The Film Snob's Dictionary: An Essential Lexicon of Filmological Knowledge by David Kamp and Lawrence Levi (Broadway), 114 pages, $16.95 paper. Rating: NN Rating: NNNNN
David Kamp's previous book, The Rock Snob's Dictionary, was in and of itself a small masterpiece of rock snobbery. The Film Snob's Dictionary smells like a publisher-mandated sequel and doesn't work as well. If you're a film snob, you'll keep noticing nagging little mistakes.
Office Space is not a film-snob cause célèbre and their definition of mise-en-scène is a few degrees off-plumb. In their list of similar names and titles, the authors feel the need to pair William Wyler and William Wellman. No one ever had trouble distinguishing icy control freak Wyler (The Letter, The Best Years Of Our Lives) from rowdy low-comedy vaudevillian Wellman (Roxie Hart).
You do need to sort out William Wyler from the like-named and equally Oscar-lauded Billy Wilder. And anyone who claims that Howard Hawks's films "bore no authorial signature" hasn't seen those films.
That said, Kamp and co-author Lawrence Levi astutely give correct shout-outs to snob icons like critic Manny Farber and Manitoba auteur Guy Maddin. They amusingly note that the pace of Tarkovsky's films makes watching them "less an entertainment decision than a lifestyle choice."
This book is high-end magazine writing (portions of both dictionaries originally appeared in Vanity Fair), which means it's enjoyable but lacks commitment. In The Rock Snob's Dictionary you got the sense that Kamp might be willing to fight over some of the assertions, but here he often seems to be repeating second-hand opinions or simply acting as a provocateur.
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