The ZONE genre worldwide books movies
the science fiction
fantasy horror &
mystery website
 
 
home  articles  profiles  interviews  essays  books  movies  competitions  guidelines  issues  links  archives  contributors  email

Silent Bob Speaks
Kevin Smith
Titan paperback £9.99

review by Jonathan McCalmont

Kevin Smith is a fanboy made good. He's someone who clearly spent his youth watching Star Wars and reading comicbooks but, unlike the rest of us, he's the one directing films like Clerks, Dogma, Jersey Girl and Mallrats while doing runs writing Spider-Man and Daredevil. He's also someone who manages to polarise opinion among film fans; as many people love his devotion to comics and his championing of the fanboy lifestyle as loathe his anti-intellectual Christian apologism and naiveté in matters of sexual politics - as displayed in films like Dogma and Chasing Amy. I was looking forward to reading this collection of columns from websites and magazines as a way of either getting a handle on him as a person or getting some insight into how he works as a filmmaker. Interestingly enough, for a book that's classed in the category 'film/essays' and on sale in the cinema section of your local bookshop, the book really struggles to reveal much about Smith the filmmaker but showcases a number of interesting traits quite successfully.

As a filmmaker Smith is seemingly quite secretive. He even makes jokes about Lucasian levels of security surrounding his sets. Smith goes out of his way to ensure that as few details emerge from the production diaries for Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back and Jersey Girl as possible. So instead of an intellectual diary of what he was trying to accomplish, we get diaries that deal with the largely administrative matters of casting and hiring a director of photography. However, if you look past the namedropping, Smith lets his guard down for one paragraph.

At one point the director of photography shoots a scene that manages to say so much about the characters that Smith decides to cut three dialogue scenes. He says that it had simply never occurred to him that you could talk to your audience by means other than dialogue. If you think about it, this is quite a revelation. To many of us, the use of cinematography to say things about characters is obvious... you realise it by watching well-directed intelligent films. Kevin Smith realised it while directing his sixth film. This says a lot about the way he works, suggesting a far from analytical director and someone who approaches cinema from the point of view of a writer, not a cinematographer. It also suggests something about Smith as a person.

Kevin Smith is clearly deeply insecure. On the one hand, he feels that he does good work and it makes people money so he deserves his job. On the other hand we see someone who is almost fawning when it comes to other celebrities that are friendly to him. Tom Cruise knows of his work and is praised, his endless fawning over Ben Affleck manages to be creepy and he finds himself unable to be critical of films that he believes to be flawed (in his reviews of Spider-Man and Star Wars: Attack Of The Clones). At the same time, both in this collection and on film, Smith feels the need to lap up critical praise and spit venom at those who don't like his work, regardless of how inconsequential the source. Indeed, Smith repeatedly returns to bicker with people who have said nasty things about him on the Internet and he actually refutes pieces of hate mail point by point. Celebrity indifference is met with hostility and Reese Witherspoon's intimating to another actor that she hates his work earns her Smith's undying hatred and she narrowly avoids getting her house egged. This is without mentioning the numerous jokes about his small penis and how uneducated he is. Clearly, Smith is deeply insecure about his position in society. He seems to struggle with the fact that people have opinions about him. He licks the boots of celebrities that even pretend to like him but he's incapable of letting anonymous Internet fanboys go unanswered. He puts himself down again and again but riles against any criticism on the grounds that he likes what he does and so do others. These aren't the actions of a happy secure person.

But enough with the bad psychology... is this book worth reading? To be honest... Not really. The book's overpriced for a paperback and is extensively padded (it's double-spaced with huge margins) to the point where I read it in about two and a half hours despite not being a particularly fast reader or it being much of a page-turner. It's also not particularly fan friendly in that virtually the whole book has appeared in print before and has apparently had bits republished on some of Smith's websites. The only article that hasn't been published before is an article that was turned down by The Face magazine. Perhaps the biggest letdown though is that the book really isn't that funny. Smith's writing style is laidback and conversational, the occasional swearing bits jar with his prose style giving an impression of a desire to childishly and crudely provoke rather than displaying the studied vulgarity of some of his films or indeed of other more gifted columnists (such as Charlie Brooker). If you're a real fan you'll probably have seen these pieces before and if you're not a real fan then this collection simply isn't funny enough or revealing enough about Smith as an artist to make it worthwhile, particularly given the slightly silly price to content ratio.
Silent Bob Speaks

Please support this
website - buy stuff
using these links:
Amazon.co.uk
Amazon.com
Send it
W.H. Smith

home  articles  profiles  interviews  essays  books  movies  competitions  guidelines  issues  links  archives  contributors  email
copyright © 2001 - 2005 Pigasus Press