For All Mankind

Al Reinert answers a single question in For All Mankind, his poetic 1989 documentary about the Apollo missions to the moon: What did it feel like? The former newspaper reporter tosses chronology aside in favor of narrative. He weaves together a single journey to the lunar surface based on millions of feet of footage from nine Apollo missions, much of which had never before emerged from its icy vault at NASA's Johnson Space Center. This unorthodox picture, which has been remastered by Criterion for the 40th anniversary of the 1969 moon landing this month, may never earn plaudits from space buffs for historical accuracy, but it certainly wowed viewers at the Sundance Film Festival where it won both the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize. Opening with John F. Kennedy's 1962 speech inciting the space race "for the progress of all people," the film launches the viewer into the mental realm of the American astronaut. An eerie soundtrack by Brian Eno sets the mood as Reinert juxtaposes philosophical narration from crew members with popular tunes they listened to at the time, including Frank Sinatra and the booming motif of Stanley Kubrick's 2001. Reinert wants to tell us that the astronauts are ordinary men in extraordinary circumstances as they gleefully somersault in their seats, fumble with moon rocks, or recall the haunting dreams they had sleeping in the Lunar Module with an entire planet to themselves. The troubles of Apollo 13 are only hinted at in the documentary, but Reinert would explore that drama six years later as screenwriter for the eponymous feature starring Tom Hanks.

April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman's mystery of a brilliant Bangladeshi mathematician's past barrels through the Ivy League, London high finance, and spy-haunted Afghanistan in a page-turning tale of exile, intrigue and the price of friendship. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

The People's Platform

Once touted as the foundation for tomorrow's digital democracy, the Internet is increasingly ruled by a few corporate giants, while millions of contributors till its fields for free. Astra Taylor looks at why the web has failed to deliver a communitarian cyberscape, and offers a compelling case for restoring its original vision.

A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.