[[ DOWNLOAD KINDLE ]] ☛ The Big Screen ⇧ PDF eBook or Kindle ePUB free

As good as a book that causes you to read about 400 pages over a single day without even really noticing it could be..especially when you finish it the next day Wow So I love David Thomson anyway, having picked up on him awhile back and I was pleased to see his relatively high position in my most read authors taxonomy here on GR It s the way he writes informed, passionate, witty and not afraid to get dirty or poetic There s that British thing born in London just after the war, remembered playing amid bombed out buildings and deprivation and such of eloquence that doesn t overstep itself, keeps its ironic reserve and puts a finer point on it whenever possible Thomson says he s pretty much too English to feel totally American he s been here long enough, he s written about the culture plenty, it s as much his as anyone else s and a little too American to feel totally English California ain t London, it s not even Deptford and so he s a bit between the two I m a sucker for this, especially as it applies to another, deeper hero who would have to be the dearly departed Mr Hitchens And, to be honest, I already knew most of this stuff pretty well already I ve been obsessed with film since I went to college at a well regarded film school, majoring in Lit and Philosophy I d never heard of French New Wave or realized that a million great films were made before there was color, let alone sound Typical suburban shmuck, I guess I m so very very glad that I found a rich and pretty much endless vein of cinema after some reflection, film is a bit too didactic, methinks, and Thomson himself sticks with the humble and demotic movies as his preferred term and I ll do the same that has enriched my life every bit as much as books and music do, and that s saying something There s always been a sort of tension between movies and books Back in the day, the erudite and refined upper classes were than happy to sniff at the world of the big screen, wondering where the high classic tradition of prose was destined to die All those grubby people tossing a nickel to catch some dreadful, slaphappy nonsense or a lusty sword and sandal bloodbathnot to mention all those excitable youngsters, giggling and rubbing elbows before the stern usher comes over in his little hat to kill the buzz and blue the balls and blare the flashlight in those impressionable faces, luminous under that frenzied, glowing screen It took a while for directors to justify themselves as real artists, as auteurs, and for their creations to get the respect and appreciation they deserved Thomson has said a couple times that he was totally going to do the Doctorate or whatever in English and close read Henry James for a living until, well, the movies claimed him So he s got such stellar literary chops that he writes with an academic s knowledge of the history of movies aesthetic, yes, but also social, economic, political and a novelist s eye for character and dramatic irony and generous helpings of lyricism, when so moved Derived from works by the German playwright Frank Wedekind, Pandora s Box is the story of Lulu, a prostitute and a reckless spirit in the German gloom There is no daylight in the film, yet Lulu s white body glows like a bulb with the energy that lights her fate She is a wanton who abandons conquests as a bored lion leaves one carcass for another The film carries her all the way from the authority figure of Dr Schon to a pale Jack the Ripper, who rids her of her life. Here s Thomson on Hitchcock s most personal movie and most lusted after heroine, which is saying something since Hitch had than his shareVertigo is a necromantic rite, a story of love ruined and direction exposed, and a lesson in what you might call the layers of performance If you reflect on its full story, there is this young woman, Judy Barton, has come from Kansas to San FranciscoShe s sexy but not too smart She isn t a great actress But Gavin Elster, full of old world charm and authority, and her lover, has taken her over and directed her to play the part of his wife, MadelineShe is the model of people in movies who are required to behave naturally without noticing the camera, lights, and the crew She is acting, but she might be said to be presenting a self in everyday lifeThe closing paragraph on Hirsoshima Mon Amour The 1959 film remains Its light has not wavered yet, though that may be thanks to the mercy of black and white and the way film emulsion has a life of its own It looks and sounds as fresh and questioning as ever Begin the picture, and its haunting night returns you to the underground river that flows between Nevers and Hiroshima Yes, there was a war once that linked the two places, but the war was only the superficial bond The enduring tie was the way lovers touch and the woman remembers The thing she is most afraid of is not a bigger bomb than Hiroshima but the chance that she may forget The thing she cannot bear is the thought that life may be without links or significance in the dark.. There s plenty where this succinct, wise, informative and engrossing prose comes from It s from what Thomson likes to call quoting Jean Paul Sartre, of all people the frenzy on the screen It s all up there love, hate, life, death, desire, despair, zest and ennui As