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Philip Kaufman


Publication Year: 2012

American director Philip Kaufman is hard to pin down: a visual stylist who is truly literate, a San Franciscan who often makes European films, he is an accessible storyteller with a sophisticated touch. Celebrated for his vigorous, sexy, and reflective cinema, Kaufman is best known for his masterpiece The Unbearable Lightness of Being and the astronaut saga The Right Stuff. His latest film, Hemingway & Gellhorn (premiering May 2012 on HBO), stars Nicole Kidman and Clive Owen._x000B__x000B_In this study, Annette Insdorf argues that the stylistic and philosophical richness of Kaufman's cinema makes him a versatile auteur. She demonstrates Kaufman's skill at adaptation, how he finds the precise cinematic device for a story drawn from seemingly unadaptable sources, and how his eye translates the authorial voice from books that serve as inspiration for his films. Closely analyzing his movies to date (including Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Wanderers, and Quills), Insdorf links them by exploring the recurring and resonant themes of sensuality, artistic creation, codes of honor, and freedom from manipulation. While there is no overarching label or bold signature that can be applied to his oeuvre, she illustrates the consistency of themes, techniques, images, and concerns that permeates all of Kaufman's works.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Series: Contemporary Film Directors

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. xi

What a pleasure it is for a professor to quote her students’ papers! Like my book on Krzysztof Kieslowski, this analysis is informed by the sympathetic understanding of dozens of Columbia University undergraduates as well as MFA candidates who studied Kaufman’s work with me. In addition to the ones cited in my...

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An Eye for an “I”

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pp. 1-3

Philip Kaufman’s cinema is stylistically and philosophically rich, but he has not received the kind of acclaim routinely showered on his peers. One reason is that the movies of directors such as Woody Allen, Robert Altman, or Quentin Tarantino are easier to categorize as belonging to one person. Because Kaufman’s versatility...

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pp. 3-13

Born in Chicago in 1936, Philip Kaufman met Rose Fisher, his future wife and writing partner, at the University of Chicago. He attended Harvard Law School for a year (where he saw and was thrilled by The Seventh Seal) and returned to the University of Chicago to work on a graduate degree in history. But instead...

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Sexual and Artistic Freedom

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pp. 13-54

Not every great motion picture continues to yield new aspects of stylistic enchantment and thematic depth after a dozen viewings, but The Unbearable Lightness of Being is certainly one of them. Despite its approximately three-hour length, not a single frame is gratuitous. Every moment contributes to a vision that comprehends...

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Male Relationships and Codes of Honor

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pp. 54-101

From the 1970s into the early 1980s, Kaufman’s cinema examined camaraderie, conflicts, and codes of honor among men, whether riding horses and firing weapons in The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid, riding spaceships and orbiting the earth in The Right Stuff, or hunting whales and surviving the Arctic in...

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Fallible Perception and Trust

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pp. 101-123

Kaufman is hardly the only filmmaker to make use of unreliable narrators, but his cinematic storytelling is deepened by an interrogation of what we trust as viewers. Whether he presents a gradual revelation or a twist in perspective, there is an inherently political component to his narrative strategy of disorientation...

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An "I" for an Eye

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pp. 123-124

Nevertheless, a coherence of vision does not always constitute the auteurist mark that leads to recognition of a director’s oeuvre. Must a consummate filmmaker’s body of work be recognizable? Even if we can make a case for the coherence of Kaufman’s films, why should this be a higher standard of value than...


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pp. 124-127

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Interview with Philip Kaufman

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pp. 129-140

In a way we have to find new kinds of heroes. There’s a whole world that is coalescing around us, and we never know how to deal with it. We have all kinds of therapies and policemen, law and order, and we’re always trying to figure out how to become heroes. But there’s something in the idea that every man and every...


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pp. 141-145


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pp. 147-149


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pp. 151-159

About the Author, Further Reading, Production Notes, Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780252093975
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252036859

Page Count: 176
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Contemporary Film Directors