Ken Burns's America
Gary R. Edgerton
St. Martin's, 2001 (2001)
Reviewed by David Pitt
irst off, let's clear up a potential confusion: this is not, unfortunately, a lavishly illustrated companion piece to a Ken Burns documentary called 'America.' It's not a biography of the noted documentary filmmaker, either, although that would be a nifty thing to have around. What this is, is a book about the documentaries that Burns has made:
The Civil War
, and other famous and lesser-known works of historical journalism.
t's a mixed bag. Edgerton takes us inside Burns's production company, Florentine Films, and film buffs will have a great time seeing how he makes his adventurous, original documentaries. On the other hand Burns himself, the man behind the films, seems strangely unfocussed, as though Edgerton never got a really good look at him. There are plenty of facts here - Burns did this, then he did that - but there is little life.
his is, the author writes in his preface, '
the first book-length study to comprehensively examine this innovative filmmaker as a television auteur
,' but it's more about the films than the filmmaker. That's unfortunate, but not fatal. Burns is, after all, no ordinary documentarian. He is an artist, and any book about him needs to spend lots and lots of time talking about
he way he makes his art.
ut, and maybe this is just me, I want to know not just how a guy makes his art, but why. What is there inside the artist that drives him to create things that take enormous amounts of time and work? This question, sadly, remains mostly unanswered. The book is successful at what it sets out to do, but I wish it had done more.
Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.
Find more NonFiction books on our
or in our book