Thursday, November 18, 2010

newish soul foodish movie book | roy anker

Roy Anker has a film book already in print - Catching Light: Looking For God In The Movies. I like it: he's a lit guy, so he brings substantial insights, treats the films as art not sermon illustrations, and has a pretty good eye for film as well as text. And he writes well.

The only qualm I had about the first book was that the selections were a bit dated. I share his predilection for pointing people to older films, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with the titles he chose - Tender Mercies is my favourite film, and who could gainsay The Mission, Babette's Feast, American Beauty (well, except Jeff Overstreet - heh heh heh), Grand Canyon or Kieslowski's Blue? But it did have the slightest sense of having been compiled from an archive of old "Faith And Film" lecture notes. Still, one of my top five or ten books about movies with God Stuff.

Judging from the Table Of Contents, it looks like his new volume draws on the earlier volume - American Beauty, Godfather III, Tender Mercies, The Mission, Superman, Grand Canyon, E.T. all get chapters - but there's lots new too - Magnolia, Millions, Dead Man Walking, Shawshank Redemption, Crimes & Misdemeanors, Decalogue and M. Night Shyamalan's debut Wide Awake are all interesting choices (though still opting for the tried and true over the latest and greatest. Wish he'd included, for example, his response to Carlos Reygadas's Silent Light). Hard to know if this is just a revision of the earlier volume, or a completely new book that includes further thoughts on those earlier film. But I'll be adding it to my shelf, even if just for the new bits.

Here's what IMAGE Update has to say...
Of Pilgrims and Fire by Roy Anker

In Of Pilgrims and Fire: When God Shows Up at the Movies, Calvin College professor Roy Anker presents a series of thoughtful vignettes on the presence of God in film, providing commentary on flicks from a wide swath of genres, from blockbusters E.T. and Superman to cult favorite The Shawshank Redemption to more obscure foreign films The Color of Paradise, Decalogue, and Babette’s Feast — several of which you will also find on the Arts and Faith Top 100 List.

The “pilgrims” of the title are the protagonists, the antagonists, the viewers, and the critics, compelled to “journey in search of a potent, magical, holy something,” for the fiery light that reveals truths about each other and about the way to live. Anker reflects on images of God and themes of splendor, the collision of morality and belief, and “the feast of love,” extracting spiritual nuggets even from deeply flawed films such as The Godfather III.

Complementing his enthusiasm are Anker’s winsome turns of phrase (once he speaks of Robert De Niro’s Mendoza in The Mission as being “mugged by love”) and a keen eye for powerful subtlety. Anker shows a deep respect for the filmmakers he discusses, and it’s plain he knows their work well. Chapters feature screen stills from each particular movie, other critics’ comments, post-viewing questions, and suggestions for checking out additional related flicks, inviting discussion and encouraging readers to round out their own impressions. Of Pilgrims and Fire throws fresh light on the oft-worn intersection of spirituality and pop culture.

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