The Playboy Interview: The Directors
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. For those who read Playboy magazine "strictly for the articles," Stephen Randall and the editors of the legendary men's magazine have thoughtfully compiled sixteen of the magazine's best interviews with movie directors (sans playmates). Ranging from Orson Welles and Federico Fellini to Quentin Tarantino and the Coen brothers, the lengthy, unpredictable interviews prove compelling throughout. Eric Norden's conversation with Stanley Kubrick begins with a discussion of 2001: A Space Odyssey and quickly veers into the nature of God and the meaning of life. The centerpiece of Larry DuBois' 1971 conversation with Roman Polanski is a wrenching discussion of the director's experience dealing with the murder of his wife Sharon Tate and their friends by the Manson family. Elvis Mitchell's 1991 interview with Spike Lee sparkles; Mitchell engages Lee in a spirited and multifaceted discussion of the state of race relations, as well as Lee's often contentious relationship with the press and his industry peers. Since the interviews have no length restriction, interviewers are able to probe deep into their subjects and allow them to ramble expansively. While some of the material is dated, most of the interviews were conducted during particularly fertile periods for their subjects, resulting in a detailed snapshot of where these directors were at pivotal career moments.
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The latest book of Playboy interviews (long considered the gold standard for in-depth discussion with leading cultural figures) contains 17 talks with filmmakers, from Billy Wilder in 1963 to Quentin Tarantino in 2003. Other subjects include Ingmar Bergman, Francis Ford Coppola, Stanley Kubrick, Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese, and Orson Welles, with Clint Eastwood and Oliver Stone featured twice in interviews conducted decades apart. The discussions' seriousness belies Playboy's salacious reputation; even Federico Fellini, known for the sex in his movies, avoids prurience. Serious cineastes may be disappointed that the pieces offer less on individual movies than on filmmaking in general and personality-driven anecdotes. Their digressions, however, often fascinate, from Stone on his harrowing experiences as a Vietnam grunt to Roman Polanski on his wife's grisly murder by Charles Manson's acolytes. What comes through in nearly all 17 is the strong drive of these artists in relation to their work; as Robert Altman puts it, "All I want to do is what I'm doing. What else would I do?" Gordon Flagg
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