Extensively researched, acutely perceptive and evenhanded in its evaluation, Patrick McGilligan's massive biography, Robert Altman: Jumping off the Cliff probes the mythology surrounding the maverick director. Altman emerges as a complex man, self-indulgent and often irrational but gifted with a unique vision of the film medium (St Martin's, NYC, $24.95).
In King Vidor, American, Raymond Durgnat and Scott Simmon find in Vidor's idealistic fervor the unifying factor of his films' divergent themes. Pacifism in The Big Parade, sentimentality in The Champ, feminism in Stella Dallas and right-wing dialectics in The Fountainhead are viewed as complementary facets of Vidor's central concern (U. of California Press, Berkeley, $32.50).
The expanded edition of Norman Kagan's The Cinema of Stanley Kubrick provides insights into the director's personality and working methods, reviews his early films and pinpoints the social and ethical motivations of his alienated characters' destructive tendencies (Continuum, NYC, $12.95).
Now in paperback, Ted GaIlagher's John Ford: The Man and His Films, a definitive biography of one of America's greatest directors, is a thorough and penetrating account of Ford's contribution to cinema (U. of California Press, Berkeley, $14.95).
Prof. Laura Oswald's Jean Genet and the Semiotics of Performance examines the films, novels and plays of the iconoclastic French writer. It interprets Genet's rough trade rhetoric as the struggle of a social outcast seeking integration into the conformist, heterosexual world (Indiana U. Press, Bloomington, $32.50).
The screen portrayal of women and their involvement in the medium are considered in Women and Film, edited by Janet Todd. This collection of spirited articles targets such films as The Women and Sunset Boulevard, and examines such personalities as Jane Fonda, Marilyn Monroe and French director Marguerite Duras (Holmes & Meier, NYC, $44.50).
The nature of cinematic enjoyment generated by women's screen images is explored by Laura Mulvey in Visual and Other Pleasures. Sexual symbols in films by Godard, Fassbinder, Kubrick and British avant-garde filmmakers illustrate Mulvey's socio-political approach to eroticism (Indiana U. Press, Bloomington, $35/12.50).
Sigmund Freud's exasperated question, "What do women want?", serves as an epigraph to Heidi G. Dawidoff's wellmeaning survey, Between the Frames. It praises the depiction of male/female relationships in films of the 30s and 40s, but finds some merit in those of the more inhibited of today's realistic movies (Archon Press, Hamden, CT., $24.50).
In Hidden Cinema, James C. Robertson documents the functioning and influence of British film censorship between 1913 and 1972, stressing such notable cases as Battleship Potemkin and A Clockwork Orange (Routledge, NYC, $58). Paul Swann, in The British Documentary Film Movement 1926-46, charts the genre's role as a leading alternative to commercial production and philosophy (Cambridge U. …