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This review is from: The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies and What They Did to Us (Hardcover)
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David Thomson turns his not inconsiderable knowledge of all things movie towards screen history. Not just cinema but screens of all sorts as he sounds off on the effect upon us all of all visual media.
He looks longingly back to the early days of film when the world was both a more innocent & believable place.
The screen has, he tells us, both entertained us & slowly but surely fed us an unreality that has become the norm & isolated us from one another. A trip up any high street or on public transport will quickly illustrate his point.
His huge understanding of cinema history means the reader is given a detailed & fascinating history that starts with that often forgotten but hugely influential figure in modern art Edweard Muybridge. His multi camera photorama's influenced the birth of the moving image & the birth of modern art, (Will Gompertz 'What are you looking at' agrees wholeheartedly).
Thomson offers a very detailed account of what influenced every change in cinema & the influences cinema made upon society in return.
This is not a simple dip into it at your leisure type publication. This will undoubtedly become a 'must have' for all film students and is set to become an essential reference.
Not every 'classic' film & art house director is mentioned but that would be impossible anyway. This is not a who's who nor a list of must haves.
His views on how the increase of pornography & violence has affected society transcends the usual knee jerk reactions and highlights the way expectation has been made to exceed reality & the effect upon us as individuals.
As we are slowly guided through the history of the screen Thomsons sadness at the decline in mass audiences in favour of isolated individuals staring at the latest films downloaded onto a small screen.
Television is included as are all screen technologies. A lot is given just brief page space and Thomsons pet subjects are what really stand out. In particular world cinema loses out most with the output of entire continents looked over. However the attention to detail is astounding and the slow approach from the screens inception to the modern day is uncompromising.
What prevents 'The Big Screen' from being a dry as toast is Thomsons passion for his subject & the sad truth that the overall effect of the screen in all its formats has been far from positive and society has paid a heavy price for their love of make believe 'made real'.
a small handful of B&W photo's are well chosen & avoid cliche. A style the book as a whole adopts. There are so many biographies, histories & '100 best of's..' out there that it takes something rather special to stand out from the crowd and become an instant 'must have'.
That this new volume manages to be so special & is destined to find it's way to the head of every film lovers list is testament to a writer whose long and admired work in the industry has led to much deserved respect.
The notes section at the end where Thomson's references are listed are extensive and extremely useful. They also illustrate a lack of arrogance & willingness to acknowledge others efforts.
The index is vast & covers so many famous & lesser known titles & people that some idea of the cast scope of the book can be seen.
The'...what they did to us' part of the title is the biggest clue as to the direction David Thomson takes with the book. This is personal & while clearly a labour of love, an unerringly honest reflection upon the history of film. Both it's glories and effect upon us all.
Fascinating, informative and superbly well written. This is a must have for all cinephiles & would be social commentators alike.