Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Spend Christmas with Bardot, Brando and Burt; Film Books from Biographies of Screen Legends to a PS900 Monster about Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey There Are Great Gifts for Any Movie Buff, Says Nick Curtis

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Spend Christmas with Bardot, Brando and Burt; Film Books from Biographies of Screen Legends to a PS900 Monster about Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey There Are Great Gifts for Any Movie Buff, Says Nick Curtis

Article excerpt

LADIES first: in this year's crop of cinematic life stories, Sophia Loren's Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow My Life (Simon & Schuster, PS20) should be the heavy artillery. Born poor and illegitimate in wartime Italy, an extravagant beauty, an Oscarwinner at 28, a loyal wife who inspired frantic desire and the rage of the Catholic Church, who struggled with motherhood and spent 18 days in prison for tax evasion It should sing and yelp and scream from the page but it has a humdrum, rosy-glowing tone, framed by the idea of Sophia the octogenarian "nonna" pottering in her kitchen and sifting through her "box of treasures". Still, respect: she's the last survivor of a golden era, she's allowed to write a dullish book.

Much livelier is Anjelica Huston's Watch Me (Simon & Schuster, PS20), although it's fuller of dropped names and ticked narrative boxes than her fine first volume A Tale Lately Told. If that was about her larger-than-life dad and her early modelling career, this one is about her relationships with the pathologically faithless Jack Nicholson ("for a sophisticated girl, I could be tragically gullible") and the violent Ryan O'Neal, her films, and about death, especially that of her husband Bob Graham. Her writing style remains beguiling: reading her is like listening to a harp.

Ron Perlman's Easy Street (The Hard Way) (Da Capo, PS17.99) on the other hand is a grouchy, foul-mouthed tirade and an absolute blast the authenticsounding grunts and gripes of a regular Noo Yawk Jewish guy whose simian face has made him a living, if not a fortune. Who, though, has been gagging for the life story of the man most famous for playing third-rate comic-book hero Hellboy? Werner Herzog A Guide for the Perplexed (Faber, PS30) is also ostensibly grumpy: the singular Bavarian filmmaker affects to hate talking to his amanuensis Paul Cronin, while doing so at garrulous length and in considerable depth. Herzog is combative, macho, thoughtful, loyal, modest and seems to regard filmmaking as something between a bullfight and a war. The book is choppily ordered but engrossing and makes you want to revisit his films. So, job done.

Roger Moore's Last Man Standing (Michael O'Mara, PS20), meanwhile sees the Bond actor emulate David Niven following a regular autobiography with a collection of pen portraits of his famous friends. Alas, Moore hasn't met several of the people roped into this ragbag (Donald Wolfit, Tod Slaughter) and has little interesting to say about those he has. His anodyne fruity chunterings lack Niven's wit and occasional bitchiness.

Academic Susan L Mizruchi's Brando's Smile His Life, Thought and Work (Norton, PS18.99) makes exaggerated claims for the actor as a radical and a thinker through frequent reference to his huge library of books and the (often mis-spelled) notes he scrawled in the margins. Like Brando's life and career, the book is only sporadically interesting after 1972.

Onward: to the coffee-table books.

What do you buy the Stanley Kubrick fan who has everything, assuming money is no object? Well, there's the "art edition" of The Making of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (Taschen, PS900). …

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