PUBLISHER: Da Capo Press

MSRP: $22.00
PAGES: 162

[Note from George: Yes, CHUD’s delving into books. If this goes over well with you guys, expect to see more as time goes by.  I’m slogging through one at the moment as well! But for now, I’ll just shut up and let Mr. Arbuckle do his thing. Enjoy!]

York is an actor whose face you probably recognize, even if his name is unfamiliar.
He played the leaping, laughing Tybalt in the Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo
and Juliet
, the bumbling D’Artagnan in the 1973 The Three Musketeers and
its sequel, The Four Musketeers, and, more recently, Basil Exposition in
the Austin

In 2003,
he accepted a role in an English-language action-adventure called Moscow
, being filmed in
Moscow (Russia, not Idaho) with a Russian co-star and a
predominantly-Russian crew. While on location,
York kept a journal of his experience
with the culturally-divided production within the larger context of the
cultural-collision that is modern day
Moscow. The narrative is a memoir, and
so meanders a bit more than necessary, but
York‘s authorial voice is nearly as
engaging as his screen presence and makes Are My Blinkers Showing? an
enjoyable and informative read.

cryptic title comes from one of
York‘s anecdotes about the
impenetrable strangeness of aspects of Russian culture. "Blinkers"
are, as
York sleuths out, are some item of clothing, but he was unable
to determine which item, exactly. The
other definition of the word, being a device used to limit vision, is also
referenced in the book, giving the title a dry double-entendre that exemplifies
the sort of British wit the reader encounters in
York‘s prose. York has no pretensions of being a man
beyond country; he freely admits to his feeling at odds with the city, his
metropolitan background being much less conflicted than that of

It is
contrasts that fascinate
York the most in his journal. He
writes heavily about the differences between modern Russian filmmaking and
Hollywood, the Russian part of which bears the nested contrast of seeming
simultaneously lazy and diligent; he writes about the differences between
Russian filmmaking of today as compared to Soviet filmmakers such as Eisenstein
and Dovzhenko; he practically revels in the absurdity of the architectural
mashup that Moscow has become, modern versus antiquated. The first two sections
of the book, which divided into thirds, are full of digressions on the above
topics — some are interesting, some are pointless.

the root of the problem with Are My Blinkers Showing? Memoirs do
not generally require a thesis, because their implied thesis is that
so-and-so’s life is important and interesting. York’s book is much more focused
on a single time and place, and so lacks the weight of a broader memoir, while
taking few steps to address the reason why a reader without an investment in
Russian or cinematic history should care. It’s easy to believe that this book
began as a series of informal journals.

published form, it serves an additional purpose — that of marketing tool.
York spends an appreciable amount of
time carefully talking up the movie, which hasn’t yet seen a wide release.
These excursions feel out of place; a certain amount of them would be expected
in order to provide the context for the film as catalyst to the book, but
York includes too many.

As the
book progresses into its third and final section, Russian political issues
begin to outweigh the cinematic ones.
York becomes submerged in Russian
culture to a degree that feels as if he’s sucking all the experience he can out
of the city before principal photography ends. Paragraphs are spent on the
Russian elections of 2004, interspersed among recollections of post-production
on Moscow
, in which
York had minimal involvement. As a
conclusion to a memoir, it’s unsatisfying, because
York, in Los Angeles and moving on to other projects,
ends up distant from both of the primary points of interest:
Moscow and Moscow Heat.

York‘s prose is easy to digest, and it
communicates a lot of wide-eyed fascination. Can you imagine an English man
saying, "Gee whiz"?
York has a bit of an elevated diction,
which comes, I suspect, from being a Shakespearian actor, and his unbending,
intangible British-ness comes across as stuffy from time to time, but, overall,
he makes a knowledgeable and personable guide to

At only
160 pages, it’s a skinny book. It’s breezy, a light read, but unfocused. The
advance reading copy I read could have stood another pass by an editor to
tighten the aim of several of the chapters.

Judging the Book by its

The cover I grabbed from Amazon is just awful. Its layout recalls Soviet WW2-era propaganda
posters, but the elements are assembled from what looks to be four or five
different source photographs of varying quality.

6.8 out of 10