People Only Die of Love in Movies

People Only Die of Love in Movies: Film Writing by Jim Ridley (Vanderbilt University Press, 2018)

Combining a cineaste’s encyclopedic knowledge of film with a child’s sense of wonder, Jim Ridley wrote about movies in a way few others can.

He reveled in the joy and mischief of cinema, dwelled on its beauty and violence, and navigated the full breadth of its mythology with clarity and enduring curiosity that earned him the respect of critics around the country. At the time of his unexpected death in 2016, Ridley was editor-in-chief of the alt-weekly Nashville Scene, the paper where his incisive, wide-ranging film reviews won him a devoted readership beginning in 1989.

People Only Die of Love in Movies takes its title from a line in the 1964 movie musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, the subject of one of Ridley’s best-known pieces, included in this volume. In all, the anthology collects nearly one hundred of Ridley’s film reviews, essays, and journalistic works, expertly organized by editor Steve Haruch into writing by film genre (e.g., Westerns, the Nouvelle Vague), cinematic theme (e.g., heroes, sexuality), and writing style (e.g., negative reviews, narrative journalism) to demonstrate Ridley’s range.

People Only Die of Love in Movies invites its readers to revisit favorite films, discover new loves, and immerse themselves in the unparalleled writing of a discerning and knowledgeable critic.



Jim Ridley was a writer and editor at the Nashville Scene for more than 25 years, its resident film critic and most recently the paper’s top editor. Under his editorship, the Scene won 40 awards from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia, averaging better than five per year. Ridley took home first place in arts criticism twice himself. He also contributed to other publications such as the Village Voice, the Criterion Collection and Cinema Scope. As a champion of arts cinema, Ridley’s advocacy helped save the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville from closure in the early years of the new millennium.

“A moving tribute to a great American film critic, this collection brings together an exhilarating array of the best of Jim Ridley’s writing, carving out clever pathways to guide readers through his far-ranging yet always very personal cinephilia — and through film history itself — and to paint a vivid picture of this beloved Nashvillian. The loss of Ridley’s big-hearted and stylish voice left a giant hole in contemporary film criticism, but this book performs a great service by creating a permanent reminder of the magnitude of his writing and film-advocacy achievements. Thank you, Steve Haruch, for this labor of love.” —Liz Helfgott, Editorial Director, The Criterion Collection

“Ridley is among those few ‘reviewers’ whose writing really does move into the realm of enduring film criticism. His examples are taken from the wide history of international cinema, and he makes unexpected connections between films that abide by a taste for cinema that is also, I want to say, an ethics of cinema. The organization of this volume brings Ridley’s critical imagination to the fore.” —Jennifer Fay, Director of Cinema & Media Arts, Vanderbilt University

“Absent from the small but appreciative audience in the [The Last Movie Star’s] Nashville festival is someone who might well have had a cameo — the late Nashville Scene critic Jim Ridley. We never met or corresponded but I’ve been reading a collection of his pieces put together by his former editor Steve Haruch called People Only Die of Love in Movies. It will be published in June and you should get it. It’s really good. It makes me sad not just over the loss of Ridley, who died too young, but the diminution in importance of alternative newsweeklies, which have done so much in the last half century to nurture film festivals in small and medium cities all over the country. Ridley might have covered a Vic Edwards — or Burt Reynolds — tribute and done it with love.” —David Edelstein, New York magazine

“[I]mpeccably curated and edited by Steve Haruch. . . . To read these pieces again, rich in scholarship and suffused with pleasure, is to understand Ridley’s conception of the cinema as an inexhaustible paradise.” —Justin Chang, The Los Angeles Times