CINEMA ALCHEMIST

PrintE-mail Written by Scott Varnham

The lightsabre is one of cinema’s most iconic bits of kit. From the moment Luke pointed it at Ben Kenobi’s face, children and adults have wanted to cut down their enemies with this unique weapon. It turns out that the man who built that prop has led one hell of an interesting life himself. Roger Christian has worked as a set decorator and director on some of the most influential films of all time, such as Star Wars, Alien and The Life of Brian. He also directed Battlefield Earth, but we won’t hold that against him if you won’t.

The bulk of his autobiography covers a decade or so where Christian was working on the biggest pictures going. It’s a fascinating eye-witness look into the filmmaking world of the 1970s and 80s - though if we hear the word ‘patina’ one more time we’ll scream the place down. Easily the most interesting part of the book is where he’s talking about creating the ‘used world’ look of Star Wars - this alone will make the book required reading for film students and historians.

While written in an engaging way, this autobiography is certainly candid; it feels like he has scores to settle. Former colleagues are painted in an unflattering light, and he will at times stop the book to correct a bit of previous reporting. When he introduces a fact with a lead up like “this has been misreported as…”, it feels petty. His stories also all seem to involve him being the underdog or the lone voice of dissent. But if he’s always right, that means we’re wrong about this. C’est la vie.

The issue described in the previous paragraph would be a huge fault if the end result wasn’t absolutely absorbing. It might grate for some, but it’s still a very interesting read. Christian can add this book to his list of achievements.

It still doesn’t make up for Battlefield Earth, mind. 

CINEMA ALCHEMIST / AUTHOR: ROGER CHRISTIAN / PUBLISHER: TITAN BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW 
 


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