the great Samuel Fuller says, in Godard s wonderful Pierrot Le Fou Thomson has spent a lifetime watching, teaching and writing about film history, of course, and I really think it s perfect to call him the Samuel Johnson of film criticism He s got the authority and the breadth of learning, imagination to bear, and he loves to gossip as much as anybody Enjoy his description of Ingrid Bergman sending a flirty intercontinental telegram to Roberto Rossellini and the subsequent scandal not only in the film world but for America at large Again, I think it s an English thing I don t know how to describe it, but there s a way that Thomson has of being both a critic and fan at the same time I wouldn t even complain were one to go so far as to suggest that he s a kind of poet, too, a entirely capable enough critic to let go of the instructive and tap into the familiar and the lyrical He is than happy to tell the narrative of the movies from its beginning with Lumiere and Muybridge up through the silent era Dreyer, Von Stroheim, Pabst, Griffith to comedies Chaplin, Keaton to noir Welles, Wilder to New Wave Godard, Truffaut to the movie brats Spielberg, Coppola, Scorsese up to Adam Sandler and Lars Von Trier That s right he pairs up Adam Sandler and LARS VON friggin TRIER He s not kidding or being cute with his juxtapositions Thomson knows full well that you can take the temperature of a culture or an era through its screwball comedies as much as you can its high art He pays attention to everything He s got his favorites, of course, and he has people he specifically wants to enlighten the reader about, but that s at least part of the critic historian s job, innit I think Thomson is intending to reach the curious and interested reader rather than the raging, sun starved cinephile and this is all to the good I ve been watching all kinds of movies for years and I didn t particularly need another refresher course on the genius of Howard Hawks or Fassbinder, but that actually made the reading experience that much sweeter I decided to list this book under biography because, in a certain sense, that s what it is He s writing a life of the movies and like any life story it sort of changes and metamorphoses before your eyes even if you know the essential bits by heart Chronology ripples, don t you know, and when a familiar set of facts and events is set down in a new way the insights themselves are brought into different, deeper relief You don t need to be a sun starved flick freak to appreciate and enjoy this book, in other words It helps, I guess, if you re already into movies but really this book is well suited for somebody who wants to enrich their experience of movie watching and to get a sense of what else is out there Thomson seems to presume some basic knowledge of the major players, so he balances the line extremely well between dry information and vigorous buttonholing Besides, if you re reading this and you ve never seen, like, Citizen Kane or Psycho orThe Seven Samurai or The Four Hundred Blows you seriously need to get in You don t know what you re missing And, as the cliche goes you ain t seen nothin yet And if you already have, well, then you re in for a treat I mean, there s so much you have yet to enjoy Thomson s got great taste I say this, of course, because he seems to adore a lot of my personal favorites and he ll be than happy to lead you to people like Preston Sturges and Hawks and Mizoguchi and and and One of the best things about being a film freak and, while we re at it, one of the advantages movies have over books is that you re not usually making a huge time investment, comparatively speaking A novel of average length can reasonably take a couple weeks or a month to sift through while your average length movie might stretch a couple hours, at most If you wanted to delve into, say, Faulkner or Maugham you might well be up for a solid month Not so with the movies you can become a pretty well versed fan of, say, Fellini or Dreyer or Peckinpah in a little than a weekend or two This isn t to say that sheer accumulation is the goal here, but life is short and one wants to read and see and listen to as much good stuff as possible I would suggest that books offer a deeper kind of satisfaction, a reverential solitude, that somehow eludes the world of movies but that s a debate for another time Thomson s really alert to the subtle overlaps between movies and books I mean, either way the artist is trying to tell you a story and to stay in time with where they put the viewer s attention How do they handle the different moments, the plot points that lead us from one situation to another Dramatic tension, character development, lyrical expansion, it s all a kind of quiet architecture, whether the author of the text is sitting behind a desk or a camera Check this out, here s Thomson on the books movies dialectic Read this We stood against the tall zinc bar and did not talk and looked at each other The waiter came and said the taxi was outside Brett pressed my hand hard I gave the waiter a franc and we went out Where should I tell him I asked Oh, tell him to drive around I told the driver to go to the Parc Montsouris, and got in, and slammed the door Brett was leaning back in the corner, her eyes closed I got in and sat beside her The cab started with a jerk