Nov 17, 2012

REVIEW: The Big Screen by D. Thomson


'... He follows Pauline Kael’s lead in finding Kane “a masterpiece but a shallow masterpiece” which may “confirm something dazzling but shallow about the whole medium.” That switchback is classic Thomson.  The entire medium damned in one reverse-zoom. He might well have subtitled his book “David Thomson and his Fabulous, Floating Ambivalence”. Mixed feelings vein it like Roquefort. Every critic reserves the right to be in two minds, of course. When Thomson describes Dietrich’s “sweet lisp that swayed from seduction to contempt in a single line” or finds Erich von Stroheim both “the best (and the  worst) thing” in Renoir’s La grande illusion, he is practicing every critic’s right to be of two minds — why not three, or even four? But some may find it bothersome , a tic. What are we to make, for instance, of his darting assertion that that Fritz Lang’s Metropolis is ”totalitarian in its blood and bones” and his subsequent (semi) retraction:  “Am I suggesting that Fritz Land was intrinsically Fascist, or was it the medium? I’m not quite sure.” That might be something you’d want to be a little more sure about. People are a little touchy about that kind of thing — fascism. Maybe not the dead but what about poor Steven Spielberg, “as close to genius as to be infuriating”, here held responsible for  auctioning off the greatest art form of the 20th century to the Mammon of the Multiplex:   “Surely the maker of Schindler’s List… must know that some decisions lead to catastrophe.” Really?  You really want to do this? The decision to go down to the road to Indy 4 is comparable to Hitler’s gassing of the jews?' 
— from my review of The Big Picture for The Wall Street Journal   

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