Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Film Club: David Gilmour

Overview from Dundurn Press:
From the 2005 winner of the Governor-General's Award for Fiction and the former national film critic for CBC television comes a delightful and absorbing book about the agonies and joys of home-schooling a beloved son. Written in the spare elegant style he is known for, The Film Club is the true story about David Gilmour's decision to let his 15-year-old son drop out of high school on the condition that the boy agrees to watch three films a week with him. The book examines how those pivotal years changed both their lives.
I read this book for several reasons. Colm Redmond, regular guest blogger at Clothes in Books, talked about the book in this entertaining post. I like to read books about films, almost as much as I like to read books about books.  In this case, I was pretty sure that the author would not be going into a lot of detail about each film, which can be a good thing, and he did not. The author is Canadian and the events are set in Canada, so it fits in with the Canadian Book Challenge.


I found the author's story of his experience of living with his son, Jesse, during those three years to be interesting on some levels; at other times he seemed boring and full of himself. The book spends a lot of time covering his son's romances and sexual experiences at the time. I would have preferred some emphasis on the author's struggle to find work during those years. However, the author's love for his son and evident concern for his future comes through in everything they do together, and they both were lucky to have this experience together. [Jesse's mother and Gilmour's ex-wife fully supported the experiment to the extent of letting them live in her house while she lives elsewhere. His current wife was also supportive. This speaks to a family who care for each other's welfare.]

The parts of the book I liked most are the discussions of films, which are sprinkled throughout. Not in depth, just pithy comments from both father and son. Gilmour does not necessarily see all movies the same way I do, but I usually enjoy hearing others opinions on films, regardless if we agree or disagree. Some of the movies I have never seen, and would like to try. Others I haven't seen in a long time, and would love to revisit.

Some quotes from the book:
I designed a Stillness Unit for us to watch. This was about how to steal a scene from all the actors around you by not moving. I started, of course, with High Noon (1952). There are happy accidents in the movies where everything seems to just click into place. Right script, right director, right cast. Casablanca (1942) is one, The Godfather (1972) another, and High Noon...
The film was made at a time when Westerns were usually in color and for the most part featured a kind of granite-chinned, high-minded hero, more of a cartoon than a human being. Suddenly along came High Noon, shot in stark black-and-white—no pretty sunsets and gorgeous mountain ranges; what we got instead was a small, rather mean-looking town.
High Noon is one of the few movies that Gilmour goes into detail about.  He also does a good few paragraphs about Steve McQueen and Bullitt.

Gilmour has some snarky comments about people he had interviewed, which I thought were in poor taste. He has very nice comments on Robert Altman, a director who I like a lot: "chatty, literate, easygoing; no wonder actors worked for him for a song."

More of the comments on movies were fairly brief, like this sentence about Under Siege. I love Under Siege, I have watched it many, many times.
We kept the guilty-pleasures momentum going with Under Siege (1992), a yummy bit of nonsense that boasted two villains, Gary Busey and Tommy Lee Jones, both superb actors, both gnawing on the material.
To be fair, as I skimmed through the book looking for examples, I found other movies that he had discussed in depth, and some actors that he covered in more detail. So, if you are reading it for a sort-of movie review book, it can be a good source and entertaining.

Overall, I liked this book more than I disliked it. The good outweighs the bad. I will be reading through it again more than once to follow up on films I want to watch or re-watch. There is a list of movies discussed at the end of the book; I just wish it had an index.

Goodreads information about this author:
The author of six novels, he also hosted the award-winning Gilmour on the Arts. In 2005, his novel A Perfect Night to Go to China won the Governor General’s Award for Fiction. His next book, The Film Club, was a finalist for the 2008 Charles Taylor Prize. It became an international bestseller, and has sold over 200,000 copies in Germany and over 100,000 copies in Brazil. He lives in Toronto with his wife.
Some resources:

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Publisher:  Twelve Books, 2008 (orig. pub. 2007)
Length:      217 pages
Format:     Hardback
Genre:       Non-fiction, memoir


12 comments:

  1. I enjoyed your post, but it isn't my kind of book TBH. No threat to my steely resolve!

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    1. Thanks, Col. I liked the film bits best, and it was interesting to read about a Canadian writer. I might sample some of his fiction writing, even though it really isn't my type of thing either.

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  2. Tracy - Thanks for reminding me of this one. I remember Colm's post about it and enjoyed both it and your post. It sounds like an interesting look at relationships, film and family as much as anything else. Innovative!

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    1. Margot, I read a little bit about memoirs while reading this. I don't think I really go for memoirs, but probably depends on the author and the focus.

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  3. I'm sure Colm will be impressed that you read it, Tracy. I haven't read it myself, though it does sound interesting, I might get to it one of these days....

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    1. I was glad I read it, Moira. Interesting in all aspects, but I will be rereading only for the film stuff.

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  4. Thank you for your kind words, Tracy. It was interesting to read an actual review, and to compare my thoughts to yours. Funny how you wanted more about Gilmour's career, while I wanted him to stop bleating on about himself all the time - the book was meant to be about the boy, really, but he was offstage for whole chapters at a time!

    David Gilmour seems like a strange, cosseted media guy to me. One time he describes what he misses about "being in television" in great mundane detail, apparently blissfully unaware that he's simply describing "having a job." Not a single thing he talks about is specific to being in the heady world of broadcasting or working in the particular offices he worked in.

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    1. Colm, it is funny about different reactions to books. I did read some non-complimentary comments about Gilmour online (and quoting Gilmour) and from what I read he sounded like a jerk. I would not want to judge based on the internet, so I keep an open mind and realize we all have good and bad sides. Your take on him ("strange, cosseted media guy") sounds right to me, with an emphasis on strange. Maybe that is what people want to read in a memoir. I do want to try one of his novels someday, just because... for comparison.

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    2. He reminded me of the main four characters in Seinfeld, the way he always had some absurd, complex justification for behaving badly that even he could never quite find convincing. All that stuff about faking up a bad neighbourhood to put people off from buying the house? But the Seinfeld people at least had the excuse of being fictional characters in a comedy show.

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    3. Good comparison, Colm, although I have seen little of the Seinfeld show. Yes, all the stuff around trying to buy the house was off-putting too. Immature and self-centered.

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  5. Despite enjoying movies based on books, I'm not sure I enjoy movies enough to be excited about a book where film commentary is the best part. I'm glad the good outweighed the bad for you though :)

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    1. Katie, I was hoping I would like all aspects, and the premise is interesting. But he had some really interesting things to say about movies. I like to read things that jog memories and inspire me to go re-watch a movie. (And the book got some good reviews.)

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