Oh, darling, I ve been so miserable, said Brett. That s chapter 3 of The Sun Also Rises, published in 1926, when movies were still silent Not that this kind of dialogue, with its sense of the unspoken, would be heard onscreen for at least twenty years But the moment is cinematic the transition from slammed the door to Brett was leaning back is a cut Hemingway didn t depend on being aware of that, but no one had yet used a sound effect to bridge two shots in a movie But unconsciously, he was following the energy of film s editing So many fiction writers were The value of the movies was simple and sweeping for writers film helped you see your own scene in your head, and you could count on readers having the same instinct Soon enough, literature would find that dispassionate observation as almost a policy or philosophy Seeing was so potent and immediate, you could overlook its consequence Immediately after looking at it a couple of times, I saw the point he was getting at and it totally made sense to me I sometimes used to wonder whether or not making movies was really where it s at, you know You ve got the setting, the actors, the script, the soundtrack, all that seductively immersive stuff just waiting to be used All novelists have, by contrast, is just some thousands of words on the page No comparison Then I read an interview with the great Luis Bunuel, who said that if there was any other occupation he d like to try, it would be that of a novelist or writer, simply because of the fact that they can create within the privacy of their own heads, just their pen and a page, without all the chaos and clumsiness of all the stuff you need to make a movie What a wonderful thing, says the master of surrealism and the subversive gesture, to dream up a world all by yourself That sold me, especially since it came from a guy who knew how to use cinema to tell stories and map out places of the modern soul like no other So, anyway, the rest of the book that isn t a brisk and witty narrative history is all wrapped up in a certain kind of film criticism Thomson s fully aware of all the major schools of thought and crucial texts you don t write about movies professionally for almost your entire career without knowing your Kracauer and your Molly Haskell right along with Pauline Kael and the dearly departed Roger Ebert but he refreshingly leaves ideology and cant aside and writes like the novelist he is in his moonlighting hours As I said, he writes sort of the narrative history of the movies as any finely tuned storyteller would and when he wants to rhapsodize he goes ahead and does it I love this about his work, here and across the board Some film critics and very good ones tend to keep their responses crisp and tidy, laboring to stay objective and not get caught up in the diagesis or the mise en scenewhich means that, in part, they are missing some of the spellbinding, unconscious power that movies have True, this is a very druggy, ambiguous, seductive thing Goebbels and Hitler weren t chatting up Fritz Lang to be their propaganda minister for nothing Hell, you got an unlimited budget, mega exposure, casts of thousandsgood thing Lang told them thanks but no thanks, left his a little too cool with it wife behind, and hotfooted it to California but still, I think if you know what you re doing as a critic you can succumb to it and still keep your reasoning faculties intact One term I d like to see popularized is lyrical criticism I don t know if there s a term for it but it s everywhere in any kind of critical art writing Instead of objectively describing the piece of art in a sort of dry, Kantian way, the critic instead follows his hunch, gets into it, describes his reaction to the piece as a viewer, as someone who was caught up in the spell It s only natural that this should happen any critic worth their salt is going to be swept away to some extent in what they experience And that s just it go into it, get lyrical, get subjective, take us into your dream a little bit I feel like there s in an examination of one s own associations, impressions, memories and personality as it is effected by the art than by trying to lay down a blueprint by way of real estate Instead, why not let the critic s subjectivity, the poetry come out Reaction is an action, after all, and there s no reason why a critic s reveries can t be as fruitful to learn from and to be enriched by when they try to bridge the gap between what the particular work of art is and what can be said about it Thomson s really good at this, which is why I love to read him This isn t to suggest he s a goo goo he gives you a little bit of the magic of movies but plenty of the glaring realities, too It s a business, kiddo, and everybody s hawkeyeing the bottom line studio heads, producers, directors, actors, writers, all anxiously checking to see how many asses are in the seats, coming back to plunk down their hard earned to sit silent under the big screen That s the other meaning of the title Thomson s known for being one of the critics who can really write beautifully about the psychological experience of watching a movie which is part of what I was trying to allude to earlier about critical lyricism How the dark embraces you, how your own desires the wholesome and the don t tell your mother variety are put on full