"Conversations at the American Film Institute With The Great Moviemakers: The Next Generation, From the 1950s to Hollywood Today," by George Stevens Jr. (Knopf)
For serious film junkies, those who want to take a movie apart to see what makes it tick, this collection of Q-and-A sessions with film students and filmmakers is like a textbook made of cotton candy. It's an intellectual treat.
George Stevens Jr., the American Film Institute's founding director, follows up a previous volume of such conversations by focusing on actors, directors and others active from the 1950s and beyond. Presented alphabetically from Robert Altman and Darren Aronofsky to Robert Towne and Francois Truffaut, the 32 people in "Conversations at the American Film Institute With The Great Moviemakers: The Next Generation, From the 1950s to Hollywood Today" are an eclectic bunch — there's even a critic — who share a devotion to film.
Such dialogues are only as revealing as the guests, of course, and they stand or fall according to how deeply they are willing to go in discussing their work. Some guests are better at that than others — there is very little gossip — but all offer a sense of how they see themselves as artists in action. For example:
Two long sections, more than 40 pages each, go to Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, not exactly overlooked figures. But amid such hardy perennials Stevens gives voice to lesser-known but significant people such as film editor Anne Coats ("Lawrence of Arabia," "Erin Brockovich") and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski ("Schindler's List," "War Horse").
Many of these sessions are two or more decades in the past, refreshed with more recent interactions at the AFI. Matters of technology and business can seem as removed from today as the silent era. Yet issues of creativity remain relevant in spite of the years that have passed.