Book Title: Cinema Alchemist
Author: Roger Christian
Publisher: Titan Books
Source: Sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Page Count: 360
Format: Hardback (it is also an e-book)
Field Of Interest: Cinema
Audience: Those who love Star Wars, Alien, Cult Movies or cinematography in general.
Summed up in one word: Dedicated
Author Bio: Roger Christian is an award winning production designer and filmmaker, whose significant contributions to the global success of Alien and Star Wars are legendary. As a director, Roger's work includes Black Angel, The Sender and Nostradamus, and he acted as second-unit director on Star Wars: Episode VI and Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
First Impression: This is a must read/own for any Star Wars, Alien or cult movie fans. Cinema Alchemist is filled with secrets from some of the defining movies of the 70's and 80's. From RG's work with George Lucas on the set of A New Hope, to his significant involvement in Alien alongside Ridley Scott. There are many stories, secrets, insights and anecdotes, every reader will find a treasure trove of movie secrets and insider knowledge on the set of genre defining movies!
For the first time, Oscar-winning set decorator and director Roger Christian tells the story of his breakthrough work on such iconic science fiction masterpieces as Star Wars, Alien and his own rediscovered Black Angel.
This candid biography delves into his relationships with such legendary cinematic figures as George Lucas, Ridley Scott, and the Monty Python team, and reveals many of the secrets of his greatest work.
The man who built the lightsaber finally speaks!
(Synopsis from Cinema Alchemist)
Content: Roger Christian opens up about his time on the set of Star Wars, Alien, The Life Of Brian and his own short movie Black Angel. As one of the key set decorators involved in A New Hope, Roger Christian had a lot of say in prop design and set pieces. In this section of the book, you get an all access guide to how some of the most famous elements of Star Wars came to be. It is as good as it sounds :D. Then the mid-section of this book is dedicated to Alien, Ridley Scott, Roger Christian and the other set decorators working hard to bring us another genre defining movie full of excellent effects and memorable scenes. This section is the most juicy in terms of easter eggs and trade secrets. In between these sections, there are stories and anecdotes of other films that RG contributed to such as Monty Python's The Life Of Brian. Finally, we are treated to an in-depth piece on Roger Christian's first outing as director in the form of Black Angel. This section delves into the trials and tribulations that RG faced whilst trying to create a short film that would accompany Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Backs on its first run in cinemas.
Author Style: There is no one that can say that Roger Christian does not work at 100%. He is a dedicated, artistic and enthusiastic human being and this definitely comes across in his writing. I felt at times that I was on the set with him, watching all the delicately prepared plans go wrong, and all the crew scrambling to fix, tweak and generate new ideas on the spot. I would like to say that RG doesn't toot his own horn to much...but being an Oscar winning artist comes with its bragging rights and RG takes several opportunities to exploit this. The main point to discuss about the writing in this book is that it is incredibly detailed. It is almost a textbook for film students at certain points, but I didn't personally find this to be an issue, it is inspiring to read such care and attention to craftsmanship.
Accomplishments: This book accomplishes plenty. RG gets to explain and open up about the props, effects and set design that he worked on in Star Wars, and especially about how it was him who created the iconic Lightsaber! RG also gets to share stories and details about working alongside Ridley Scott, this is an excellent part of the book, full of wonderful stories, content and ideas. The reader gets to see how much work and detail goes into every second of a movie, the blood, sweat and tears that accompany getting the perfect shot or sound that makes a movie scene something special.
Pros: Loads of insider information. Many funny stories. Inspiring. Informative. Awesome.
Cons: This book is a bit of a time consumer, it took me quite a while to finish as it is rather dense with information. Similar to a textbook at times. We could always do with more Star Wars insider knowledge.
Extras: There are plenty of photos in the book that compliment the text, some of which are fairly rare. There are lots of connections to other popular movies of the 70's and 80's, as well as RG taking inspiration from Arthurian Lore.
Rating: This is a must own for movies lovers. If you enjoy know plenty about the process of making movies, or knowing more than other people about popular movie trivia then this is definitely for you. I am happy to have this on my bookshelf, I love the cinema and in many ways, Roger Christian helped make movies special, memorable and enjoyable.