Oh, a book about movies written by a film critic! I thought. I watch films critically and write. And I read books. How perfect. So I grabbed it off the new-arrivals shelf at the library. It almost felt like my professional duty to read this book, since it is on a topic about which I often inflict my own thoughts on others and nothing encourages infliction-worthy thoughts more than continuing education.
After a couple chapters, my main impression was What does the word “indexicality” mean and why is the author using it on nearly every other page? Without internet at the time, my only recourse was to point this impression out loudly and often over the course of several pages, while receiving no sympathy from my nearby siblings. Once reunited with the internet, I discovered that “indexicality” means a sizeable Wikipedia page worth of very large words, but paradoxically, seems to mean less the more you read about it. Which, conveniently, is also one of the main problems with this book.
I only made it to page 60. It is one thing to wade through difficult text in order to understand complex concepts but quite a less pleasant thing to gradually start to suspect that the concepts are mostly bollocks and your time has been wasted. I believe that Hoberman’s ideal audience is not rewarded by the comprehension of any great ideas, but merely by the appealing frame their thick, hipster glasses make around the words on the page and the sweet sweet joy of recognizing in print the names of all those dreadful indie films they pretended to “get.”
Perhaps it seems that I am just bitter and Film After Film is too advanced for me to understand. That could be true. But if being smarter means using the phrase “neo-retro primitivism” without irony (23) and considering WALL-E to be “the twenty-first century’s quintessential motion picture to date” (40), then so be it.
That was a natural ending for this review, but I just can’t send this book back to the library without quoting Hoberman’s [unintentionally] hilarious explanation of the deep meaning behind the zombie film genre. He claims that “Perhaps the problematic distinction between dead and undead allegorizes, among other things, the ambiguous relation between analog and digital image-making” (31). HAHA! That is… that is just… I have no words…