display with the presences of faces, locations, colors, areas of space, flickerings of ambient, omnipotent light Godard used to say that we don t think at the cinema, we ARE thought It took me some head scratching to try and figure out where he s coming from and I think this is sort of it He s saying that watching a movie conditions your desires and your interpretations to be as part of the whole experience The movies play with your inherited cultural baggage, as well as your own private interests and concerns and fears and desiresin turn, changing them somewhat by changing what s shown to you on the screen What s going on with today s screens Used to be that you d have to pay your ticket price and stay in the theater to see everything Now we ve got laptops, iphones, tablets, etc Is it the same thing, the same experience, the same frenzy Wellmaybe Thomson s a little bit wistful and a little bit bitter, to be sure, since he is after all an old fellow and he s seen some cinematic glory days come and go But he really doesn t feel the need to get up on his reactionary high horse very much at all, if ever, which is such a nice surprise If people watch Metropolis or The Godfather on a handheld device or a small laptop, ehso it goes I mean, the movies are still there Gilles Deleuze wrote a book about movies, the title of which is The Brain Is The Screen Thomson doesn t quote it or him at all, but I couldn t get that title out of my mind as I was reading his observations on the difference in movie watching experiences I haven t read the book, to be honest, though the title alone has gotten my brain working The brain is the screenthe brain is the screenSo every movie and, by extension, tv show and youtube clip and facebook post on that later that we watch is, so to speak, projected against the tabula rasa of our imaginations Our consciousness Our unconscious Our personal cultural memory Our souls Huh Interesting To take that line of thought, I guess it wouldn t make any difference what screen we used, would it I mean, a chien andalou by any other name But at the same time, I definitely went out of my way to see The Tree of Life in the theater a couple of times and I was than happy to pay a little extra to see The Master on glorious 75mm It just wouldn t do to see these two on a piddling little ipod I do get a sense that Thomson would be glad to see people seeing movies on the big screen, either new ones at the multiplex or at the revival houses, and honestly I can t blame him I definitely haven t seen nearly as many movies this year as I used to and I haven t gone to a theater in ages Too expensive But I definitely feel like I need to go, soon, and I will be sure to say a prayer of gratitude for Mr Thomson as the lights go down One thing I d really like to do is add some stills from some of the movies Thomson leans on I know this is totally possible, but I ve tried to post images in GR reviews before and failed miserably I can t figure out these dadblam computers Anybody out there in GR land can help [[ DOWNLOAD KINDLE ]] ⇪ The Big Screen ☚ The Big Screen Tells The Enthralling Story Of The Movies Their Rise And Spread, Their Remarkable Influence Over Us, And The Technology That Made The Screen As Important As The Images It CarriesBut The Big Screen Is Not Another History Of The Movies Rather, It Is A Wide Ranging Narrative About The Movies And Their Signal Role In Modern Life The Celebrated Film Authority David Thomson Takes Us Around The Globe, Through Time, And Across Many Media To Tell The Complex, Gripping, Paradoxical Story Of The Movies He Tracks The Ways We Were Initially Enchanted By Movies As Imitations Of Life The Stories, The Stars, The Look And How We Allowed Them To Show Us How To Live At The Same Time, Movies, Offering A Seductive Escape From Everyday Reality And Its Responsibilities, Have Made It Possible For Us To Evade Life Altogether The Entranced Audience Has Become A Model For Powerless And Anxiety Ridden Citizens Trying To Pursue Happiness And Dodge Terror By Sitting Quietly In A Dark RoomDoes The Big Screen Take Us Out Into The World Or Merely Mesmerize Us That Is Thomson S Question In This Grand Adventure Of A Book, Vital To Anyone Trying To Make Sense Of The Age Of Screens The Age That, Than Ever, We Are Living In Madly, hectically following my summary of 2017 in books comes this handy fun sized my year in movies, which, frankly, and I probably shouldn t say this out loud, have, pound for pound, given me actual fun than books this year I know, it s mildly shocking.24 BEST MOVIES OF THE YEARNEW ISH MOVIES Your Name Japanese anime, how cutting edge I am, but actually, everybody will de dazzled and emotionally wrought up with the beauty and time trippy body switching complexities Most beautiful film for a long long while Our Little Sister another Japanese movie, this one a drama in which practically nothing happens except people get on with each other really well The Florida Project completes a trilogy of three brilliant performances by little kids from recent years the other two are Jacob Tremblay in Room aged 8 and McKenna Grace in Gifted aged 11 Here we have Brooklynn Prince aged 7 coping wonderfully with life at the bottom of the pile actually all three of these kids do a lot of good coping It almost gives you hope for the future Tower this