Flipping through Different Chapters in The Booksellers at Victoria Film Festival 2020

11 Feb

nullBy Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Feb 13 | 5:30 PM | Parkside
* a limited amount of tickets is held at the door for purchase.

Hitting select theatres worldwide in March.

Bibliophiles are a unique lot, and I’m one of them. To understand what we represent is more than just about admiring a bunch of typeset paper with pictures slabbed in between two hard pieces of rectangular cardboard and reading it from time to time.

The Booksellers is a fascinating documentary. I belong to not only the comic book but also the antiquarian world. The discourse suggests how it influenced the arts. I can see how dada influenced hip hop, but surrealism?

Although the interviewers slips into tangents from time to time, the only thing missing is adding a bit of dialogue about sequential art. I’m certain we had a few seconds of the Yellow Kid (a reprint?) on a window display, but this subculture was not discussed at all. I did not expect any, though any note would have added to this documentary since collecting books is as synonymous as collecting autographed baseballs.

This 99min work by D.W. Young explains more than having a magic tome in your hand to whisk you away to another world night after night. It’s a piece of history. His film about the New York merchants sweetly highlights their passion. It also looks less about collecting but more about trying to rebuild the Library of Alexandria.

British dealer S. W. Rosenbach is known as “the Napoleon of books” and Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Minister for Propaganda, are not the only political figures who wanted to burn books. This topic not in line with their socialist views is a documentary in itself and what this film covers only scratches the surface since what books means to people spans all of human history.

Image result for booksellers Lebowitz

Author Fran Lebowitz (pictured left) is frequently consulted as different chapters of this trade advances towards a common theme. Her wit makes this work an amusing watch.

The commentary from the many New York City shop owners profiled is in how they must hold a double-edged sword. The concern about the coming of the internet destroying what the mom and pop shops curtails for the book enthusiast is acknowledged. If you don’t keep up with what technology offers (i.e. Mail order systems like AbeBooks), then you’re gone. While I dislike the postal rates set by this mediator, it’s up to the buyer to accept and hope the bookseller will use those funds to buy postal insurance to survive the abuse it goes through.

There’s more to this hobby than the suggestion this documentary makes about selling original and autographed editions. There’s a satisfaction of selling a limited run book to a collector. Because of the digital age, the fear of e-books is real, and these booksellers believe their operations will survive. Not everyone wants to buy online since there’s also the thrill of the hunt–a statement I fully agree on since I found an early Egyptology book (Isis by Pierre Montet) in Seattle years ago.

Image result for booksellers movie fran

Unlike others who want The Great Gatsby for their literary classics, my love (which set me on this path) was with having The Legends Of King Arthur And His Knights edited by Sir James Knowles, given to me as a gift when I finished elementary school. My teacher knew of my love for fantasy. I bought The Ingoldsby Legends, a work six times older than me! Thankfully, I’m not after ancient works bound in animal skin (or otherwise), but to know they exist for other reasons–and is not a product of Sam Raimi’s imagination–gives me a sense of relief!

In my corner of the world, Sydney, British Columbia is regarded as a booktown and I always hit the haunted bookshop. The number of stores and the personalities represented there is not as diverse as the operations and people in New York, but I can at least say I have a nearby township to visit when the need to expand my personal library hits. But after watching this documentary, a visit to The Great Apple (and have extended travel insurance) is in order.

4 Stars out of 5

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