Notebook's 2023 Cinephile Gift Guide

Spread film-themed cheer with our annual guide, covering books, Blu-rays, music, posters, and apparel.
Notebook

As December begins, you might be looking forward to spending time with friends and family over the holidays—and in need of some gift-giving inspiration. Look no further than Notebook's Cinephile Gift Guide, the proverbial online Shop Around the Corner (1940).

Below is our third annual, lovingly curated guide to the holiday season. It's sure to spread film-themed cheer, and we hope it's thorough enough to surprise all of the film fans in your life. (Though, if they don't have a MUBI subscription, that's a great place to start—as well as a print subscription to Notebook.)

Jump to a category:


BOOKS ABOUT CINEMA

First up is UK culture and music critic Ian Penman’s kaleidoscopic, genre-bending offering to Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Fassbinder Thousands of Mirrors. The book has drawn comparisons to Charles Baudelaire and Roland Barthes, but is undoubtedly a sui generis response to a singular legacy.

On offer this year from Another Gaze Editions is My Cinema by Marguerite Duras, a collection of Duras’s writings and interviews newly translated by Daniella Shreir. Spanning “non-standard press releases, notes to her actors, letters to funders, short essays on themes as provocatively capacious as ‘mothers’ and ‘witches,’” and much more, it’s a 400-page volume to luxuriate in, ideally next to a crackling winter fire.

The art book Moving Pictures Painted is a seven-decade survey of Egyptian film posters, which “generated an ecosystem of creativity that rivaled the movies themselves.” This limited-edition volume from CentreCentre collects over 200 images of this parallel craft, tracing an idiosyncratic history of Egypt’s cinematic golden age.

The Film Desk is publishing Film Business, a new collection of essays by New Yorker staff writer Lillian Ross, author of the definitive John Huston study Picture. Sure to delight the new journalism, New Hollywood, and nouvelle vague fan in your life are pieces on Francis Ford Coppola, Godard and Truffaut, Anjelica Huston, and the Husbands trifecta of Cassavetes/Falk/Gazzara.

You may want to gift a book that was the basis for a new release, such as David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon. Or perhaps Percival Everett’s Erasure, on which Cord Jefferson’s American Fiction was based.

Michael Leader and Jake Cunningham—the cohosts of the Ghibliotheque podcast—have written a visually dynamic guide to Korean cinema, journeying from classics like Kim Ki-young’s The Housemaid through to contemporary fan favorites like Park Chan-wook, Bong Joon-ho, and Hong Sang-soo.

If you like your artist biographies on the eccentric side, might we suggest John Szwed’s Cosmic Scholar: The Life and Times of Harry Smith? It’s impossible to limit the irascible Greenwich Village mystic’s legacy to a single artform—his impact on avant-garde film and outsider music is immeasurable, but he was also a cultural anthropologist, painter, and collector, driven by an “unceasing desire to create a unified theory of culture.”

Equally cool is Tom Mes’s book on Tai Kato, Akira Kurosawa’s former assistant director and a boundary-pushing yakuza director throughout the 1960s. This is the first compendium devoted to Kato’s avant-garde, taboo-challenging body of work, and is available for preorder from Radiance Films.

In December, Semiotext(e) will publish Nicholas Elliott’s translation of Serge Daney’s The Footlights: a capsule of ’60s and ’70s cinema, featuring writings on Straub–Huillet, Pasolini’s Saló, Spielberg’s Jaws, and an early theory of television. (New to Daney? Let Thomas Quist be your guide through his vital, essential criticism.)

Filmmaker, projectionist, writer, translator, and Notebook contributor Ted Fendt has translated a collection of essays by Nicole Brenez, On the Figure in General and the Body in Particular—in which she reconsiders “what a body on film can be and what constitutes a figure in cinema,” via Anthem Press.

It may be the case that you are looking for gifts for younger cinephiles in your life; Fendt’s parables of adrift dissertation drafters will find them when they are ready. Kids can get into a new round of books from ’Lil Cinephile (the creators of the ever-giftable card game): My First Yakuza, My First Spaghetti Western, and My First Hollywood Musical.


BOOKS BY FILMMAKERS AND ARTISTS

From Mack Books comes the definitive, 488-page holy grail Sofia Coppola Archive, an art book personally edited by Coppola herself. A feast of behind-the-scenes photographs and ephemera—including annotated scripts and reference collages—the book also includes an extensive interview with the filmmaker conducted by Lynn Hirschberg, editor-at-large at W magazine.

Also available through MACK is Spell, Time, Practice, American, Body, the first book from RaMell Ross, the director of the impressionistic Alabama-set documentary Hale County This Morning, This Evening (2018). Putting Ross’s large-format photographs and conceptual works in conversation with original texts, the book offers “a chronicle of the American South that is both mysterious and quotidian, a historical document and a radical imagining of the future.”

