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My Letterboxd Watchlist #6: The Booksellers (2019)

My Letterboxd watchlist journey continues today with the first documentary of this quest, The Booksellers (2019), directed, produced, and edited by D. W. Young and executive produced and narrated by Parker Posey.


The Set-Up

There’s not much of a set-up. The Booksellers is a documentary about rare and antiquarian book dealers and their stores (which are sometimes in their homes), but the film also focuses on the annual New York International Antiquarian Book Fair. If all of this sounds dull, stay away from this movie. I found it fascinating.

Who’s Responsible for This?

I am. I saw The Booksellers crop up in the Virtual Screening Room at the AFI Silver early in the pandemic, missed it, then added it to my watchlist. When my wife and I discovered it on Amazon Prime last night, we decided to watch it. (It is exceedingly rare for us to agree on any movie, so the planets were undoubtedly aligned in perfect harmony.)

The Verdict

Having been a bookseller (although not a rare or antiquarian bookseller) for a few years, watching this film was like a Little League player meeting members from the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Besides the pleasure of exploring literally tons of exquisite books and ephemera, The Booksellers also examines the rapid decline of both the allure of the hunt and the sense of discovery associated with book collecting, largely due to the internet and digital books. As the collectors are aging and passing away, the concern is far more than “Who will own these books?” Instead, it’s “Who will carry the torch as the booksellers/collectors of tomorrow?”

The focus of the documentary is on New York booksellers, but it would’ve been interesting to have heard from dealers and collectors from other parts of the country (if not the world). It was frustrating to see only the first names of the people featured onscreen. Not all of them were known to me, and it would’ve been nice not to have to wait until the closing credits to learn who they are.

If you love books, you’ll enjoy this documentary. If you love physical media, you’ll enjoy this documentary. Watch it on Amazon Prime, then distance yourself from Amazon, find an independent bookstore, and buy a book. New, used, I don’t care, but buy a real book, a print book, a physical object with pages you can turn. As Fran Lebowitz rightly states in the film, there was a time when all bookstores were independent bookstores. No longer. Watch The Booksellers and support the independent and used bookstores in your area.

Photos: IMDb, Frame Rated, Avax, Variety

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