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

The Rhapsodes return

Saturday | October 3, 2015   open printable version open printable version

Rhapsodes cover 500

DB here:

In early 2014 I posted a blog series on three 1940s film critics. The entries were essays on James Agee, Manny Farber, and Parker Tyler. Under the title of “The Rhapsodes,” the entries discussed their backgrounds, their place in the history of American criticism, and each one’s perspective on the cinema of the 1940s. I called them Rhapsodes because I admired the daring, ecstatic, sometimes zany quality of their writing. Like the ancient singers of tales, these critics seemed in touch with the gods–in this case, the gods of cinema. They deployed their gifts shrewdly, in an effort to understand how Hollywood movies worked.

The series had actually begun a few months earlier with an essay on a fourth critic, Otis Ferguson, the big brother of my rhapsodic crew. I wound up with several essays that, I realized, could make a short book. I spent some months expanding, clarifying, and, I hope, deepening the ideas floated in the entries. The manuscript got sharp and supportive reading from Jim Naremore, who has written sensitively on Agee and Farber, and Chuck Maland, who is editing Agee’s film criticism for the University of Tennessee Press’s complete Agee collection. Sagacious editor Rodney Powell guided the book to and through the University of Chicago Press. Kristin and I are going over the page proofs now.

The Rhapsodes: How 1940s Critics Changed American Film Culture is scheduled for April 2016 publication. You can learn more about it on the University of Chicago Press site. The Amazon page includes things said about it by David Koepp, Manohla Dargis, and Phillip Lopate. If you’re intrigued, you can preorder the book from either site.

I’ll be writing more about the book just before official publication in spring.

When publishing Minding Movies: Observations on the Art, Craft, and Business of Filmmaking and Christopher Nolan: A Labyrinth of Linkages, Kristin and I left the original posts online. But now that the Rhapsodes project has become more subtle and cohesive, I’d prefer that people read it in its new state. For this reason, in the near future I’ll be taking down the original posts.

Thanks to readers who have already expressed appreciation for the series and interest in the book!


Since the book doesn’t include portraits of the writers and the original entries did, I’m offering some images below. From left to right: Otis Ferguson, James Agee, Manny Farber (courtesy Patricia Patterson), and Parker Tyler, photographed by Maya Deren.

Ferguson-500h     Agee smile 500h

Manny 2 500h     Tyler 500h

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