Things have been quiet here at The Critical Press during the first few months of 2015, but we’re looking forward to a number of great titles coming this Spring and Summer. Here’s a preview of what you can expect from us this season.

Forward Observer: Stanley Kauffmann at the Cinema, 1999-2013
Edited by Bert Cardullo
April 14th

Our first book this year is an anthology of criticism by the great Stanley Kauffmann, who wrote film criticism for The New Republic for over 50 years. This collection, edited by Bert Cardullo, brings together a selection of reviews, reports, and other film writing from the last 15 years of Kauffmann’s life. A sharp writer who drew upon a deep well of knowledge about film (along with theater, literature, and many other arts), Kauffmann was an indispensable critical voice. Surveying the modern cinema at the end of one century and the start of another, Kauffmann brings clarity, unique insight and nuanced prose to bear on a wide variety of independent, foreign, and commercial cinema amidst great and ongoing technological, economic, and political shifts in the art form.

Orson Welles: Power, Heart, and Soul
F.X. Feeney
April 28th

This May marks the 100th birthday of Orson Welles, and this new examination of his life and works couldn’t be coming at a better time. Plenty of Welles studies and biographies already exist (some would say too many), but F.X. Feeney’s new book offers up a fresh, accessible introduction that pays special attention to the many projects Welles was never able to finish, treating them as seriously and with as much care as his completed films, including It’s All True, The Big Brass Ring, and The Other Side of the Wind (a film which may soon see some form of release, in fact). Feeney also treats Welles’s political ambitions as a young man with sincerity, tracing how they inflected his art throughout the rest of his life.

Present Tense: Notes on American Nonfiction Cinema, 1998-2013
Robert Greene
July 14th

Filmmaker Robert Greene has had quite a year. Besides editing a number of important indie releases (including Listen Up Philip and Approaching the Elephant), Greene’s own Actress was one of the most anticipated and critically-acclaimed documentaries of 2014. Greene, who also writes columns on nonfiction cinema for Sight & Sound, is bringing together many of his thoughts and observations about recent trends in American documentary filmmaking in this book, a critical exploration buoyed by Greene’s own personal, insider’s view of the nonfiction scene. Including interviews with a variety of filmmakers (including the Ross Brothers, Bennett Miller, Joshua Oppenheimer, and more), this book makes the case for the special potential of recent nonfiction film.

The Gag Man: Clyde Bruckman and the Birth of Film Comedy
Matthew Dessem
August 18th

The General is not just one of the best silent comedies, but one of the great works of American art. Though we all think of it as a Buster Keaton film, there are in fact two men credited as director: Keaton and Clyde Bruckman. Who is Bruckman? Matthew Dessem’s biography, an expansion of a piece written for The Dissolve <http://thedissolve.com/features/movie-of-the-week/531-the-gag-man/> last year, seeks to answer that question. Bruckman worked closely as a writer and director with many of the big names of early screen comedy: Harold Lloyd, The Three Stooges, W.C. Fields, Abbott & Costello, and of course Keaton. But as central as Bruckman was to so much great work, his story has never been told. Usually he is glossed over or brushed aside as a footnote in the stories of more famous men. But Bruckman’s life, as ultimately tragic as it may have been, is an important one, revealing much about how early Hollywood worked and how film comedy developed.

Keep an eye on this website and on social media for more information about these books, their authors, and upcoming events. And don’t forget that our first two books, Approaching the End: Imagining Apocalypse in American Film by Peter Labuza and Asghar Farhadi: Life and Cinema by Tina Hassannia, are both available now as well.

 

Alex Kane

The Critical Press is happy to welcome Alex Kane aboard as our new Managing Editor. Alex has been doing copyediting for us since the Press began, and will now oversee the entire book production process. As a writer himself, Alex has a sharp eye and a good sense for what will make a book better. We look forward to working with him.

We asked Alex a few questions about his background and what he hopes to get out of his new role. You can follow him on Twitter at @alexjkane or on his website www.alexkanefiction.com.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from? What’s your background?

