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BFI blues

I'm fairly gutted over something. It had looked like I was going to write a book for the British Film Institute in their Modern Classics series on A Hard Day's Night. There has never been a good book on A Hard Day's Night, and this would be a great one that would, I believe, transcend the film criticism genre and be its own work of art.

The BFI series was run by Palgrave. For three years, I was in close contact with someone there, being told to wait on a developing arm of the series. We also talked about me doing a book on an Orson Welles film. I was told to wait because the BFI was making a decision on whether to do sub-series within the larger series based on books about music films. Then, I was told this was happening. Finally! I started working hard on my A Hard Day's Night proposal, as I was told to, tacitly informed that with my track record, we should be able to find accordance and move forward. But, a point came when the BFI series was handed over to Bloomsbury. I was given new contact info, told we'd pick up--me and the new person, that is.

I wrote that person, summarizing this, going into what I do, which is basically--well, in some part--what you see in the tabs on this website. Didn't hear back. Wrote a month later. Didn't hear back. Wrote again. Got a curt, boilerplate-ish note. Was subsequently told, when I pressed for an explanation--this was dozens and dozens of hours out of my life over the years, after all--that there was no interest from the BFI in this book. I don't think the person I spoke to for so long at Palgrave was lying to me. She was the proxy with the BFI, as this new person is. Which isn't to say I think this new person is not being truthful. But something feels off. Something was off somewhere along the line, certainly.

If that series is happening, A Hard Day's Night would be at the top of the list of books to do. As I wrote for The Atlantic, that film would be a great film if the Beatles were some fictitious band created for the purpose of that movie. And it's very rare--I'm not sure there is anyone else who fits this bill in the world--who is mega-Beatles person and mega-film person. It's very frustrating. I want to write this A Hard Day's Night book for somebody, and I will, I expect, at some point in my career. I would like to pick up with this person at Bloomsbury, come together on a project and soon, but I have no idea where things stand. I have a list of titles that I think would make a great book in the series by me.

The Trial, Mr. Arkadin, Chimes at Midnight, The Other Side of the Wind--on the Orson Welles front. Out of the Past. Gun Crazy. I've written extensively about both, Gun Crazy very recently. Make Way for Tomorrow. The Lusty Men (Nicholas Ray's best picture?) The Friends of Eddie Coyle. (Another film I've written about, and I also literally walk on the spots where it was made every day of my life.) Beauty and the Beast. The Rules of the Game, a movie that is the cinema's equivalent of the best thinking of the Greek philosophers, etched in celluloid, with more humor and large-heartedness. The Empire Strikes Back (I think it's a very flawed film, in compelling ways, which is one reason why it interests me as it does; I want to rend the myth of its alleged greatness, while illuminating how it does function well when it functions well; it is, in my view, the modern day Casablanca, which was also not a great film, but one worth study; both are arresting collections of moments, rather than cohesive movies). It's a Wonderful Life. The deeper tenets of this one also play fantastically well with the age. And no film has ever made better thematic use of water.

I would love to do Welles. I'm not leaving this world without creating a book-length work that will last on Orson Welles. I think It's a Wonderful Life would automatically sell well. Also, The Empire Strikes Back. Gun Crazy has especial relevance right now. Out of the Past is a film I've seen 100 times and is one of my three favorite films, and the most essential noir picture, I would say, and a picture that is one of the greatest American films, quite beyond its usual placement in simply the "among the best of the noirs" category. I'd like to be able to make this work. The books are about 30,000 words long, and I can easily write one on one of these films in about a month, while tending to my other commitments.


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