the Movies

Constructive editing in Pickpocket: A video essay


Rex Stout: Logomachizing

Lessons with Bazin: Six Paths to a Poetics

A Celestial Cinémathèque? or, Film Archives and Me: A Semi-Personal History

Shklovsky and His “Monument to a Scientific Error”

Murder Culture: Adventures in 1940s Suspense

The Viewer’s Share: Models of Mind in Explaining Film

Common Sense + Film Theory = Common-Sense Film Theory?

Mad Detective: Doubling Down

The Classical Hollywood Cinema Twenty-Five Years Along

Nordisk and the Tableau Aesthetic

William Cameron Menzies: One Forceful, Impressive Idea

Another Shaw Production: Anamorphic Adventures in Hong Kong

Paolo Gioli’s Vertical Cinema

(Re)Discovering Charles Dekeukeleire

Doing Film History

The Hook: Scene Transitions in Classical Cinema

Anatomy of the Action Picture

Hearing Voices

Preface, Croatian edition, On the History of Film Style

Slavoj Žižek: Say Anything

Film and the Historical Return

Studying Cinema


Book Reports

Observations on film art

Stepping into a movie

Wednesday | December 3, 2008   open printable version open printable version

KT here-

This past weekend I returned from a tour of ancient sites in Jordan. I didn’t plan to see any movies during the trip, but in a way it was a movie that sent me there.

I suspect that, like me, many people first become aware of the ancient city of Petra when they watch the climactic scene of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Indie and his companions ride through a tall, narrow canyon and emerge to confront a huge red rock-cut building (above).

That’s not a set. It was shot at Petra in southern Jordan. The canyon is real. It’s called the Siq (“shaft” in Arabic), and it’s a dramatic crack that runs for about a mile between tall, undulating cliffs of red sandstone (on the lower layers, where most of the city’s buildings were carved) and white sandstone (on the upper layers). The other structures include a theater, temples, and many tombs.

As I learned a bit more about Petra as a real place, I conceived an ambition to visit it—not for its Indiana Jones connection but because it is such an extraordinary archaeological site. In fact, last year it was voted one of the new seven wonders of the world.

I was one of seven members of a London-based tour, plus our lecturer and local guide. There are many ancient sites in Jordan, but Petra was left until the end. What, after all, could hope to follow it and not seem a let-down?

No, I didn’t go to see movies, but I discovered it’s pretty hard to escape them. References and connections tend to pop up.

We approached the entrance to Petra through the usual rows of souvenir and refreshment stalls. Some entrepreneurs were exploiting the Indiana Jones connection. Images from posters adorned coffee shops, and more than one shop had hats on sale. They weren’t really much like the famous felt fedora, being mostly of leather and not quite the right shape.

Right beside the Indiana Jones stalls, there was the Titanic Coffee Shop. My companions were mystified as to why anyone would choose that name. To me it seemed pretty obvious. American movies are popular, and why not name your shop after the most popular of them all? There was a restaurant near our hotel called Mystic Pizza. I didn’t see any images from the film on the outside, and I didn’t go inside to find out if there were any there.

Back in early October I reported on Captain Abu Raed, reportedly the first fiction feature made in Jordan in fifty years. There doesn’t seem to be any big stigma against films, though. I saw theaters and video-rental shops, some of the latter adorned with unlicensed paintings of Mickey Mouse.

Our last stop after Petra before returning to Amman was the Wadi Rum (below), an austerely beautiful landscape of desert and small, craggy mountains. The film motif followed us. Part of Lawrence of Arabia was shot there. On the spot where the real Lawrence had trod, the real Peter O’Toole sang, “The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo.”

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