George A. Romero has long regarded his 1977 film Martin, the story of a shy, alienated young man’s descent into vampirism, as his best work. It’s a film as satisfyingly complex and relevant today as it was when it was made: ‘its quietude and reflective, melancholy tone’ (as author Jez Winship remarks) ‘are in marked contrast to the violent, confrontational nature of the new breed of independent American horror movies which appeared in the 1970s.’
Winship’s new book on Martin, one of the first in a new series of Midnight Movie Monographs from PS Publishing and editor Neil Snowdon, does an exceptional job in exploring the complexities and nuances that make Martin a modern masterpiece. Eschewing both the ‘linguistic walls of arid language’ that surround much academic film criticism and the ‘sound-bites and exclamation marks’ of mainstream media-speak, Snowden’s mission statement with Midnight Movie Monographs is instead to offer up passionate, incisive, intelligent and accessible film writing; Winship’s Martin does this and much more besides.
Approaching Martin on its own terms rather than imposing cultural theories on it, Winship offers a close reading that takes us through the film almost shot by shot. As Winship makes clear in the opening of his book, Romero’s Martin invites personal engagement, and Winship has obviously lived with this film for much of his life. In short, he has a deep understanding of its many layers and is able to guide us through them in a way that enhances our appreciation of it. While much film writing can feel curiously incidental to the film(s) it addresses, Winship’s book functions as a close companion to Romero’s Martin, clarifying and amplifying its meanings. It’s a beautifully – even poetically – written guide that evokes Martin perfectly in its descriptions of scenes, shots, and moments, and how we might read them.
Whilst readers looking for a detailed account of Martin’s production history and related trivia may not find much here that has not already been published elsewhere, those wanting to journey through Romero’s masterpiece in depth will find this book essential reading. A monograph on Martin was long overdue and it’s difficult to imagine anyone doing a better job of it than Winship does here. There are times, perhaps, when he could shore up his discussion with a few more references to other important writings on Martin; but that’s a minor quibble, as it is Winship’s own voice that we want to engage with, and it’s a voice that’s fully authoritative, intuitive and sensitive to the film’s inner life, which all make for a wonderfully compelling read.
The Midnight Movie Monograph on Martin is available in a handsomely-bound limited first edition hardback; it will sit beautifully on your bookshelf next to the DVD itself, where it belongs.
MARTIN (MIDNIGHT MOVIE MONOGRAPHS) / AUTHOR: JEZ WINSHIP / PUBLISHER: PS PUBLISHING (ELECTRIC DREAMHOUSE IMPRINT) / RELEASE DATE: 24TH SEPTEMBER