"Who is Lance Comfort? The short answer is that he is the most unjustly neglected director in British film history. McFarlane's lively, thoroughly researched study aims to correct this situation."
That's how the blurb on the back of the book begins. One could argue with the word "unjustly", but the book succeeds in what it sets out to do.
The opening chapter is a bit of an uphill struggle full of stuff like this:
In particular, Bourdieu's concepts of habitus and field, and their interrelationship, work towards positing a more complex understanding of how cultural products are made and received. Habitus, tersely summarised by Bourdieu's editor as 'a notion of the agent' (that is, the agent as cultural producer), replaces the notion of auteur, the Romantic ideal of the artist as individual creator, with the concept of 'systems of dispositions ... realised only in relation to a determinate structure of positions'.
Once you get past this sort of guff the rest of the book consists of a careful, easily comprehensible, walk through Comfort's career. McFarlane's work concentrates firmly on the films with few biographical details to give us an idea of Lance Comfort the man. McFarlane has no illusions about Comfort being an undiscovered genius, but places his work in the context of the circumstances in which it was made. He makes a half-hearted attempt to give auteur status to Comfort but he's clear that Comfort had little control over his material for most of his career.
This is the first of a series called British film makers and it bodes well. The other subjects announced are Jack Clayton, Terence Fisher, Pat Jackson, Launder and Gilliat, and J. Lee Thompson. It's a shame that film maker seems synonymous with director when there are so many other contributors to the film-making process who could be studied (Michael Balcon, Alex Vetchinsky, T.E.B. Clarke, Muir Mathieson to name four representatives of different jobs). At least if they're writing books about Lance Comfort then their heart is in the right place.
This book is well worth getting and is guaranteed to make you want to look again at the films and see if you've underrated Lance Comfort.
Pub: Manchester University Press
ISBN: 0 7190 5484 2
Price: £9.99 $19.95Lance Comfort: available at Amazon UK