Taylor is a kind of Renaissance man who has been an art, theatre and film critic. This volume, which deserves a wide audience, examines some directors who won international fame in the 60s — a decade of exploding creativity in movies. He includes Hitchcock because, Taylor says, he made his best films then (Vertigo, Psycho, The Birds). But he has a fascinating discussion of my 2 favs, Strangers on a Train ("mature, dazzling") and Notorious ("his most visually ravishing"). Without raising his voice or being show-offy like Kael or pursuing the paradox like Sarris, Taylor writes with assured eloquence and instinctive good will. I wish this book had a sequel.

Fellini, he observes, is one of the cinema's great extroverts whose work has a baroque boldness and opulence and is never concerned w the niceties of taste. By contrast, Antonioni is the complete introvert and meticulously self-disciplined. He also hit upon a star - Monica Vitti - whose personality and physical beauty gave warmth to his chilly landscape.

Bunuel miraculously puts onscreen "his own private world, his own individual way of looking at things." Recognizing Bunuel as an irreplacable original, Taylor cites Viridiana as arguably Bunuel's greatest. (This was written before Belle de Jour was made). And then, there's Bresson : "His films are not easy, they do not go out of their way to please or attract" with their hermetic perfection. Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne merges Diderot and Cocteau with Maria Casares, "the greatest tragedienne of her day."

Beginning an essay on Ingmar Bergman, Taylor writes : "I go to a new Bergman with none of the pleasant anticipation I feel at the prospect of a new Bunuel, Fellini or Hitchcock." It's possible to be a brilliant metteur-en-scene and first-rate technician, he adds, without the two talents being fused into one.

The French New Wave was shaking up the film world in the 60s. Taylor reminds us that four directors had been film critics — Truffaut, Godard, Chabrol, Rohmer. Other dirs were Resnais, Malle, de Broca, Demy... all of whom made it a remarkable age. "In America most films tend to be made by committees," he concludes. In France, a one-man creation is "an ideal toward which everyone strives."