John Simon on Film (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob

John Simon on Film: Criticism 1982-2001, by John Simon (2005). Don’t let the stuffy title fool you; this is merely a collection of movie reviews—658 pages worth. I am familiar with Simon’s work because he used to publish some of his reviews in National Review, but don’t let that put you off. Political considerations play little or no role in his judgments, and the dust jacket notes that he has also written reviews for publications like New York magazine and the New York Times Book Review. I sought this book out because few reviewers wield as wicked a pen as Simon when a film, actor, or director gives offense. A few examples. Of The Last Temptation of Christ, he writes, “It is too bad that various religious groups have seen fit to persecute it and thereby provide invaluable free publicity to a movie that could have died promptly of its own boring ineptitude.” Of Nicolas Cage in Moonstruck, “with his mauled-looking ears, naturally punky hair, and watery, bulging eyes, Cage should be not his name, but his address.” Of the director of The Piano, “Jane Campion prides herself on leaving much unexplained. She has every right to be proud; at leaving things unexplained, Miss Campion is a champion.” Okay, maybe the shot at Cage’s looks is a little cheap. And to be fair, Simon praises lots of movies too (more foreign films than American, I believe). If these soundbites appeal to you, track down this book.

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