In November 2011, a few months before Hoberman was laid off, the Verso Books website posted a page announcing his forthcoming book, Film After Film, or What Became of 21st Century Cinema. According to this website, the book, which featured a crisp still from the Pixar film Wall-E on its cover, ran a little under 200 pages and was scheduled to hit stores in February 2012. As it turned out, however, this promise was never fulfilled. Instead, in late August 2012, Verso released a book under the same title that ran nearly 300 pages and featured, on its cover, a parody of the 20th Century Fox logo superimposed over a New York City skyline with the Tribute in Light 9/11 memorial in the background. This busy image is a little on the nose (especially given Verso’s recent taste for gorgeously minimalist graphic design), but it gives an accurate preview of what lies inside. Film After Film is a sloppy, brilliant, patchwork statement about the future of the cinema — spoiler alert: there is a future — in the face of reports of its imminent demise.
It’s foolish to speculate about what precisely transpired during this time that led Hoberman and Verso to decide to expand the book, but, at some point around January 2012, Film After Film transformed from a slim volume with a modest film still on the cover to a pretty sizable work of criticism with an awkwardly argumentative cover image. I don’t think it’s crazy to imagine that, newly freed from the shackles of his weekly Voice column, Hoberman was feeling a little moved by the spirit of Siegfried Kracauer to make a statement. That said, the book is, like his previous publications The Magic Hour and Vulgar Modernism, a collection of essays representing his journalistic output over the course of a decade. Unlike those collections, however, this one has loftier ambitions. It is clear from the start that Hoberman very much wants his reviews and essays to stand as as a cohesive history of American foreign policy’s influence on world cinema since 2001. In other words, he wants the book to tell a story.
That story, which is centered around the emergence of an aesthetic trend that Hoberman calls “the New Realness,” is synthesized most pointedly in “A Post-Photographic Cinema,” the first of the book’s three numbered sections. . . .