I’ve lived in west-central Illinois my entire life, for better or worse, and graduated from a private liberal arts school in my hometown. I majored in English with a concentration in writing, and throughout my undergraduate years also spent much of my time educating myself about the publishing industry, writing fiction, and submitting much of what I wrote between 2009 and 2012 to every reputable genre publication that accepts unsolicited manuscripts. That experience probably taught me more about the business of writing and publishing professionally than any college course, and I’m so glad that I had the courage to do those things, because they ultimately resulted in my first professional fiction and nonfiction sales.

While going to college, I worked part-time at a local bank, and wound up accepting a full-time position immediately after graduation—but banking was never going to be the right career for me. In the summer of 2013, I got accepted to the Clarion West Writers Workshop in Seattle, where I got to study the craft of fiction-writing under six weekly instructors, including Neil Gaiman, Joe Hill, and Ellen Datlow. That experience gave me plenty of time for personal reflection as well as drafting new stories, and by the time I returned home, it was clear that the bank job and I would have to part ways soon if I was ever going to have the time and energy to grow as a writer and continue publishing.

I’ve been earning a living as a freelance writer and copyeditor ever since.

2. What’s your experience in publishing, and what kind of work have you done before?

My experience in publishing has been largely on the other side of the curtain until very recently: I began submitting short stories to magazines and anthologies in 2009 or -10, and eventually worked my way over to critical essays and reviews, as well, and shortly after my twenty-first birthday I’d somehow managed to earn the title of professionally published author.

These days, I write a wider range of things, and continue to place the occasionally short story or review—often in anthologies or online magazines. And I now spend most of my time editing other people’s manuscripts, which has been a tremendous learning experience. One of the history texts I edited last summer recently received a Starred Review in Publishers Weekly, and that gave me the unexpected pleasure of spotting it in the New Hardcovers section of a Barnes & Noble without warning.

I also serve as a Submissions Editor for Uncanny Magazine, which has published work by a lot of my favorite contemporary writers—folks like Ken Liu, Neil Gaiman, and the late Jay Lake. If anyone reading this hasn’t heard of Ken Liu, they owe it to themselves to get ahold of one of his stories: “Altogether Elsewhere, Vast Herds of Reindeer,” from The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and “Real Artists,” from MIT’s Technology Review: TRSF, are two excellent places to start.

3. You write science fiction. What are some of the stories you’ve published, and what are you working on now?

I’ve published two or three media tie-in stories for an MMO videogame called Dark Expanse, and one of those—“Loud, for All the Stars to Hear”—was reprinted in Alex Shvartsman’s anthology Dark Expanse: Surviving the Collapse. (Ken Liu’s got another story in that volume, by the way.) My first professional piece appeared in the fourth volume of an anthology series titled Digital Science Fiction, which you can still find on most of the online retailers. I later wrote a YA story called “Prospect of a World I Dream,” which appeared in the acclaimed Futuredaze anthology.

“Nootropic Software Blues,” which is maybe one of the better things I’ve written, can be found in Spark: A Creative Anthology, Vol. IV. But my favorite piece—a weird little horror story called “Fragile Magic,” which I wrote a few years ago, when I was still in college—is slated to appear in Richard Thomas’s forthcoming anthology Exigencies, from Dark House Press. I think that volume is bound to get a lot of attention because of all the talent involved, and frankly I’m a little intimidated by it.

As for what I’m working on now? I don’t want to give away too many details, but I’m very excited to be writing a twelve-issue limited comic book series—something I’ve been dying to do for a while, now. It’s a mythic space opera comic in the same vein as Saga and Guardians of the Galaxy, though it’s meant to be a bit darker and grittier, and I’m just having an absolute blast working on it. The intention is to submit it as a proposal to Image Comics, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens.

