- The Magic Hour: Film at Fin de Siecle (review)
- Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies
- Center for the Study of Film and History
- Volume 33, Number 2, 2003
- pp. 84-85
- View Citation
- Additional Information
Book Reviews | Regular Feature himself inside cinema libraries—accoutered with white gloves and a pencil in hand—and viewed these Korean War screenplays and finally, produced a well-organized study with invaluable spinoffs . First, each title contains a cast and credit directory, detailed plot synopsis, strong evaluations, and some newspaper or magazine review segments. Also cited are chronological and production company listings, an accuracy and propaganda elements format, plus a section categorizing subject andtheme. Lastly noted are scripts that peripherally deal with the police action, documentaries and armed forces in-house titles and—as the pièce de resistance —motion pictures made in South Korea, those one-sided photodramas that depicted the three years of fighting in more biased terms. Overall, Korean War Filmography stands as a finite study that takes a hard look at the nuts and bolts of this on-again, offagain relationship between Hollywood and a forgotten episode in American history. With dozens of stills, an elaborate bibliography , deep-down research, and lively analysis, Mr. Lentz's book— surely an indispensable reference tool—spells out every aspect of this long ago conflict in simple, direct terms. Clearly, his filmography stands as a work of noteworthy accomplishment. Robert Fyne Kean University RJFyne@aol.com J. Hoberman. The Magic Hour: Filmât Fin de Siede. Temple University Press, 2003. 272 pages; $19.95. Entertainment Jamboree According to cinemaphotographers, the "magic hour" occurs just before dusk and bathes everything in a special, late afternoon lustre. It is an apposite image for J. Hoberman, the senior film critic of the Village Voice, because, despite his hyperactive outlook, he is a late afternoon man at heart, singing the song of a falling world. For Hoberman, films as they were understood in the last century, with what he sees as their balance between "modern and mass appeal," are no longer specific cultural artifacts. Instead, they are turning intojust one more ingredient in the virtual reality soup. The distinctions between the product and the hype surrounding it are breaking down. Everything is merely a reflection of everything else, and even politicians are joining the entertainment jamboree. This book is a collection of journalism taken from Hoberman's work during the 1990s, so these points are made only in passing and in two extended essays at the beginning and the end. Otherwise, it is a themed kaleidoscope of reviews (Hollywood and international film), longer meditations on the relationship between film and history, and articles tracing how the Clinton years contributed to the development ofthe "Entertainment State." As so often with collections ofjournalism, the effect is both too fragmented and too breathless. These pieces were designed to be hand grenades of language tossed into the lap of the easily distracted newspaper reader. Transposed to abook, they still thunder and explode, but they are a little too energetic for one package . Nevertheless, this is an outstanding achievement, compelling , in fact. One ofthe main sources offascination is Hoberman's ability to convince you of the significance of films that you had previously dismissed as junk. Often this significance lies in the context rather than in the show itself. For example, he sees Star Wars: Episode One - The Phantom Menace as a perfect instance of the new virtual hall of mirrors. The point of the film was the audience's relationship with the advance publicity, not the lumbering bore that eventually crept on screen: "The Phantom Menace is simply a billboard for itself. Anyone who sees it will be experiencing it for the second time. The hype was not about the movie; it was the movie." Likewise, Jaws was a Disneyland of the mind, reflecting, and contributing to, the nightmare quality of the United States in the Seventies. At times, this enthusiasm for all things post-modern can lead to a souped-up style, which is too inflated for the content. Starship Troopers, we are informed, offers "the visceral excitement of all-out, hand-to-tendril interspecies warfare - most spectacularly in the sensationally animated, artfully corpse-splattered, nerve-wracking attacks of the scuttling, screaming crustaceanspider hordes." Steady on, Hoberman. Adjectives don't grow on trees. The writing does steady, in fact, when the film under discussion is straightforward art...