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A House Made of Light

Essays on the Art of Film

George Toles

Film Theory and Criticism

Contemporary Approaches to Film and Media Series

Published: September 2001
ISBN: 9780814329467
Pages: 368 Size: 6x9
Illustrations: 17 black and white images

George Toles is one of the most gifted film critics in the English language.

— James Naremore

When the lights go down and the film starts to roll, we give ourselves over to the magic of movies. But as George Toles observes, what we experience in this house of light may strike closer to home than we imagine.

In eleven essays, Toles combines aesthetic inquiry with a psychology of spectatorship to illuminate the dialogue between sentiment and irony that unfolds in every good movie. Reflecting a literary critic’s and professional screenwriter’s ongoing love affair with cinema, each essay plunges the reader into the experience of one or more films, inviting us to ponder the nature and implications of that experience. Toles considers a wide variety of film experience, from Frank Capra to the Coen brothers to Alfred Hitchcock.

However escapist a trip to the movies might be, says Toles, there is no escaping some version of "home" in every film experience. Toles examines important homes—from the cottage in Random Harvest to the foreboding Bates house in Psycho—to suggest that the house of film is a frame we long to enter in the spirit of homecoming but one that we cannot possess any more securely than the lost home of our beginnings. As film study marks a return to art-centered criticism, A House Made of Light breaks new ground in its assessment of the creation—and enjoyment—of movies.

a screenwriter and the chair of film studies and professor of English at the University of Manitoba. He has written screenplays for a number of Guy Maddin films, including Careful and Twilight of the Ice Nymphs

George Toles is simply one of the best critics of film working today; he is also one of the best writers who have ever been drawn to reflect on film. His thinking is fully informed and completely original -a rarity in film scholarship.

– Marian Keane, University of Colorado at Boulder

George Toles is one of the most gifted film critics in the English language, and his screenplays for director Guy Maddin have resulted in truly impressive motion pictures. It's a great pleasure to have his brilliant essays in a single volume. These are classic statements about the art of film, and they deserve the widest possible audience.

– James Naremore, Indiana University