4. What do you hope to bring to The Critical Press?

I hope to bring all the passion and attention to detail that I’d give my own writing. And if I do my job right, it’s my belief that a lot of my contribution ought to be ultimately invisible—meaning, I want to deliver a positive experience for readers that doesn’t give them pause to consider whether I’ve overlooked an awkward passage or questionable use of a particular punctuation mark. As someone who engages with pop culture and storytelling in a number of genres and media, including but certainly not limited to film, I’d like to think I bring a bit of understanding about the craft of storytelling—and creativity itself—to the table.

5. What are some of your favorite films or filmmakers?

My dad claims not to love science fiction, but he did a pretty awful job of passing that indifference on to me: One of my earliest memories involving live-action film is of the time he let me watch a homemade VHS copy of The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and he later took me to see The Empire Strikes Back during its 1997 Special Edition theatrical rerelease, and that movie ignited my imagination in a way that I’m fairly certain continues to influence me even today. As a result, some of my favorite films are either science fiction or fantasy: Minority Report (2002, Spielberg), Alien (1979, Scott), Interstellar (2014, Nolan), Big Fish (2003, Burton), Donnie Darko (2001, Kelly), and Moon (2009, Jones) all spring to mind. I also have an enormous love of crime dramas and rural noir—Michael Mann is someone I often think of as a favorite director, particularly for Collateral and Heat. Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty), James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy), Anton Corbijn (Control), and Ti West (The House of the Devil) have all done some tremendous work over the last few years. I look forward to seeing what each of them does next.

Before 2015 gets underway, we wanted to step back and look at the cinema of 2014 one last time. We’ve asked our authors and staff to submit their favorite moments in cinema from the past year. This doesn’t necessarily mean their favorite films, just scenes, images, or other brief moments that they found captivating, funny, exciting, moving, or otherwise of note.

We’ve compiled many of these suggestions, in no particular order, into a video for your enjoyment. We couldn’t find screeners of every film, so a few important ones (Inherent Vice, for example) make only a token appearance. However we still think it’s an interesting look back at the last year, and shows the eclecticism of our many tastes.

Beware, naturally, of spoilers, since many of these moments are of key events or even the endings of some 2014 films.

Check below the video to see which authors selected which scenes (including some we couldn’t include or which overlapped with other suggestions), along with some of their justifications.

Our Favorite Film Moments of 2014 from The Critical Press on Vimeo.

Josh Spiegel, author of Yesterday is Forever: Nostalgia and Pixar Animation Studios and Walt’s Original Sins: The Legacy of Race in Disney Animation

  • Under the Skin: The moment where it’s revealed what happens to the men Scarlett Johansson’s character lures throughout. (I’m thinking of the shot of the man’s body essentially breaking in pieces, crumpling into just dead skin.) This is easily the most terrifying moment in the year of film.
  • The Congress: Harvey Keitel’s monologue to Robin Wright, trying to inspire multiple emotions in her during her motion-capture test. This film is far from perfect (ironically, I think the live-action stuff is better than the animation), but Keitel’s description of a past client is surprisingly moving and powerful.
  • The Boxtrolls: This movie is generally delightful, but the climactic scene where Ben Kingsley’s baddie tries to eat cheese–in spite of being extremely lactose-intolerant–and the heroes calmly try to encourage him to drop the cheese is both funny and a pleasant turn away from the predictable ways to vanquish antagonists in animation.
  • 22 Jump Street: The end credits. No explanation required.

Tom Roston, author of I Lost it at the Video Store: A Filmmakers’ Oral History of a Vanished Era

  • I’d nominate any of the tableaus from The Grand Budapest Hotel that include Adrien Brody and/or Ralph Fiennes and/or Ed Norton.
  • Snowpiercer: I really enjoyed Tilda Swinton’s brave new world speechifying as a delightfully skewed parody of Margaret Thatcher.
  • Good endings are so hard to come by but Richard Linklater manages to fade out on Boyhood, a remarkable heartfelt work, just as it should, with poignant, aching promise that somehow feels real without being sentimental.

