Mildly hagiographic though it is, Richard T Kelly’s Sean Penn: His Life and Times (Faber mo ) is an impressively researched, pertinent look at a man who is probably the finest American actor of his generation. What comes through most strongly here is Penn’s integrity and authenticity: the degree to which he sees a movie as a slice of life and not just as pure Hollywood fantasy. He’s interested in film as very much part of his day-to-day existence. This may take the form of keeping in touch long

Sean Penn

after filming with the real life character he played in The Falcon and the Snowman, or it might lie in the importance of screening a work print. As he says, it’s not enough to have cast and crew sitting around a small screen seeing the work they’ve done each day. There should be ‘the integrity of the big screen’, so that everyone can come round and enjoy themselves. ‘lt’s about a bucket of beers and a movie theatre.‘ lf De Niro famously once said you can rest when you die, Penn’s attitude seems more that rest and play, work and relaxation are all part of the same flux.

lf Penn is the great actor of his generation, is David Lynch the great American director of his? In this updated Lynch on Lynch (Faber 0000 ) Chris Rodley intelligently

tackles the mind of a man not known for putting thoughts into words. This remains one of the finest in the series, as Rodley probes Lynch for meaningful statements without expecting the director to offer convenfionafly articulate answers. There are numerous occasions here when Lynch talks about his openness to the “contingent moment’, and even to ‘mystical possibilities’, but what ultimately comes across is some of the spontaneity and imperfections of a great director. Minghella on Minghella by Timothy Bracknell (Faber 000 ) is a perfectly adequate account of a very competent filmmaker, but no matter Minghella’s charm and intelligence, was it really necessary when we think of all the other filmmakers still awaiting an interview book? Minghella’s generally pragmatic account of the world of film is very useful but less than essential, though one supposes it does raise an interesting question: do we want interview books on competent but very

Minghella A

articulate filmmakers, or on brilliant filmmakers who aren't always so articulate? A brief word also on Screenwriters’ Masterclass (ed Kevin Conroy Scott, Faber 000 ), a rewarding but finally limited take on screenwriters and their best work. The problem resides chiefly in the interviewer asking the scriptwriters lots


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of questions that have nothing to do with the film to hand, and so the masterclass aspect comes too late in each interview, no matter the intelligence of a number of the questions. Filmmaker and former critic Peter Bogdanovich’s Who the Hell’s In It? (Faber 0000 ) is a collection of essays, interviews and

memoirs on, amongst others, Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando, Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and River Phoenix. There are some gems here, and Bogdanovich has the rare ability to conjure up a star from the past and at the same time create an elegiac tone that mourns their passing. This is a lovely, touching book and rarely maudlin.

(Tony McKibbin)

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