Review by Sean Boelman
Directed by D.W. Young, The Booksellers is a new documentary taking a look at one of the more unusual vocations in existence today. In this time in which technology is ever increasing its grasp over society, Young’s film serves as a refreshing and welcome look at how the past remains important.
The movie tells the story of a group of antique book collectors and booksellers who make a living off of buying and selling rare first-edition books. Although nearly everyone has interacted with a book at some point in their lives, very few have likely looked at the art of bookselling in such detail as this documentary will allow them to.
Although one would think that there’s not much more to this trade than searching for rare books in stores and garage sales, the interviews in this film make it clear that there is actually a lot more nuance to what these people do. Viewers will almost certainly leave with a greater understanding and appreciation of the hard work and passion exhibited by these people.
Almost more interesting, though, is the subtext that Young gives to the interviews. Although it isn’t too subtle with what it has to say, the movie provides commentary on the small business economy within the United States. The most impressive moments in the film are those that explore how the subjects were affected by the rise of mass chain bookstores and eventually electronic media.
That said, the amount of subjects that the movie has prevents the audience from having any real emotional connection to the film. Although the movie is very effective as an exploration of a dying art, it could have been even more effective if it had allowed the viewer to form a connection with the artists who are being affected.
Visually, the film is also very strong. The movie uses its settings to advantage, creating many gorgeous shots of people walking through stacks of books. Obviously, the film is going to be a lot more aesthetically-pleasing if one already appreciates the vintage look, the sheer gorgeousness of the rare books that are shown on screen is sure to be infectious.
Young’s directorial style is also great. Accompanied by a smooth and low-key jazz score, the movie goes along at a very natural rhythm. Young weaves between the different interviews in a way that is consistently entertaining and mostly effective at creating a compelling narrative. Ultimately, many of the decisions that are made in the film are predictable, but they are still very effective.
The Booksellers may not be a revolutionary documentary, but it is nonetheless a very insightful one as it explores something with which most viewers will likely have very little familiarity. Though this movie will likely find most of its success within a very small niche of viewers, it will fascinate those who are curious.
The Booksellers is now playing in theaters.