- Also check our best rated Biography reviews
The New Biographical Dictionary of Film Hardcover – 2 Nov 2002
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
'Essential reading. epic erudition and an equally epic sense of mischief' - Douglas Kennedy, Independent * 'It's still the only movie book you'd want with you on a desert island' - Time Out * 'For film fans there is no more transcendental book. Untouchable' - Sunday Times
* The fourth edition of an indispensable reference book for filmgoers, completely revised and brought up to date with more than 200 new entries - 1,000 in all. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
I don't know a whole lot about movies (a lot, but not a WHOLE lot; like most of us my period of peak adult viewing went into abeyance with the onset of children) but everywhere I look I find illumination. Well, almost everywhere. It would have been nice to have found room for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls - which I had no idea owed its screenplay to Roger Ebert, 'the last film critic just about everyone had heard of' (David Thomson) - but I can quite see that Russ Meyer is not Thomson's style. (For those who don't know, BVD sends up the sixties, deliciously**.) Klaus Kinski he categorizes as 'a face that had seen hell sharing the shock with us'; Fitzcarraldo, though, 'came close to being a parody of Herzog'. Anna Karina, for a few brief years the Garbo of our generation, gets three whole columns to herself. The column on Marco Ferreri is rightly devoted to the unforgettable and largely unseen Dillinger e Morto rather than the Bunuel lite of La Grande Bouffe, though I've a soft spot for his début picture El Cochecito (which Thomson also rates). This is as near Holy Writ as it gets. Why the man hasn't got a gong is a mystery. Reading him one thinks, well, yes, anyone can make a movie, within reason, given the chance (just as anyone is said to 'have a book in them') - but to be able to discriminate about them as he does and articulate the results of those deliberations in such a lapidary fashion, so severely yet so fairly!
'[T]he movies have always been a sport and a casino.' There again, 'a lot of moviegoers my age have learned to realize how lucky we have been to be there when Astaire, Godard and Angie Dickinson were young'. (A little exaggeration there, though Astaire's youth lasted longer than most.) With Durgnat's and now Sarris's light extinguished, how lucky are WE still to have Thomson's fiery intelligence. A blurb on the back suggests we skip the movie and read Thomson instead - and Kyle Smith has a point; who needs to see old(ish) movies when your critic's this incisive? That his temper is not more frayed at his time of life (he has two years on me and a more punishing schedule) is a sign of a man happy in himself and doing, still, what he loves. He claims to prefer reading. This is clearly unfair - if not precisely wrong. Most ordinary mortals spend their days wrestling with words, on screen+ or face to face, and take in a picture show for a change. Thomson's position is precisely the reverse, and any book he chooses will therefore acquire special significance for him
Always judicious, never (knowingly) mealy-mouthed, Thomson cuts the crap. (Can one say that, Amazon.co.uk? We'll find out.) On Spike Jonze he is schoolmasterly, incisive yet saddened, while David Cronenberg 'has the mind-set that could make cancer a hero' and Ricky Gervais is 'like Benny Hill cut with Christopher Hitchens'. We're in the loop - if not actually looping it! - with no sacred cow left unskewered. Dirk Bogarde, in summary, was ruined by stardom. (Thomson is not unsympathetic.) 'Vacuous' Michael Caine, 'seemingly perplexed that he has not yet turned into a swan', has 'stayed very cheerful'. Of Caine's knighthood, 'I can only think of all the films HRH must have missed'. The Wachowskis are dispatched in half a page. The half-page on James Franco by contrast, whom even 'the apes of Rise of the Planet of the Apes' seemed to like'(!), is crisp and respectful. It really is all here, or as much as anyone could reasonably expect to find encased within a single book from a man no longer in his first youth. Absentees? Apart from deserved ones (Norman Wisdom, Kenneth More, both idols of my youth++) I note so far only Kate Beckinsale and Joss Whedon. What a privilege to give this its first review!
One more titbit, also a Benjamin Secher favourite. Kiera Knightly, while 'astonishingly beautiful', is 'about as interesting as a crème brulé where too much refrigeration has killed flavor with ice burn'. Flavor? That's right. Disgracefully, you can't buy this here. Thirty dollars US, thirty five Canadian, it would make just the best Christmas present, but you'll have to get it sent over. What's keeping 'em, cisatlantic? Not waiting for him to pop his clogs, surely? When they finally get around to it they need to fix the running order. At the moment John Garfield precedes Andrew and Jessica Chastain is the wrong side of Cyd Charisse; in a work where we're not sure who's in and who's out, these things matter. While they're about it they could fix that 'dégueulgasse' (page 948) too
* which elbowed in as many worthy non-Americans - Eisenstein, Bunuel, Chabrol - as were passably eligible. Bergman, Godard and Fellini failed to qualify
** and may yet outlive them. Who now watches Easy Rider?
+ 'The Internet.. [is] a way of demeaning discourse' Thomson in The New Republic, Jan 10 2012 (a biting, broad-based article I just found and read on.. well, where else?)
++ BUT Doris Day and Denholm Elliott, much more enlightening!
I'm simply adding to what other people have said, yes, it is a great book, my copy is worn and tattered, has notes and underlinings on most of the pages. I have read nearly all of it a few times, there's no way of telling because while some people (my brother included) read it from cover to cover like a novel, i just dip in to read up on a specific person, and it's sort of like working through a maze, you start with one person and get sucked in, next thing you know 3 hours have passed and you've been led on from entry to entry. It's very addictive! Not least because it is so well written, besides the actual passion and (at times philosophical, even poetic) understanding of film and what it does to people.
Though maybe Thomson himself is getting a little weary of film, he's in his 70's now, he can't update it forever, and as a writer i suppose it's only expected that writing would be his foremost passion. Hence the amount of writing that he has actually produced.
There are a number of other Thomson books out there.. - Have you seen? Rosebud. A recent Memoir. A recent series on famous hollywood stars. Alien Quartet. Suspects, Beneath Mulholland. Besides his other writings on the Nevada desert, the race to the Antarctic, and Laurence Sterne. Not forgetting his numerous articles for the Guardian newspaper and Salon.com.
But The New Biographical Dictionary of Film is the one to start with, just make sure you have a bit of time to spare before you start looking.
I do believe I fancy a read now. Bang goes three hours!
Would you like to see more reviews about this item?
Most recent customer reviews
Look for similar items by category