Sunday, May 08, 2016

How To Read A Movie

David Thomson is a busy guy, churning out a new book on movies almost every year, not to mention regularly updating his classic Biographical Dictionary Of Film.  I've just read his latest, How To Watch A Movie.

It's a short book, under 250 pages, looking at various aspects of the cinema.  There are the building blocks--the screen, the shot, editing, sound and so on.  And also there are things less tangible--what's a story, what's a hero, how does money figure into it, how true are documentaries.

The book is up to date inasmuch as Thomson brings up a fair amount of relatively new titles--12 Years A Slave, Blue Is The Warmest Color, Stories We Tell and so on.  But he's at his best talking about the films that he's loved for years--The Big Sleep, The Shop Around The Corner, Citizen Kane, Psycho, Persona, Pierrot le Fou and many others.

How To Watch A Movie is not rigorous in any way, but rather is told in a stream of consciousness manner. Thomson flits from one film to another--and also TV shows, which don't always fit the concept--often with only the slightest of connections.  He'll bring up personal anecdotes and sometimes get a bit poetic (not in a good way).  He'll also discuss how the real world relates to movies, including a fair amount of political material which is not particularly incisive and only pertains tangentially to film.

Knowing his productivity, he'll probably have another book out soon, but if this is the sort of stuff he's producing, maybe he should take a bit longer.

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