is a must see it s on Netflix an animation of the Charles Whitman massacre at the University of Texas in 1966, which was the first big ticket American massacre in an ongoing series The dazzling beauty of the graceful visuals smashes head on into the horror of the actual events and all of this intercut with interviews from the time and interviews with survivors from the present day Wow, I was floored by this movie American Honey this is a must see Sasha Lane could be the grown up version of the kid in The Florida Project, all tough sassy on the outside and not really that tough on the inside For a quick tour of American poverty, see these two movies as a double bill The Disaster Artist could have been awful but this careful, respectful homage to the worst movie ever The Room, not to be confused with Room is just right They do tweak a couple of things, like avoiding Lisa s nude scenes in order to concentrate on James Franco s bottom but as a fan of the Disaster Artist book I had no complaints at all You probably do need to see The Room before, though The Death of Stalin well, it s a sort of comedy but really only makes you smile in the way that all skulls do, mirthlessly and bitterly It s very cartoony and has miles of style and you will like it Toni Erdmann a 3 hour long German comedy with the most uncomfortable cringe making nude scene in many many years Revanche Hidden Figures Hell or High water Manchester by the Sea DetroitOLD MOVIES WHICH I FINALLY CAUGHT UP WITH Celine and Julie Go Boating all three hours of it Started very whimsically, lots of really silly magical realist nonsense, and then just got progressively whimsical and hypnotised me into slithering right down the rabbit hole too I no longer know who I am Pretty Baby you couldn t make this movie today but Louis Malle could in 1978 with 12 year old Brooke Shields as a girl growing up in a New Orleans brothel and having the madam auction off her virginity and it not being that much of a big deal The morality of this movie, which is all about why make such a big deal about such a little thing, is guaranteed to amaze, astonish and probably distress a modern viewer And it s all filmed and played so gracefully, casually and beautifully too Recommended for anyone wishing to step outside their comfort zone When I call this one of the best movies I saw this year, I should say this is really one of the most amazing Is it actually good Well, not good like Goody Two Shoes, that s for sure But then again, this year there was also a movie which challenged received opinion about sexual crime it was Elle, starring the semi divine Isabelle Huppert, note she must be the only actress to star in a movie the title of which is part of her own name but this was a truly terrible movie, which appeared to be saying that for some women rape isn t that bad, and maybe if you re lucky, somebody will come in and bop the rapist with a blunt object and everything will end happily So that was I think the worst movie of the year Even Dwarves Started SmallThe African QueenMillions Like UsElmer GantryThe Shop on Main StreetA Streetcar Named DesireI Want to Live The Quiet manThe Bridge on the River KwaiAll of these are recommended I could go on about each one but let me for once be merciful. Midway through David Thomson s meandering and self reflective history of world cinema, The Big Screen The Story of the Movies and What They Did to Us, he discusses British director David Lean s classic film Brief Encounter, a woman s film about an adulterous affair Thomson is mystified by the film s tacit admission of women s tragic position, whereas in Lean s best loved films The Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence Of Arabia , the world is dominated by active men doing big things to change history with hardly a female in sight For years I have appreciated Thomson s film criticism his book jacket claims he is the greatest living writer on film and I regularly consult his The New Biographical Dictionary of Film So it was with dismay, indeed horror, that I discovered his new book presents the history of cinema, from its origins to the present, with hardly a female in sight.I eagerly anticipated reading about some of my favorite bombshells In early cinema these include Gloria Swanson, Lillian Gish, Louise Brooks, and Mary Pickford.Thomson describes Pickford as having accrued perhaps the greatest success and fortune any woman has yet achieved in the movies the most hardworking and fiscally astute partner in United Artists, the distribution company she formed then ignores her, lamenting she s been all but forgotten If you, renowned and popular film critic and historian, don t write about her, that becomes one self fulfilling prophecy.As Thomson provides profiles of great man upon great man Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Louis B Mayer, D.W Griffith, Cecil B DeMille, F.W Murnau we hear next to nothing of the era s female superstars Mabel Normand, Norma Talmadge, Pola Negri, Delores Del Rio, Clara Bow, Lillian and Dorothy Gish Thompson grants several paragraphs to Louise Brooks but primarily to emphasize how she was a bad girl on screen and off Gloria Swanson gets billing only for her role as Norma Desmond, the washed up diva in Sunset Boulevard.I expected Thomson to give at least a cameo to some of the