James Sanders[’s]...wonderfully informed and
informative “Celluloid Skyline”...is virtually without
precedent...given its depth of research, the richly detailed elegance
of its critical argument and, most important, its ability to expand
and redirect the way we think about movies....[B]rilliantly acute....with
unflagging energy and attention to detail on literally hundreds
of movies, through the decades, through every imaginable genre....As
[Sanders] observes, New York remains...the single greatest locus
not just of California dreaming but of American dreaming. Sanders
is the Freud of that dream, its hugely informed and gracefully civilized
interpreter. And his great work causes us finally to think afresh
not just about his particular subject but also about the whole vast
-- Richard Schickel.
This beautifully produced and totally irresistible
volume demonstrates the omniscience and omnivorousness of James
Sanders, an architect who not only appears to know everything that
needs to be know about New York architecture but, in addition, everything
that needs to be known about the cinema, and about architecture
as it relates to the cinema.
-- Gerald Kaufman
What a marvellous – miraculous – book!
I don’t know whether I’m more bowled over by the pictures
or the text; of course it’s the two together, and the intelligence
and thought guiding both
-- Jane Jacobs, author of The Death and Life of
Great American Cities
[T]horough, smart, informative, entertaining, beautifully
illustrated and designed coffee-table tome, Celluloid Skyline....a
powerful, almost three-dimensional way of looking at moviemaking
as somehow parallel to the art of city making. Sanders has nailed
what he set out to do: he has written what should be the definitive
study on the subject, and he has also left us with a strong model
for any future research on the meeting between the metropolis and
-- Phillip Lopate
You won’t read a more lucid or measured insight
into a city’s consciousness than Celluloid Skyline....Sanders’s
encyclopedic exploration of interiors and architecture in three
films by Woody Allen....is splendidly used to capture changes in
civic sympathies and a more optimistic view of urban life. And his
essay on perhaps the greatest New York movie, Rear Window...is among
the most perceptive in the mighty Alfred Hitchcock library.
-- Douglas McCabe
In these densely illustrated pages, Sanders proposes
that there have been two New Yorks throughout the twentieth century
– the real city where we live, and a dream, or movie, city,
made up of images and models and sets and mattes....To his great
credit, he sees the dream city not as a myth in need of deconstruction
but as a commentary in need of explication – a kind of parallel
universe, neither more nor less fantastic than the subject it mimics
and enlarges. He is subtle – his analysis between the Manhattan
of “Annie Hall” and the Manhattan of “Manhattan,”
two years later, is worth the price of admission – and, to
judge by the movies he praises...he is also sound.
An invaluable tour guide to several cities, each going
under the name New York..
-- Tom Shone
Sanders...has a rich and deep understanding of the
ways movies about New York have beamed out a siren song to people
around the country....This is a massive project, and yet Sanders’
efforts do not flag....With “Celluloid Skyline,” Sanders
does justice to the people who have raised up this creation on the
-- John Freeman
Sanders's book seems to tell us virtually everything
there is to know about Hollywood's long-standing relationship with
the Empire City...[W]e come away from this book grateful to its
author for heightening our understanding of how the fabled and filmic
New York has stolen our imagination.
-- Jenna Weissman Joselit
Turning every page of this sublimely illustrated book
brings a new thrill, not just because the pictures are so apt and
so exquisitely presented but also because the text is so lucid,
so cogently argued, so dense with pertinent examples, and even,
dare I say it, poetic.
-- Christopher Sylvester
One of the most important, and enjoyable, books about the effect
of Hollywood on our perception of reality, in particular, the reality
of New York City, that I have ever read. His research has been staggering,
the hundreds of films stills alone, all but a few unknown to me,
would justify a prize for archival industriousness. But he has put
a corresponding amount of original thought into the story of how
New York’s urban development, in all its glamor and grime,
was taken with then to Hollywood by the writers forced west by the
Depression....Sanders seems to know everything...
-- Alexander Walker
[Sanders’] enthusiasm is well calibrated, with
nicely timed, wow-inducing excursuses throughout, on art history,
politics, architecture, or the technical details of film production.
And hundreds of photographs – beautifully reproduced, many
of them previously unpublished – are often rivaled for interest
by their corking captions....[A] brilliant synthesis of film history,
architectural criticism, and the politics of artistic production...
-- Michael Joseph Gross
As an architect, Sanders’ knowledge of design
and structure enhances Celluloid's nearly 500 pages. His keen eye
and accessible style make us understand, say, the difference between
Warner Bros.’ concept of Broadway and MGM’s, where “the
theaters...were typically streamlined art deco masterpieces.”
Many of the book's 328 sharp illustrations haven't been seen since
they left studio files, and the Afterword and Acknowledgment section
is a veritable study guide to Hollywood studio era methods of recording
design aspects of production. The culmination of Sanders’
15 years of work has become a timely tribute to a skyline that,
with and without the World Trade Center, can never be diminished.
-- Lisa Mitchell
Richly illustrated, elegantly written, and keenly
perceptive....overflowing with information and insight....an encyclopedic,
consistently smart book with an original perspective.
-- Leonard Quart
Sanders organizes this highly readable tome by chronology
and architectural element....It's easy to amble from cover to cover,
or you can skim and stop as your whim takes you. The volume is chock-full
of historical and technical detail: the addresses of turn-of-the-century
film companies, the evolution of cameras and sound, evolving art
directors’ techniques and tools....Drawing on exhaustive scholarship
from wide-ranging sources, Sanders’s unique contribution is
showing us through an architect's lens how various social and cinematic
developments merge....Clearly a labor of love, Celluloid Skyline
helps you see both the city and the movies anew.
-- Francine Russo
Sanders is an architect by training, and his book,
whose readings of the cinema’s numerous New York stories would
put many a professional critic to shame, is built to last. Page
for page, this is the best new film book of the year.
-- Christopher Bray
“Celluloid Skyline: New York and the Movies”
is a magnificent book, a searching and intelligent account of how
the city shaped the movies and, in turn, how the myth making power
of the movies helped shape the city....James Sanders is not a film
critic or historian; he’s an architect. Yet his knowledge
of movies and filmmaking is profound, and his approach to the movies
through his professional discipline is unique and revelatory.
-- Charles Matthews