Kermode is a dude. Good taste, endearingly curmudgeonly and bloody minded, great hair, decent band. The Christianity irks, as it does with anyone who I think is too smart for that sort of nonsense (sorry if that sounds arrogant, but c’mon…) but he doesn’t go on about it much.
I really enjoyed his first book: funny, smart, honest, interesting and a little bit obsessive in all the right ways. This new one is a bit of a mixed bag and a frustrating read as a result. There are almost two books here: one is a kind of anecdotal ramble similar to the last; the other an insightful, impassioned, cogent and fascinating look at the state of cinema.
Maybe the publisher impressed on him the need to keep it light, maybe it was his own decision, but too often a carefully constructed argument digresses into an anecdote which might well be amusing but doesn’t advance the argument much. Perhaps he was wary of producing something a little too specialist and ‘Sight & Sound’ but if that’s the case then I think, ironically given some of the book’s themes , he’s underestimated his likely audience.
That said, I learned a lot about the economics of movies, the projectionist’s art, ratios, subtitles and suchlike without ever getting bored and often whilst being greatly entertained. I love the fact that he doesn’t see populism and quality as natural enemies (in theory at least).
I just wish Kermode had trusted his readers to absorb his arguments straight, without the need of anecdotal softening. Oh, and I could have done without the lazy reference to the ‘politically correct community’ too – he’s too politically savvy to play that game.
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