pioneering female film directors Alice Guy Blach , Ida May Park, and Lois Weber Nothing Nor does he mention the well documented fact that during the silent era, because film was considered a low class medium and a passing fancy, women controlled the industry Most of the important stars were women many of them had their own production companies regularly hiring women as directors, producers, editors, writers, and technicians Four excellent books on the subject are Ally Acker s Reel Women Pioneers of the Cinema, 1896 to the Present Women Filmmakers in Early Hollywood by Karen Ward Mahar Early Women Directors by Anthony Slide Without Lying Down Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywoodby Cari Beauchamp As for the talkies, Thomson omits Dorothy Arzner, who directed a string of bankable movies starring actresses such as Rosalind Russell, Merle Oberon, Claudette Colbert, Joan Crawford, Katherine Hepburn, giving many of them their debuts Negligible coverage goes to bombshells Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, and Katherine Hepburn Mae West Besides creating one hell of a screen presence and persona, she was a highly successful playwright and screenwriter who brought the subject of sexuality and eroticism to the big screen in a big way She saved Paramount from financial ruin and launched Cary Grant s career Thomson, of course, covers him amply West s name appears once in Thomson s book on a list Jean Harlow Nowhere The phenomenal fast talking dames of 30s comedy Irene Dunne, Myrna Loy, Jean Arthur Hardly noted His pages on Ingrid Bergman exist only to describe her as a compulsive man izer and revel in her public downfall following her affair with Roberto Rossellini, whom he lauds as a collector of spectacular women Thomson waxes lyrical about Howard Hawks, Frank Capra, Alfred Hitchcock, King Vidor, Fritz Lang, Eisenstein, Peter Lorre, and Humphrey Bogart all of whom are wonderfully worthy subjects but hardly alone in giving birth to the movies And so it goes on and on and on Women s contribution to world cinema is virtually ignored by Thomson right up to the present.READ THE REST OF THE COLUMN HERE AT WWW.BOOKSLUT.COM You are not watching life You are watching a movie And if, maybe, the movie feels better than life, then that is a vast, revolutionary possibility, and no one knows yet whether it is for good or ill, because the insinuation of dreams does so much to alter or threaten our respect for life Dissatisfaction and doubt grew in step with film s projection of happiness My emotional detachment to this book remained constant, even as bliss gave way to my own doubtful dissatisfaction This isn t a history of cinema Thomson instead gives us a primer on looking and the effect on our reality There are two paragraphs devoted to Ozu Two Pages upon pages flow on I Love Lucy and The Sopranos Apparently there is no room for Asian cinema in a 600 page book We do have space and time to ruminate on Thomson watching porn Thomson watching Chelsea FC on TV Thomson on YouTube Thomson does herald Godard and that was the only reason I didn t throw the book out into the rainy streets last night So what did I learn about our proclivity to watch others in the dark Not sure, I did learn that in the 1970s Orson Welles liked to demonstrate his commitment to returning to peak form by eating steamed fish in trendy restaurants and then having steak and baked potatoes delivered to his office I also learned that William Holden died when during a bender he fell and cut his head and bled out I am now on holiday and I had hoped Thomson would inspire He failed there as he does in other areas I was fortunate to record Strike the other day on TCM and that will begin my mainlining of hard art. There are very few writers who can write interestingly and accessibly about film history so I can put up with Thomson s occasional habit of talking down to his reader s Yes, Mr Thomson we get your references, that s why we have chosen to read your book. Over the years we have had many good writers tell the story of cinema One of my favourites has always been Mark Cousins The Story of Film 2004 Mark Cousins does the big, broad sweep of cinema history, and tells its global story David Thomson, in his new book The Big Screen The Story of the Movies and What They Did to Us wants to tackle this story too Thomson, though, does not have the range that Cousins has this book has very little on Asian cinema, for instance, and I cannot recall a single mention of African cinema but Thomson isn t interested in telling you the history, he is interested in showing what the movies have done to you And I can t think of another film book that has ever done this before.Thomson s book does begin with the history though He tells the story, in brief, concise chunks, how this thing we know as cinema came to be He is knowledgeable but wears his learning lightly When he gets to the birth of American cinema, he comes alive You can feel his enthusiasm and love pouring out of every sentence Here is a man in love with cinema, looking up at that silver screen and swooning He sweeps us through how the French changed the manner in which we looked at things, how Germany turned the images into nightmare, and how America blended it all to create the perfect entertainment The writing in this history is