Conversations of the American Film Institute With the Great Moviemakers: The Next Generation From the 1950s to Hollywood Today by George Stevens Jr.; Knopf, 737 pages ($46). It isn't just the question that matters, it's who's doing the asking. Or, to put it another way, who's going to hear the answer? Those are the factors that, more often than not, distinguish the great classroom Q&As from mediocre ones. Here is the second volume in a set of seminars you have to consider truly indispensable to anyone who cares about the art of film, even now when DVD repackagings and blogs have attenuated and cheapened the once relatively sparse and precious commodity of the truly savvy and high-dome movie interview.
These seminars from the American Film Institute present some of the young ambitious cream of aspirant filmmakers and scholars. So not only are most of the questions infinitely cannier than those that pollute the atmosphere of promotional film junkets, the answers from the great moviemakers will reach the ears of those who could very well be their finest next-generation descendants, the equivalents of former AFI students David Lynch and Terrence Malick.
The first volume began with silent film master Harold Lloyd and ended with sublime Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray. This continuation -- for now, completion of the set -- begins with the querulous but beloved Robert Altman ("once you start to shoot, the actor is the artist") and ends, as did Volume One, with a giant, the great director and cineaste Francois Truffaut.
Others in the wildly variegated selection are Darren Aronofsky, Peter Bogdanovich, Charles Champlin, Shirley Clarke, Anne Coates, Roger Corman, Ed Emshwiller, Nora Ephron, Morgan Freeman, William Friedkin, Larry Gelbart, Charlton Heston, Janusz Kaminsky, Jack Lemmon, George Lucas, David Lynch, James Mangold, Alan Pakula, Gregory Peck, Arthur Penn, Sidney Poitier, Sydney Pollack, David Puttnam, Leonard Rosenman, John Sayles, Paul Schrader, Neil Simon, Steven Spielberg and Robert Towne.
-- Jeff Simon