Alex Kane, Managing Editor

  • The moment in Interstellar where TARS tells Cooper, “This is no time for caution.” And they match spin with the falling Endurance craft to redock–it’s their only hope of leaving Mann’s desolate ice planet alive. “That’s impossible,” warns TARS. “It’s necessary,” Cooper tells him. This is the tense, awe-inspiring climax of a film that argues so beautifully in favor of space colonization despite the accompanying danger, and this scene is perhaps the best example of that danger.
  • Almost any of the key moments in Gone Girl, but for the sake of avoiding spoilers, I’d say the opening narration by Affleck was pretty chilling, and for my money is one of his career-best performances.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy has a beautiful moment in which Groot deploys golden-yellow bioluminescent spores that hover in the air all around the main cast, and the score swells–it’s a nice lull that takes place just before the final battle. “Where did you learn to do that?” Drax asks, and Quill says, “Pretty sure the answer is ‘I am Groot.’ “

Peter Labuza, author of Approaching the End: Imagining Apocalypse in American Film

  • Goodbye to Language 3D: split screen 3D
  • Manakamana: Ice Cream trip
  • Inherent Vice: nude monologue
  • Listen Up Philip: Fight at the end of the Ashley section. “Goodbye Philip. I Don’t like you.”
  • John Wick: Club scene
  • The Immigrant: “You are not nothing” + final shot
  • Jersey Boys: “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You”
  • Lucy: Phone call to mom
  • Abuse of Weakness: Opening shot/Falling out of bed

Jason Elrod, Video Editor

One scene that continues to play in my head is from Interstellar. The crazy docking scene. It was such a beautiful, modernized homage to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. But it took Kubrick’s concept and took it to a level of intensity that flat out made you dizzy. Just a very well crafted scene.

Tom Elrod, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief

  • Snowpiercer: The scene featuring Alison Pill as a fanatical schoolteacher who spends her days indoctrinating the younger generations of the train about the Great Wilford. It’s such a bonkers scene in a consistently bonkers film.
  • Closed Curtain: Panahi’s unexpected arrival on screen, about halfway through, which transforms the film from a tense fable about oppression into a deeper and more complicated exploration of what it means to create art.
  • A Most Wanted Man: Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s final leading role is in a dark spy thriller, the kind of realistic and inevitably depressing story John Le Carré has long specialized in. Though the film was shot and completed before Hoffman’s death, the final image of Hoffman driving to nowhere in particular – a frustrated, defeated man – and then simply parking the car and walking away took on a degree of pathos and loss I couldn’t have expected. It truly felt like Hoffman was permanently exiting the stage.

Samuel B. Prime, author of The Uncommon Denominator: The Fifteen-Year Rise and Fall of Z Channeand editor of Z Lives: A Revolution in Movies

  • Let me at least earmark the “Pretty Girl Rock” scene from The Rover. A bright light of bubblegum pop sensibility suggests a world long forgotten (or superficially remembered). This is not merely an anachronistic cinematic device, but rather is functionally illustrative of the distance between the characters’ humble past and deadly present.

Matthew Dessem, author of The Gag Man: Clyde Bruckman and the Birth of Film Comedy

  • The moment when Josh Brolin eats Joaquin Phoenix’s entire stash of weed in Inherent Vice may be the best physical comedy of the year—there’s something about Brolin sticking his lower lip out under the tray that just slayed me—it was perfectly executed.

Robert Greene, author of Present Tense: Notes on American Nonfiction Cinema, 1998-2013

  • Let’s put in the ice cream scene from Manakamana and maybe the phone ringing in Citizenfour.
  • Also if you want, I love Living Stars so much. Any clip would make any video better.

