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08/25/2008 - BOOK REVIEW: THE CITIZEN KANE CRASH COURSE IN CINEMATOGRAPHY
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"BOOK REVIEW: THE CITIZEN KANE CRASH COURSE IN CINEMATOGRAPHY"
Author: David Worth
Book Review by Matthew Terry
Published by: Michael Wiese Productions
ISBN: 9781932907469

Every session of my class "American Film History" I highlight the film "Citizen Kane." How could I not? In the process of talking about the film I show a small clip from a documentary of the history of cinematography. In the documentary, modern day cinematographers talk about the film, the unique use of "deep focus" and the skills of the cinematographer Greg Toland and director Orson Welles. One quote by a cinematographer, whose name escapes me, goes on to say: "What fun they must have had making this picture." And there is a photo of Toland and Welles laying on the floor behind a camera.
Indeed, what fun they must have had. Opening up the toy box (or is it a Pandora's box?) that is Hollywood and seeing what they could play with.
This book is a "wildly fictional account" of that fun and what it must have been like to work creatively with a young up-and-coming director (Welles) and the crafty veteran cinematographer (Noland).
One wonders, of course, how much truth there is in this story of the two as they hire whores and drink themselves into oblivion - but there is a point where it doesn't much seem to matter. The point is to enjoy the story as much as you can.
What is unique about David Worth's book is that you can actually learn something in the process. Where probably 95% of the books about cinematography are dry tomes bent on putting you to sleep, this approach of fictionalizing a true relationship gives you a way of enjoying the story WHILE learning something. If I had only one complaint - I wish the book was longer and had delved more into the history of 1940's Hollywood - a time as long past as the Brown Derby and Schwab's Drug Store.
Bottom line, frankly, is that this book is a fantastically fun fictional account of the collaboration between Welles and Toland. Dive into this story like you would a dessert. Enjoy it to the fullest.

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