clear, sharp, and it will have you scurrying to whoever supplies your cinematic needs to track down all these early treasures Then Thomson s book changes the second half of his subtitle comes into play he looks at how these movies changed us, and how their legacy is changing us still.All of this might sound as if Thomson is attempting to blend film and philosophy it is not quite that and there others who do that already but it does give his potted history of the medium a depth that other such volumes often lack He forces you to engage with the medium, to think about it means to be sitting in that darkened movie theatre, looking up at a giant screen of projected images During these sequences, Thomson s writing truly comes alive It fizzles and sparks with energy it turns his book into one of the finest written on this medium.If there is a flaw to The Big Screen, it is that is scope is limited he is rocky on non Western cinema, it barely features here, and it leaves you wondering about other nations, about the dreams cinema inspires in African children, or Asian children or anybody who isn t American or British and raised in a culture where we took this medium for granted from a very young age Despite its flaws, though, it remains a powerful meditation on, and elegy to, a medium that transfixes millions, and will transfix many millions It is proof that there is such a thing as cinema studies and that by watching the movies we can learn about ourselves too A fine, fine book. It should surprise nobody who knows Thomson s work that this grand statement on film is as idiosyncratic as it is authoritative, the work of a mystic as much as a scholar Everyone s going to be puzzled by some of his inclusions and annoyed at some of his omissions perhaps he would be himself if he read it back now Though the criticism I ve seen that it erases women from the story does seem unfair Leni Riefenstahl gets treated at length Slim Keith pretty much takes over Howard Hawks chapter, and Ingrid Bergman gets one to herself Are these the women we d have preferred Perhaps not for myself, I think both Hepburns deserve page time than they get, as exemplars in their different ways of what a star should or can be But women they are, and it s not as if Thomson doesn t engage with film as male gaze, take The Godfather to task for its one great flaw of giving the women nothing to do, celebrate the greater opportunities which have patchily arisen for female directors as the old ways have crumbled It s surely telling that both the films he tells us have most impressed him during the writing of the book were directed by women And plenty of big male figures or companies only get mentioned in passing too, or omitted entirely Neither Hammer nor Harryhausen makes the index, and stranger still, nor does James Whale despite his line about the enthralling new world of gods and monsters being a perfect encapsulation of Thomson s thoughts on film Early on, when he s muttering about the smaller screens which have taken the cinema s place in the hearts and eyes of the young, there s a certain sense of an old man shouting at the cloud But as the book goes on you realise that Thomson knows those little screens were all the children of the big screen There s a recurrent note of fascinated horror at what his own idol, the medium to which he s devoted his life, has wrought There s a puritan lurking within the cineaste, a part of him abidingly uneasy over the moral ambivalence of a form which invites us to admire the actor playing a killer at the same time as we abhor the killer I have tried to show how our attitudes to love, identity, desire and responsibility have been shaped by moviegoing, he writes, and the answer is often not a cheerful one One has to hope that the mullahs and Mary Whitehouses never read this book, because it contains far too much they could use as ammunition At times, he verges on the outright bonkers, as when he suggests that consciousness itself may be an outmoded term He asks whether we ever had a choice, or are we just helpless victims of the light , as if humanity were nothing than moths who somehow contrived to start their own fire The scary thing is though do bear in mind that I ve been reading Peter Watts blog not long before writing this I m not altogether sure that he s altogether wrong.Not that you have to buy into the big picture to find plenty of smaller insights here, of course Whether or not you agree that the screen is a place where all films live anyway And they are fucking each other all the time , you can still be intrigued by the connections that attitude has engendered in Thomson s mind Who knew that I Love Lucy s cameraman, Karl Freund, had also worked with Murnau, on Lugosi s Dracula, on Lang s Metropolis Yes, that s the sort of thing which nowadays any of us could learn from IMDB the difference being, Thomson knows which link to click aso on Murnau Thomson s detailed account of his methods has the surprising effect of making me realise that, at least qua director, Shadow of the Vampire seems to have been a startlingly accurate portrait And because he s so informed about what was to the extent of bizarre trivia like Lewis Selznick offering the beleaguered Tsar an acting job it has also enriched his ability to muse on what might have been I especially enjoyed the