Steve Carlson, author of Screaming in Analog: Two Decades of Shot-on-Video Horror

  • Given that my area of study this year has been a bit less… let’s say accessible than most others, I went to the trouble of making a couple clips anyway from Matt Jaissle’s Back from Hell. I figure they might make a nice counterpoint to the kinds of things other people will likely be sending in. (Also, none of them are actually from films made or released in 2014. But this is what my filmgoing year was like, so…)

Sabina Stent, author of The Hollywood Surreal: How the European Surrealists Changed American Cinema

  • Madame Dubarry (Ernst Lubitsch, 1919 reissued 2014): The necklace scene: the look on Dubarry’s (Pola Negri) face when her infatuated lover King Louis XV gives her the necklace. The necklace signified all the wealth and decadence of the French monarchy at a cost of 2million livres (still unpaid when the Kind died) and some was part of the events triggering the French revolution.
  • Maleficent (Robert Stromberg, 2014): When Maleficent gets her wings back in a climatic scene after being symbolically castrated at the beginning of the film. Moving and powerful.
  • The Duke of Burgundy (Peter Strickland, 2014): Amongst a feast of butterflies and sexuality two words stand out: ‘Human Toilet’
  • Inside Llewlyn Davis (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2013) – UK release mean’t I saw it in 2014: When he stares at Ulysses the Cat before leaving him in the car on the freeway. Couldn’t help thinking that the cat knows more than he does.
  • Whiplash (Damien Chazelle, 2014): The crash scene. You feel the impact of the truck as it hurtles and plunges towards you.
  • Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch, 2013): The final scene: Adam and Eve, fangs out and ready to feed.

Miriam Bale, author of She is Me: The “Persona Swap” Film and editor of Jonathan Baumbach’s Shots in the Dark: Collected Film Criticism

  • Scarlett hitting the dude on the beach in Under the Skin.
  • A loooong hug wrestle between Ruffalo and Tatum in Foxcathcer.
  • Any moment with Mia Wasikowska in Maps to the Stars.

Jason Bailey, author of Richard Pryor: American Id

  • Keaton taking flight in Birdman
  • The slow pull back to the full crowd, on their knees, in front of the courthouse in Selma
  • The “Fuck Tyler Perry” box office scene in Dear White People
  • The bowling alley dance in Before I Disappear
  • Alison Pill wielding her machine gun in Snowpiercer
  • Emily Blunt’s first appearance in Edge of Tomorrow
  • The subway hammer fight in Raid 2

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In Asghar Farhadi: Life and Cinema (The Critical Press, 2014), Tina Hassannia traces Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi’s origins as a scriptwriter and director and examines each of his six feature films, which include Dancing in the DustThe Beautiful CityFireworks WednesdayAbout Elly, and The Past. The book also includes an exclusive, in-depth interview with the filmmaker about his work. In detailing Farhadi’s cinematic influences and the history of the Iranian melodrama, Hassannia provides the first English introduction to this new Iranian master. In this excerpt, she discusses Farhadi’s Academy Award-winning A Separation (2011), his greatest success to date.

A Separation is Asghar Farhadi’s magnum opus, a sui generis in his oeuvre, Iranian cinema, and indeed within the larger history of cinema itself. The production catapulted the filmmaker to a high degree of mainstream international acclaim and affected the political tensions between Iran and the West at a time of high tension. Its significance as a globalizing cultural product that updated the world’s blurry image of Iran should be neither underestimated nor forgotten.

“. . . A Separation is a fine account of Iran’s predicament; anyone interested in the mysteries of change and tradition—the difficulties faced by many people as they try and reconcile themselves to modern values and norms—will learn much from it,” wrote one anonymous writer for The New York Review of Books.

The work continued Farhadi’s examination of the plurality of moral perspectives within a society entangled between modernity and tradition. But here, formally and narratively, Farhadi reached an aesthetic zenith. Here, more distinctly and clearly than in his other films, Farhadi demonstrates the problematic dynamics separating different classes, genders and generations. The film never favors one character over another—the religiously devout Razieh and her hot-tempered husband Hodjat are as relatable as the ostensible protagonist of the film, Nader. It’s fair to say that everyone in this film is prone to making mistakes—decisions they believe are right in the heat of the moment—and though the film begs us to judge them for it, we strangely find ourselves unable to do so.

…..

