Film seems to have succeeded the written word as preferred narrative vehicle of our time; and though it is no small irony that writers have championed the cinema, they have articulated a unique insight into the medium.
However, given the infinite range of periods and tastes that films have defined and created in this century, there are seemingly an infinite number of points of reference. With O.
K. You Mugs, a well-edited collection of articles primarily focused on those iconic stars and character actors from the noir '40s and '50s, the writer's true love of film is given full play in an idiosyncratic gathering of appreciative writing.
The classic era of films from those aforementioned decades is the touchstone on which the writers build their perspectives; the articles often take a mournful, loving tone toward their respective subjects on screen. Editors Luc Sante and Melissa Holbrook Pierson provide a preface that stands out as a fine piece of critical acumen, offering an insightful overview of the book's theme.
Because movie actors in their many guises are explored, there is a kaleidoscopic effect to much of the book's stand-out writing. Dave Hickey, for example, uses Robert Mitchum to explore how the male filmic presence affects culture. There is also sharp analysis of other film persona who have added to our fascination with the film experience: actors and actresses such as Dana Andrews, Warren Oates, Dan Duryea, Margaret Dumont, Jean Arthur, the Warner Brothers cast of supporting characters, and even Elmer Fudd.
The book also includes other shared experiences and memories, such as Robert Polito's sobering remembrance of faded movie star Barbara Payton, and Chris Offutt's recollections of visits to the movie theater as a young boy.
K. You Mugs offers deep insight into the meaning of film, proving that it is perhaps more significant than we choose to believe. The book also proves that films need the perspective of writers who plumb their symbolic depths, just as writers need film to articulate their own personal dramas. ¦Thomas Sanfilip is a poet and writer living in Chicago.