It’s Only a Book by Mark Kermode

A mail alerted me that film critic Mark Kermode was on the verge of publishing a new book. Kermode is no stranger to this blog or indeed Delirium Vault: the man’s reviews have been mentioned more than once. So why shouldn’t I (in turn) alert you to the existence of Kermode’s latest book?

The name of the book is It’s only a movie and it offers a more personal view of the grand world of cinema. As the blurb would have you believe:

To avoid fainting, keep repeating

It’s only a movie
… only a movie
… only a movie
… only a movie

If you grew up believing that Planet of the Apes told you all you needed to know about politics, that Slade in Flame was a savage exposé of the pop world, and that The Exorcist revealed the meaning of life, then you probably spent far too many of your formative years at the cinema. Just as likely, you soon would have realised that there was only one career open to you – you’d have to become a film critic.

In It’s only a Movie, the incomparable Mark Kermode takes us into the weird world of a life lived in widescreen. Join him as he embarks on a gut-wrenching journey through the former Soviet Union on the trail of the low budget horror flick Dark Waters, cringe as he’s handbagged by Helen Mirren at the Bafta awards ceremony, cheer as he gets thrown out of the Cannes film festival for heckling in very bad French, and don’t forget to gasp as he’s shot at while interviewing Werner Herzog in the Hollywood hills. Written with sardonic wit and wry good humour, this compelling cinematic memoir is genuinely ‘inspired by real events’.

The book, out since yesterday (yes, we can be topical – just don’t force us), even has a website, onlyamovie.co.uk, which has a video introduction by Kermode himself, some audio clips (a.o. on Linda Blair, which may or may not mention The Exorcist – but since it’s Kermode, what do you think?) and the tour dates. Mark Kermode will spend most of February touring through the UK and promoting his book. The people from Southampton are lucky enough to be the first (Feb 6), the tour ends in Bath (March 2).

I was lucky enough to get a chance to read the prologue of It’s Only A Movie, which starts with a recollection of Kermode’s interview with Werner Herzog (who was shot during the interview). In less than two pages Kermode manages to drift from this anecdote via the thought this would definitely make it into a biopic about his life (if someone would ever make that) via possible casts to good and bad biopics. Highly associative and cleverly written, the book oozes Kermode’s love for cinema. And it oozes Kermode (for which he almost apologizes during the prologue, justifying himself that he could only write this book through his own eyes – while at the same time slagging off Tarantino, always worth bonus points here at the Avenue).

In chapter one It’s Only A Movie remembers how Kermode’s father advised Mark to learn how to talk properly and watch fewer films. It’s fair to say the advice wasn’t followed.

To Kermode, a movie isn’t just the movie. The experience also counts. He illustrates this with Silent Running, not only a sci-fi movie (and a Kermode favourite) but also a trip to the cinemas in 1972 with a school friend. In his adult memory Silent Running isn’t just the film, Kermode’s neck hairs still vividly remember the excitement of two young boys going to the film and his body painfully remembers the twisted position Kermode had to watch the film in, due to a Mungo Jerry lookalike sitting in front of him.

It’s Only A Movie is Kermode’s feature presentation, a recollection of the movie inside his own head, based on Kermode’s life interlaced with thousands of films. As he mentions on page 16: “I am to all intents and purposes the auteur of this book and the director of this ‘real life’ Movie of the Week […] This is my movie and I get final cut – like Michael Cimino on Heaven’s Gate, only with more laughs and less roller-skating.”

It’s Only A Movie, published by Arrow Books, is 320 pages long and should cost no more than £11.99.

P.S. So which movie originally used “It’s only a movie” as its tagline? No, the answer is not The Last House on the Left, but William Castle‘s Strait-Jacket (starring Joan Crawford). Please do note the subtle difference between both taglines:

Just keep saying to yourself: “It’s only a movie… It’s only a movie… It’s only a movie… It’s only a… It’s only… It’s…” (Strait-Jacket)

To avoid fainting, keep repeating It’s only a movie… only a movie… only a movie… only a movie. (The Last House on the Left)

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One thought on “It’s Only a Book by Mark Kermode

  1. Mel A. February 19, 2010 / 23:49

    Good review. Thanks for the read.

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