The forms of identification shown in A Separation are static like the composition of the shot; the information they provide belongs to a governmental and legal system that is immutable, predefined, and basic, unlike the amorphous nature of the characters in the film. The printer makes copies of the documents as if cloning the individuals of the film, but their pictures and legal statuses remain identical. In the reality of the film, the characters change and each new “version” of themselves becomes a different person with new ideas and perspectives. For example, though Simin does not actually want to separate from Nader (despite claiming to), her opinion of him changes throughout the course of the film.

This credits sequence shows us the sanctified and tangible representation of the law, with its black-and-white parameters of the truth and its black-and-white photographs of citizens. The static nature of these legal documents provide a striking visual contradiction to what the film will eventually unearth on a thematic level. The film is ultimately an exploration about the murky phenomenon of determining the truth in legal matters, the nebulous nature of morality, and the multitude of opinions and ideas that can be simultaneously correct and just. The straightforward and austere presentation of these legal documents at the commencement of the film is an ironic presentation of the characters they represent.

The film moves from showing head shots of a married couple from another of Farhadi’s films—Morteza and Mojdeh from Fireworks Wednesday, to be exact—to the real, flesh-and-blood faces of Nader and Simin. Within a medium-close-up frame, the two characters face the camera as if the viewer him- or herself is the judge. Evidently, this camera setup was deliberate: “We are also the judge. We will reach a verdict during the movie by following their story,” claims Farhadi in the DVD audio commentary of the film.

This equation of the viewer as judge may seem like a simple visual device, yet its execution is necessitated by the film’s major thematic undertones, as noted by Adam Nayman: “The direct address of this opening puts us in the same position as the magistrate, presenting us with two people and their respective lines of reasoning, and begging our observation and observance, if not our outright judgment. This is an apt overture for a film that is explicitly about how slippery the onus of interpretation can be—especially when all parties involved would seem to have a pretty good case.”

….

This faultless nature extends through to every decision every character makes—even the more morally dubious ones. Even their “gestures, manners, habits, turns of speech, turns of thoughts, styles of face” are “morally expressive,” according to Joseph Burke, and the intuitive, roaming eye of the handicam nimbly captures each and every detail. Beginning with this strong stalemate between Nader and Simin, the film boldly asserts its thesis about the complexity of moral relativism early on. There is nothing inherently wrong with Simin wanting to emigrate for the prosperity and future of her child; the same applies to Nader’s devotion to his father. Within minutes, the film has challenged the viewer with a tangible Iranian experiment in utilitarianism. The viewer is asked to contemplate the situation as if it’s their own: Should you jeopardize your child’s future or disrespect the man who raised you by abandoning him in his final days? Do you settle for the just-barely-acceptable “circumstances” in Islamic Iran, in order to take care of a man who doesn’t even recognize his own son? Who is more important— Termeh, their 11-year-old daughter, or Nader’s elderly father? To put it symbolically: what is more important—the past or the future?

There is no correct answer to these questions; even if viewers are wont to subconsciously choose a side. Western viewers, for example, may be more tempted to side with Simin because they may project onto Iran an image of its living conditions as being impoverished and a miserable place for youth, particularly women. Yet ultimately, even with such biases, the viewer will find it impossible not to sympathize on some deep level with the other side.

…..

The film’s domestic reception oscillated between national pride and utter contempt. The year before A Separation premiered, Farhadi’s public remarks supporting dissident filmmakers Mohsen Makhmalbaf and Jafar Panahi were taken seriously by the government and officials delayed the film’s production. After revoking his comments and issuing an apology— Farhadi claimed he had been misinterpreted—the government lifted the ban on his film. The domestic release was as successful as its international reception, and Iran submitted A Separation as its best foreign language film contender for the 84th Academy Awards, which it won—the first Iranian film to do so, sixteen years after The White Balloon had received Iran’s sole other nomination. The film was also nominated for best screenplay at the Oscars, and garnered a whopping 79 awards and 26 other nominations after its international releases. The film was the first to win three Bears at Berlinale and the first Iranian film to win a Golden Globe. The film was a huge commercial success for Farhadi—the most profitable Iranian film in history—amassing 20 million dollars worldwide. A Separation appeared on numerous year-end critics polls, with many—including Roger Ebert—naming it “the best film of 2011.”

