A Light in the Dark: A History of Movie Directors

David Thomson. Knopf, $27.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-593-31815-7
Film critic Thomson (The Big Screen) returns in this scattershot meditation on some of the movie business’s most famous directors. In 14 essays, the author covers such directors as the “artful careerist” Fritz Lang, “intellectually brilliant” Jean-Luc Godard, and “rebel” Nicholas Ray. The book opens with a promise to show how “those intruders, the directors” became “heroes and masters” whose influence may be waning in the era of computer-generated imagery. But what ensues is less a history than a series of essays that each nominally focuses on one or more directors before devolving into unconvincing metaphors and tangents (such as a section wondering if Jane Campion is left-handed). There are insights to be found, about both directing and cinema in general: Godard, Thomson states, “was uncannily aware of (and angry about) the way romance was a commercial-cultural construct of reality being imposed upon us,” and Thomson’s analysis of Quentin Tarantino—“an advocate for an ideology that has had woeful consequences”—is refreshing and original. While film snobs may enjoy Thomson’s roving insights on whether “the cult of directors could be ending,” those looking for a comprehensive history of directorial masters will be left wanting. (Mar.)
Reviewed on : 12/08/2020
Release date: 03/23/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Book - 978-0-593-31816-4
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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