Friday, September 23, 2011

George A. Romero: Interviews edited by Tony Williams

Book Details 
George A. Romero: Interviews edited by Tony Williams
Paperback, 244 Pages
2011, University Press of Mississippi
ISBN: 1617030295

George A. Romero (b. 1940) has achieved a surprising longevity as director since his first film, Night of the Living Dead (1968). After recently relocating to Canada, he shows no signs of slowing up: his recent film, Survival of the Dead (2009), is discussed in a new interview conducted by Tony Williams for this volume, and still other films are awaiting release. Although commonly known as a director of zombie films, a genre he himself launched, Romero's films often transcend easy labels. His films are best understood as allegorical commentaries on American life that just happen to appropriate horror as a convenient vehicle. Romero's films encompass works as different as The Crazies, Hungry Wives, Knightriders, and Bruiser.

The interviews in this collection cover a period of over forty years. In whatever format they originally appeared-the printed page, the internet, or the video interview-these discussions illustrate both the evolution of Romero's chosen forms of technology and the development of his thinking about the relationship between cinema and society. They present Romero as an independent director in every sense of the word.

I've been a huge fan of George Romero since I saw my very first "of the Dead" movie and I went into George A. Romero: Interviews believing I knew a lot about the man and his films. I learned a lot during the course of my reading, not all of it as good as I would have hoped.

No doubt, George A. Romero: Interviews contains a wealth of information. The book doesn't contain all of Romero's interviews over the years, but it does contain a variety from different mediums. I loved getting to know Romero better, learning how he viewed films (both his own and others) and Hollywood in general. Surprisingly, he doesn't come off nearly as personable as he's generally believed to be. Never rude, he doesn't seem to be one to mince words and gives off a very hardcore honesty vibe. He has no qualms about pointing out that actors and actresses he's worked with aren't very talented. It seems mean, but it's refreshing in the current media saturation of directors and producers that do nothing but praise the people they work with even when the public knows they aren't being truthful.

The problems with volumes of this nature are to be expected. Topics are rehashed ad nauseum. People who conduct interviews could do a little more to come up with unique questions. Romero was asked about the budget for Night of the Living Dead in almost every interview and honestly, how many different ways could he answer the question? Another question asked repeatedly was if he went with black and white when filming Night of the Living Dead out of artistic choice or financial necessity. The difference here was the answer varied from interview to interview, giving no definitive answer. In early interviews, Romero claims he chose black and white purposely, while in more recent interviews he admits he had no choice given his budget. Different answers to the same questions pop up more than once, which makes sense given the decades that passed between interviews, but it will be obvious and confusing to the reader.

Honestly, George A. Romero: Interviews made me like the man a bit less. At times he comes off as sort of self-important and egotistical. He's never less than cordial to the interviewer, but some of his responses don't make him sound like the easiest person to work with. You don't need to be a nice person to be a spectacular filmmaker, but fans may become disenfranchised to see a man they idolize think so highly of himself.

I can't possibly know how many times Romero has been interviewed over the years, but I have to question the choice of interviews included in this book. The editor had to realize that certain topics were being covered repeatedly to the point of annoyance. One would assume there had to be other interviews out there that could have been chosen instead. George A. Romero is an interesting collection, but not exactly the most enthralling read.


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