Most of my books focus on questions of film authorship, although my newest work shifts this interest to a discussion of film performance. See below for blurb descriptions of the books, as well as links to the websites of the various publishers.
Gestures of Love: Romancing Performance in Classical Hollywood Cinema (SUNY Press, 2017)
Gestures of Love considers the viewer’s enchantment with charismatic actors in film as the starting point for closely analyzing the performance of love in movies. Written with a thoughtful adoration for the actors who move us, Steven Rybin examines several of cinema’s most beloved on-screen movie couples, including Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant, Myrna Loy and William Powell, Carole Lombard and John Barrymore, Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews, Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart, and Rock Hudson and Dorothy Malone. Using the classical genres of screwball comedy, film noir, and the family melodrama as touchstones, Rybin places the depiction of romance in films into dialogue with the viewer’s own emotional bond to the actors on the screen. In doing so, he offers rich new analyses of such classic films as Bringing Up Baby, The Thin Man, Twentieth Century, Laura, To Have and Have Not, Tea and Sympathy, Written on the Wind, and more.
Hamlet Lives in Hollywood: John Barrymore and the Acting Tradition Onscreen (a collection of new essays on the actor, co-edited with Murray Pomerance; Edinburgh University Press, 2017)
John Barrymore’s influence on screen and stage in the early twentieth century is incalculable. His performances in the theatre defined Shakespeare for a generation, and his transition to cinema brought his theatrical performativity to both silent and sound screens. This book, a collection of fifteen original essays on the film performances and stardom of John Barrymore, redresses this lack of scholarship on Barrymore by offering a range of varied perspectives on the actor’s work. Looking at his performances and influence from the perspectives of gender studies, psychoanalysis, queer studies and performance analysis, Hamlet Lives in Hollywood represents a major attempt by contemporary scholars to come to terms with the ongoing vitality of John Barrymore’s work in our present day
The Cinema of Hal Hartley: Flirting with Formalism (Wallflower Press, 2016)
Over the course of nearly thirty years, Hal Hartley has cultivated a reputation as one of America’s most steadfastly independent film directors. From his breakthrough films – The Unbelievable Truth, Trust, and Simple Men – to his recently completed ‘Henry Fool’ trilogy, Hartley has honed a rigorous, deadpan, and instantly recognizable film style informed by both European modernism and playful revisions of Classical Hollywood genres. Featuring new essays on this important director and his films, this collection explores Hartley’s work from a variety of aesthetic, cultural, and economic contexts, while also looking closely at his collaborations with actors, the contexts of his authorial reputation, his reworking of the romantic comedy and other genres, and the shifting economics of his filmmaking.
This book, up-to-date through Hartley’s latest film, Ned Rifle, includes a selection of new essays from leading scholars on independent cinema, exploring the director’s early work as well as reflections on his cinema in connection with new theories and approaches to independent filmmaking. Covering the entire trajectory of his career, including both his features and short films, the book also includes new readings of several of Hartley’s seminal films, including Amateur, Flirt, and Henry Fool.
Lonely Places, Dangerous Ground: Nicholas Ray in American Cinema (a collection of new essays on the director, co-edited with Will Scheibel; SUNY Press, 2014)
The director of such classic Hollywood films as In a Lonely Place, Johnny Guitar, and Rebel Without a Cause, Nicholas Ray nevertheless remained on the margins of the American studio system throughout his career, and despite his cult status among auteurist critics and cinephiles, he has also remained at the margins of film scholarship. Lonely Places, Dangerous Ground offers twenty new essays by international film historians and critics that explore the director’s place in the history of the Hollywood industry and in the larger institution of cinema, as well as a 1977 interview with Ray that has never before been published in its entirety in English. In addition to readings of Ray’s most celebrated films, the book provides a range of approaches to his life and work, engaging new questions of his cinematic authorship with areas that include history and culture, politics and society, gender and sexuality, style and genre, performance, technology, and popular music. The collection also looks at Ray’s lesser-known and underappreciated films, and devotes attention to the highly experimental We Can’t Go Home Again, his recently restored final film made in the 1970s with his students at Binghamton University, State University of New York. Rediscovering what Ray means to contemporary film studies, the essays show how his films continue to possess a vital power for film history and criticism, and for film culture.
Michael Mann: Crime Auteur (Scarecrow Press, 2013)
Michael Mann first made his mark as a writer for such television programs as Starsky and Hutch, Police Story, and Vegas. In 1981 he made his feature film directing debut with the James Caan thriller Thief, and in the 1980s he served as a writer and executive producer for the groundbreaking programs Miami Vice and Crime Story. Though he has delved into other genres, Mann’s career as a writer, producer, and director has consistently focused on criminal activity, from small-time hoods and professional thieves to corporate manipulators and serial killers.
In Michael Mann: Crime Auteur, Steven Rybin looks at the television programs and films that Mann has stamped with his personal signature. This book closely examines the themes and techniques used in films such as Manhunter, Heat, The Insider, and Collateral and connects these elements to his work on the non-genre films The Last of the Mohicans and Ali. A revised and significantly expanded edition of The Cinema of Michael Mann (2007), this book includes new chapters on Public Enemies and the big screen version of Miami Vice, as well as Mann’s work on the shows Crime Story and Luck.
[The first version of this book, The Cinema of Michael Mann, is still available and up-to-date through Mann’s 2006 film, Miami Vice.]
Terrence Malick and the Thought of Film (Lexington Books, 2011)
As the director of Badlands, Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line, and The New World, Terrence Malick has created a remarkable body of work that enables imaginative acts of philosophical interpretation. Steven Rybin’s Terrence Malick and the Thought of Film looks closely at the dialogue between Malick’s films and our powers of thinking, showing how his work casts the philosophy of thinkers such as Stanley Cavell, Martin Heidegger, Walter Benjamin, André Bazin, Edgar Morin, and Immanuel Kant in new cinematic light.
With a special focus on how the voices of Malick’s characters move us to thought, Terrence Malick and the Thought of Film offers new readings of his films and places Malick’s work in the context of recent debates in the interdisciplinary field of film and philosophy. Rybin also provides a postscript on Malick’s The Tree of Life.