Fireflies Press’s marquee winter publication is Collected Stories by Ben Rivers. As implied by the title, this book is indeed a collection of stories, but there’s a bit more conceptual heft: Rivers asked fourteen authors to watch one of his films and respond in writing, yielding an inspiring array of “fables, essays, and poems.” (While you’re waiting for the preorder to arrive, revisit Jordan Cronk’s 2020 interview with Rivers, an “accidental anthropologist.”)

Zoë Lund, star of Abel Ferrara’s Ms. 45 (1981) and co-writer of Bad Lieutenant (1992), is due for reappraisal as a poet: Small Press and Editions Lutanie present Poems, which collects four unpublished poems that Lund wrote in the 1980s. “An incandescent voice emerges, revealing the might, sincerity, and precision of her expression, as well as her vulnerability and defiance in the face of death,” per the succinct, evocative blurb. The volume also includes an introduction from Stephanie LaCava.

This year, you can spoil the Pasolini fan in your life with several books—or save some of them for future birthday gifts, the 2024 holiday season, et cetera. First, Tenement Press has published his 1963 La rabbia (Anger), a furious blend of poetry and prose about Western imperialism and revolutionary struggle (Lynne Tillman describes his voice, here, as akin to “a 20th-century Dante”). Elsewhere, Verso has Pasolini’s Heretical Aesthetics: Pasolini on Painting, a collection of new translations of Pasolini’s attempts to “contaminate” art criticism. Last but not least, New York Review Books has published new translations of two of Pasolini’s novels, Theorem and Boys Alive.

Perhaps the coolest artist memoir of the year is John Lurie’s The History of Bones. The book traces Lurie’s journey through 1980s New York, from founding the Lounge Lizards to his performances in films by Jim Jarmusch (for more on that scene, read Vikram Murthi’s Jarmusch Primer). Of course, there’s more to Lurie’s career, painter and fisher that he is; this book is a wonderful encapsulation of his singular voice.

While you can definitely spend hours riveted by film theory, you might want to kick back with a bona-fide page-turner. Look no further than Out There Screaming, co-edited by Jordan Peele: an anthology of new horror writing by Black writers.

Another insightful take on genre writing is Love Witch director Anna Biller’s novel Bluebeard’s Castle: a subversive, self-reflexive reworking of the French fairy tale, letting the filmmaker toy with the tropes of Gothic romance and erotica. (Revisit Michael Pattison’s 2019 essay about Viva, in which Biller “gets to dig into the complex foundations of spectatorial pleasure.”)

“In the crowded field of auteur-driven nonfiction cinema, the New York-based Japanese filmmaker Kazuhiro Soda has distinguished himself as one of its most vital and consistently rewarding talents,” wrote K.F. Watanabe for Notebook in 2019. Soda explores his radical approach to independent, observational documentary—with edicts like no research, no scripts, and pay for the production yourself—in Why I Make Documentaries, via Viaindustriaie Publishing. A good gift for nonfiction-savvy cinephiles, as well as How To… with John Wilson fans ready to venture off the beaten path.

Werner Herzog tells his story “for the first and only time” (so says the blurb) in his memoir Every Man for Himself and God Against All. (“Eeyore” is but one of thousands of words you can hear him say in the audiobook.)


HOME VIDEO

Via A24 in the US, Kelly Reichardt’s Showing Up has a charming special edition Blu-ray. Gift someone one of the very best films of 2023, accompanied by a commentary with Reichardt, DP Christopher Blauvelt, and artist Michelle Segre; two short films; and six collectible postcards featuring Cynthia Lahti’s artwork for the film.

Arrow has a great slate for holiday shopping—check out the box sets for Inside the Mind of Coffin Joe and The Warriors. But one of the most talked-about Blu-ray releases is their limited-edition version of Michael Mann’s Blackhat, which includes Mann’s newly reimagined director’s cut (a premiere on home video).

Amid a recent resurgence of appreciation for the films of Shinji Sômai—as detailed in Patrick Preziosi’s Notebook piece from earlier this yearThird Window Films has released a region-free Blu-ray of Typhoon Club, “a caustic immersion into the lives of disaffected junior high students on the cusp of adulthood.”

Kani Releasing is a distribution company specializing in Asian cinema (they’re named after Ozu’s tatami-level custom tripod). They launch one new home-video release each month, and Lino Brocka’s Cain and Abel is among the recent highlights.

Another home-video distributor worth supporting is Black Zero, whose efforts are devoted to Canadian experimental cinema. Look out for John Hofsess’s dual-screen exploration of the erotic imaginary, Palace of Pleasure, from 1967—Black Zero is named after its second half.

Preorder Radiance Films’s region ABC release of Glauber Rocha’s Black God, White Devil, out on December 18—special features include a video essay by Manuela Lazic and Alessandro Luchetti about the film’s political visual style, which was vastly influential on the Cinema Novo movement.

Criterion’s very giftable Chantal Akerman box set may not be out until January 23, but in the meantime, there’s this excellent collection of three early classics by Tod Browning: Freaks, The Unknown, and the long-unavailable The Mystics. (Earlier this year, Z. W. Lewis wrote about how William Mortensen’s eerie photography inspired key works by Browning.)