idea of Eisenstein working with the Marx Brothers, instead of their sterner relative Karl s heirs Equally, he sometimes questions the plausibility of what did happen, as when suggesting he may have made up Yul Brynner starring in a disastrous 1959 film of The Sound and the Fury Alas, if he did, it has passed now into consensus reality, as such things sometimes will.If I seem overawed by this book, then yes, I am Though not so much so I can t quibble with bits here and there Thomson s use of the singular movie for the art form as a whole, when the rest of us might say movies is, as per the explanatory footnote comparing music and writing , certainly defensible But it s also quite annoying, and after an early enthusiastic use perhaps it was intended to have a distancing effect, make us think anew it seems to get used much sparsely, so perhaps he realised that himself, yet had already had an argument about it so didn t feel he could entirely back down The story starts, sensibly, not with Edison or the Lumi re brothers but with the proto films of Eadweard Muybridge given which, and the thread running through the story of film as a monstrous creation consuming its forebears and perhaps even meaning itself, it s surprising Thomson doesn t make of the evocative synchronicity whereby the man Muybridge murdered was, of all the careers he might have had, a theatre critic And there s at least one thing which I m fairly sure must be a straigh up mistake we re told there were 23 million theatres in late twenties America to 18 million in 1933 but also that the population was 125 million and attendance 50 million So there was a cinema for every six people, each of which got just over two annual visits I can t find the figures elsewhere myself, but I suspect a decimal place has gone astray somewhere.Still, this is probably the keystone statement by a film writer who associates and rhapsodises like few in the business He can talk about directors with the best, while recognising how provisional and temporary it was to treat the director as the big name He knows the classics, though seldom deals with them predictably Kane is part of a chapter on Welles and other currents, where Ambersons gets its own but he also exhumes Italian or Russian film makers whose names I ve never seen before though granted, I m not the film buff some of my friends are, especially when it comes to the artier end of things One of the things which proves to him that films have changed the world, and not always for the better, is the fact that a mediocre movie actor became President certainly the fact that the same role is now played by an actively terrible reality TV host seems to support many of the book s alarmist notions, and serves as a great twist epilogue to something written in 2012 And yet for all that they may have done to corrode and ensorcel, didn t the films give us enough that we still love them for it As Thomson says of Man With A Movie Camera A heart beats within it that says art is so much important and useless than cockamamie claims for political salvation And at the last, while continuing to sound a note of decline, he does at least have the grace to admit that cinema s death knell has been tolled prematurely many times before, admitting that the simple, complex fascination of the moving image will likely be around for a good while yet. David Thomson s riffy, trippy style is not for everyone, but he manages to do something really difficult, namely, explain how the phenomenon he calls movie was conceived, was born, grew up, grew old, and my phrase turned cold without relying on strict chronology Each chapter, dedicated to a key building block of film history, reads like a trip down a rabbit hole populated by real life characters e.g., Howard Hawkes, Jean Luc Godard, Steven Spielberg whose stories are told in fresh, startling ways Example how can you not agree that Pauline Kael, as a critical voice, was as ready to go naked as Maria Schneider in Last Tango in Paris The best parts of the book are Thomson s meditations on the light and the screen why and how this combination of core elements is so irresistible and compelling to humans and how the state of desire that film creates morphed into our numbing taste for violence Thomson is not afraid to wrestle with psychology, biology, and the business of Hollywood, which makes the book honest and dreamlike at the same time He should have spent a lot a lot time on women directors what else is new , but if you love film, as I do, this book will get under your skin. Loved this book It s a bit dense meaty and challenging said the friend who gave it to me but also very entertaining, at least in part David Thompson is a longtime film critic one who actually loves movies but also very sophisticated and intellectual The book is roughly chronological in the first half, then goes all over the place all good places in the second half, from I Love Lucy to porn to Tarantino and a discussion of how screens of various sorts and sizes are part of our lives all the time, not just when we go to the movies as fewer and fewer do It s almost stream of consciousness you never know quite what will pop up next or when you ll get a knowing aside from the author Perfectly enjoyable, however I particularly loved his insights on the many classic movies he discusses.