Bam­bi vs. Godzilla

David Mamet
  • Review
By – November 14, 2011

David Mamet’s lat­est book takes its title from a mem­o­rable two-minute 1960’s car­toon that doc­u­ments an imag­i­nary encounter between Bam­bi and Godzil­la with pre­dictable results. Mamet — a major Amer­i­can play­wright who has carved out a respectable career as a screen­writer and film direc­tor as well — clear­ly sees him­self and like-mind­ed artists as Bam­bi, mer­ci­less­ly tram­pled by a mon­strous stu­dio sys­tem that cares only for money. 

Mamet’s book is a curi­ous com­bi­na­tion of anti-Hol­ly­wood screed and guide for wouldbe film auteurs. The screed is the less­er, and less suc­cess­ful, part of the book. Mamet’s com­plaints are nei­ther new nor remark­able, and read­ers look­ing for inside Hol­ly­wood dish should look else­where. Mamet prefers the gen­er­al to the spe­cif­ic, and he names few, if any, names. He barks at the hand that feeds him but stops short of bit­ing it.

For­tu­nate­ly, most of the book is giv­en over to an extend­ed dis­cus­sion of the prin­ci­ples of dra­mat­ic struc­ture, stud­ded with numer­ous fas­ci­nat­ing tricks of the filmmaker’s trade. The prose is rough sled­ding at times, and Mamet him­self ram­bles more than any good screen­play should, but the mas­ter class Mamet con­ducts in these chap­ters is well worth the price of the book.

Bill Bren­nan is an inde­pen­dent schol­ar and enter­tain­er based in Las Vegas. Bren­nan has taught lit­er­a­ture and the human­i­ties at Prince­ton and The Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go. He holds degrees from Yale, Prince­ton, and Northwestern.

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