It was the first Iranian film to have such a wide-ranging and resounding cultural impact on the image of Iran, and though Farhadi resisted descriptions that A Separation was some kind of complete cross-section of Iranian society—a film-cum-encyclopedia that could teach people about how everything works in the country—he inversely did become a cultural ambassador of sorts, a move he politicized in both his Golden Globe and Oscars speeches, sincerely describing his people “who respect all cultures and civilizations and despise hostility and resentment.” It’s easy to describe Farhadi as a secularist whose disdain for the Iranian government is perfectly shielded—his speeches and several interview responses differentiate between his fellow citizens and the government on purpose—yet even though his beliefs creep in from time to time (and in some cases, have forced him to retract his comments), one can barely blame an artist for being forced to walk on such an unwieldly tightrope.

coverGodfrey Cheshire calls it a “rich, thought-provoking study.” Available now from The Critical Press: Asghar Farhadi: Life and Cinema by Tina Hassannia.

Iranian cinema has given the world many important filmmakers over the years, such as Abbas Kiarostami and Jafar Panahi. One of the more recent and popular voices to emerge from Iran is that of director Asghar Farhadi. Farhadi, who got his start in television and radio, moved into feature production in 2003 with Dancing in the Dust. Since then, he has made five additional films, including the highly-acclaimed A Separation, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2012.

Through his complicated melodramas, which focus on how people separated by class, gender, age, and religion interact with and understand one another, often in emotionally-charged situations surrounding marriages and family, Farhadi has managed to succeed as one of the most popular (A Separation grossed more than any film in Iran’s history) and critically acclaimed artists of his era.

However, despite the attention he has received, there has never been an in-depth, book-length study of his films. At last, Tina Hassannia has provided us with such a study. Asghar Farhadi: Life and Cinema examines each of the director’s six feature films, detailing each film’s production and reception as well as drawing out many of their most important themes and images. The portrait Hassannia paints is one of a great humanist, who has used each of his films to plumb the depths of human emotion and attempt, with great care, humility, and craft, to tell us something true about how people treat one another.

farhadi

The book also includes an extensive interview with Farhadi that allows the director to go into even more detail about his work, influences, and challenges. He speaks about his training in theater, the working conditions of filmmakers in Iran, how we develops his material, what it was like working in France on his most recent film The Past, and much more.

One hope we have for this book is for Farhadi’s earlier work to receive a second look. Though A Separation and The Past are easily accessible on DVD and Blu-ray, much of the rest of his ouevre is difficult for North American audiences to access. Luckily, in 2015 About Elly, his fourth film released in 2009, will finally be receiving U.S. distribution from Cinema Guild. We hope his other films can also soon receive better access from Western audiences. In the meantime, Hassannia’s evocative retellings and analysis of his films should excite us that such a master artist is still working on new films.

Asghar Farhadi is available as a paperback, ebook, or in a paperback/ebook combo on our website. You may order it here.

For the entire month of December, all order and pre-orders on The Critical Press website are 40% off. And for Cyber Monday only (December 1st), you can receive free shipping with the coupon code “cybermonday.”

What is for sale?

Currently, the following titles are available for either order or pre-order:

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Approaching the End: Imagining Apocalypse in American Film by Peter Labuza

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Asghar Farhadi: Life and Cinema by Tina Hassannia

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Orson Welles: Power, Heart, and Soul by F.X. Feeney

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Present Tense: Notes on American Nonfiction Cinema, 1998-2013 by Robert Greene

Shots in the Dark

Shots in the Dark: Collected Film Criticism by Jonathan Baumbach

The Gag Man

The Gag Man: Clyde Bruckman and the Birth of Film Comedy by Matthew Dessem