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Film Details

Sandy Gotham Meehan
Edgar B. Howard

James Salter: A Sport and A Pastime

LISTED UNDER: Literature


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This 54-minute documentary traces the writer James Salter's lifelong love affair with France, unforgettably expressed in his 1967 masterpiece, A Sport and a Pastime.

The novel, a transcendent examination of sexual desire, follows an ill-fated love affair between a Yale dropout and a young French girl, played out in the villages of Burgundy in the 1960s.

"Its spirit," The Washington Post wrote, " -- the ache and artistry of Scott Fitzgerald filtered through the cool sensibility of Flaubert or James -- evokes France, missed opportunities, all the fugitive beauty of youth."

Salter, who began a career as a fighter pilot before resigning to become a writer, has been praised as a contemporary American master by Saul Bellow, Graham Greene, and Susan Sontag, among others.

The film captures the great purity of Salter's prose and the essence of his power to evoke the erotic. Sublime footage of provincial France and fragments of the novel itself, read by the author Reynolds Price, are intercut with photographs by Ralph Gibson and conversations with writers, editors, and Robert Redford, for whom Salter wrote the screenplay, Downhill Racer.

Salter's own reflections on his writing and life offer rich insights for reader and writer alike. James Salter: A Sport and a Pastime is a luminous depiction of the making of a writer and the genesis of a classic novel.

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