Robert Tanitch reviews four books published by Taschen.
FILM NOIR 100 ALL-TIME FAVOURITES edited by Paul Duncan and Jurgen Miller (Taschen £34.99). The shadows are deep and the angles are oblique. Film Noir’s heyday was the 1940’s and early 1950’s. The tone was dark, sombre and gloomy. The mood was cynical, pessimistic and hard-boiled. It was an underworld of crime, corruption, betrayal and murder at night. The roots were the German expressionism of the 1920’s and the gangster movies of the 1930’s. Which is your favourite? The Maltese Falcon? Double Indemnity? The Third Man? Touch of Evil? Sunset Boulevard? There are so many to choose from and they are all superbly illustrated. This doorstopper of a book is a film noir experience in itself. The text is white on black. The dynamic pictures make each page a drama. The impact is overwhelming.
MONET or THE TRIUMPH OF IMPRESSIONISM by Daniel Wildenstein (Taschen £12.99). Only an eye, but my God, what an eye! This major biography, richly illustrated, is terrific value. Claude Monet (1840-1926), foremost exponent of Impressionism, painted directly from nature. Always faithful to reality, he brought a new vision to landscape and the pleasures of a summer’s day. He was an incomparable painter of bright day light. In 1899 he created the most beautiful garden in Giverny (“a Sistine Chapel of Impressionism”) and its water lilies, bathed in light, the water surface altering every minute, became the focus of his work until his death.
SMALL ARCHITECTURE NOW! by Philip Jodido (Taschen (£34.99). Size does matter. Big is not necessarily better. Space is limited. Space needs to be flexible. Small can make a big impact. The Japanese architects in particular know all about small. This is a fascinating book for anybody who is interested in modern architecture. The buildings are strange and often quite beautiful, but would you actually want to live in any of these houses? Where do you draw the line between Art and Architecture? Many of the buildings look like art installations. Once again, the photographs (as always with Taschen) are superb.
This Michael Stokes collection of amateur snapshots was taken between battles and are records of wartime friendships, brothers in arms relaxing and fooling around. Nobody seems to mind being photographed totally in the buff. But then it’s a different time, it’s a different attitude, knowing you may well be dead tomorrow.
It’s all totally innocent; and there is nothing gay about it, it’s 100% straight. Nevertheless, 74 years on, you cannot help wondering how many of the men in these photos are still alive and what they will think of the book? There are also some interesting war time recruiting posters and magazine covers.