MUSIC

We’d be remiss not to recommend an LP by Maustetytöt, the deadpan Finnish duo who grace the dive-bar stage in Aki Kaurismäki’s Fallen Leaves. Impress your gift-ee with your knowledge of the Finnish language by buying directly from their site, and learn more of the language as you memorize the lyrics.

Waxwork has an incredible double-LP pressing of the Lost Highway soundtrack (on some days, our favorite Lynch soundtrack). Flash back to what Lynch terms a “psychogenic fugue” on gorgeous 150 gram splatter vinyl, and revel in the original score by Angelo Badalemnti and Barry Adamson. Notably, this is also the second full-length soundtrack produced by Trent Reznor (after Natural Born Killers); the second LP includes two Nine Inch Nails songs, David Bowie’s pitch-perfect theme “I’m Deranged,” and Lou Reed’s career-best cover of “This Magic Moment.”

Also crucial from Waxwork is the first-ever physical release of the Carnival of Souls score. This unforgettably creepy organ score was composed by Gene Moore, and was restored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from the original soundtrack negative. 

Okay—let’s say you have cash to burn and you want to listen to something a bit less eerie. Light in the Attic has aspecial 13-LP limited-edition box set of eleven Wong Kar Wai soundtracks, featuring new artwork and brightly colored vinyl. Only 400 are available, so preorder quickly!

Let’s get heavy again. Pick up an LP by Polish psych composer Andrzej Korzyński, perhaps best-known to cinephiles for scoring Andrzej Żuławski's Possession. Finders Keepers has pressed up his score for Żuławski's The Devil, restored from the project’s “perpetually elusive” master tapes, featuring tone-setting tracks like “Wedding Dance Macabre,” “Rope Him to the Horse,” and “Around You Is a Void Circle Save for the Stinking Corpses.”

The Hamburg-based Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band has long thrived on anonymity, so they must be surprised to find their music at the center of Justine Triet’s Palme d’Or–winner Anatomy of a Fall. Be careful as you dance around the house to their cover of “P.I.M.P.,” the first track on their 2016 album 55, available on vinyl or CD through Big Crown Records. (Revisit Lawrence Garcia's Cannes coverage of Anatomy here.)


HOME GOODS, POSTERS, AND GAMES

At New York’s movie-art gallery Posteritati, the options can seem endless. Our eye went to the Japanese chirashi for Crumb (above), but they’ve got a lovely gift guide of their own filtered for price points, decades, genres, auteurs, staff picks, and more. (Pssstthe “Polish Posters” collection is the place to be.) A gift card is also a thoughtful, open-ended option.

Coinciding with their ongoing Powell & Pressburger extravaganza, the BFI has a classy range of relevant gifts: postcards, art prints, Blu-rays, books, a tote bag, notebooks, and even Red Shoes limited-edition wrapping paper—don’t forget that until it’s too late. (For more P&P, read Matt Thrift's interview with Thelma Schoonmaker, occasioned by the retrospective.)

Oscilloscope presents Celluloid, a film-themed card game and a great stocking stuffer. Per the instructions, “Players use descriptive cards they are dealt (a setting, genre, time period, activity, etc) to build a real movie or TV show answer for friends to rack their brains to correctly guess.” So your next holiday party is sorted.

This wooden camera from the toy company Father’s Factory is a great way to inspire kids’ creativity. It has an adorable kaleidoscopic viewfinder, spinning shutter, and spinning rewind level. After a long day on “set,” it’s a charming decorative item, too.

Your holiday party will be vastly enlivened by this board game, Hollywood 1947. The situation: you are a member of the film industry in 1947, and your production company is suspected to be a front for—what else?—communism. You now need to beat the clock to make as many movie masterpieces as possible before your studio is unceremoniously shut down. (All this in an estimated gameplay time of 20 minutes—no runtime bloat.)


APPAREL

It’s a great time of year to support your local cinemas. Gift a membership to yield the greatest rewards all year long, and you can also pick up some attire to show your support in public—this t-shirt for Brooklyn’s beloved microcinema Light Industry features a drawing by Sergei Eisenstein, and was the talk of the global MUBI editorial team when it was announced. 

By purchasing this long-sleeve shirt inspired by Kathleen Collins’s film Losing Ground, you can support the establishment of a Black film space in Brooklyn, an effort led by Melissa Lyde. Also available in the Alfreda's Cinema store is a design inspired by Sarah Maldoror’s Sambizanga. (The collection was designed by Theo Swanson.)

Finally, we’d like to acknowledge a MUBI Release trendsetter. Some of Franz Rogowski’s garments from Passages can be thrifted on secondhand sites: a long-sleeved version of this mesh top (above) is available in small on Poshmark and medium on Mercari (act fast!). If you love knitwear, you can splurge on this green Acme Studios sweater that Franz wears in the film, available on Grailed for $655 (surely because of the Passages bump). Check out The Cut for a comprehensive guide to Passages fashion—but first, stick around to watch the film on MUBI.


All products featured on Notebook are independently selected by our editors. However, if you purchase a book through a retail link to Bookshop.org, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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