I’d struggle to name a writer who has inspired me quite as much as Philip French. French’s name adorned the author spot of the very first “serious” book I ever bought on film (the wonderful Cult Movies, picked up when I was just 15 years old), and his Observer column has been required reading on a Sunday morning for as long as I care to remember! French’s style, is well-informed, accessible and, and, perhaps most importantly to someone starting out in the occasionally stuffy world of film criticism, exciting. French’s passion for the medium seemingly knows no boundaries, with the septuagenarian writing with an unabashed love for the medium that would shame the average teen blogger. The lack of cynicism in his writing is remarkable.
I Found it at the Movies: Reflections of a Cinephile brings together a bunch of French’s writing on the cinema from across the writer’s near 50-year long career, with subjects as wide and varied as the American Crime film, Ealing Studios and the Cold War. Bearing all the hallmarks of the above mentioned French-isms (Well-informed, passionate, exciting), the tome is wrapped around a warm wit, with the writer seemingly able to analyse and evaluate almost any subject (subjects as diverse as Doris Day and Obituaries make appearances here) without losing momentum or sense of authority.
Thoughtfully describing the forgotten humour of the Film Noir, French’s nostalgia proves thoughtful and sincere, and wholly lacks the sappiness that one may usually associate with the reflective writings of a man who’s seen it all. It’s this entry, on the Film Noir, that really sums up French’s class and dictum, and reminds this reader as to just why exactly Mr. French has been a consistent part of my own film history for as long as said history has been around.
I Found It At The Movies: Reflections Of A Cinephile is the first of a trilogy of collected volumes on the master of British film criticism, and is published by Carcanet Press. We recommend it highly.