The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies

David Thomson, Author
David Thomson. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $35 (528p) ISBN 978-0-374-19189-4
Reviewed on: 07/30/2012
Release date: 10/16/2012
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From 19th-century photographer Eadweard Muybridge’s motion studies to the latest cable-TV and video game offerings, this fascinating history of movies and their spinoffs celebrates and indicts the flickering image that beguiles. Film critic and historian Thomson (The Whole Equation: A History of Hollywood) concentrates on American movies, but takes excursions to other national cinemas and stops in occasionally on I Love Lucy and other gems of the small screen. His is a loose-limbed, conversational narrative, moving fitfully through time, dawdling over directors and films that interest him, shamelessly ogling every starlet that strikes his fancy, spouting provocative opinions—thumbs up to Adam Sandler, thumbs down to Lars von Trier and his “insufferable” Dogme-tisms—at every turn, ruminating throughout on the ravishing, corrupting essence of light playing across empty screens. Crackling with ideas and vivid impressionisms (get a load of Lauren Bacall, “holding up a doorway in case it faints”)—Thomson’s stylish prose, simultaneously erudite and entertaining, captivates as it informs—and if things get overlooked in his idiosyncratic treatment (where’s John Wayne?) one notices mainly because one is dying to hear what he thinks about them. Buffs and casual fans alike will enjoy this extra-large serving of popcorn for thought. Photos. (Oct. 16)
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