Uncomfortably, I found 59 essays of the best films from the 1980’s a little daunting to digest right to the end, so I found a way of making sure I read the entire book to the last review. Glad I did.
The films selected were, without diversion, based on a theme that the editor, Jurgen Muller, describes as a “film of surfaces”. The eye shooting Blade Runner is used in the introduction to explore how cinema transformed into one of appearances, which is suggestive of a film’s meaning in the 1980’s, rather than the hidden depths underneath. I considered the proposition a little circumspectly, as I thought cinema should go deeper, but the book’s premise is cogent, believable, and helpful to understanding the cinema at this time.
Fifteen contributors—filmmakers, journalists, and academics—write the essays which are presented with glossy stills of the films, relevant quotes, and technical information about cast, crew, or filmmaking terminology.
This book looks beautiful and stunning something to treasure for its appearance alone. Yet that is not all. The essays are a good read, formatted in much the same way, and always interesting and insightful. Even if on the surface, I did not agree with something, it always provoked thought in some direction, a stimulating read in other words.
In terms of the films selected, there are some shocking surprises, and omissions looked glaringly like a lapse of judgment—where was A Passage to India, for example, and where was Witness—but there was Die Hard and Naked Gun. Unbelievable. This is supposed to the best films of the 1980’s?
The editor has made it clear that the selection was difficult and that they stuck to their underlining view of 1980’s film, what they believe best represents a 1980’s film. This is a helpful and intelligent starting point, rather than going all over the place.
Some of the selections were disappointing, though, but overall, Taschen’s Best Movies of the 1980’s is another outstanding coffee table and collector’s item as well as for the more inquisitive movie buff. And then there are the selections I could unreservedly agree on.
Taschen’s Best Movies of the 1980’s, editor Jurgen Muller (2005, original edition 2002)
Published 2020, peteswritingnotes.com