David Thomson

David Thomson on Films: 'White Material'
January 07, 2011

Film-going is a total experience, so, when I went to see Claire Denis’s White Material in San Francisco this week, I had to sit through an advertisement for visiting South Africa and having a marvelous time. I’ve seen the ad before, and it gets increasingly depressing. There is lovely scenery and a complacent couple who can’t wait to get back there to regain the best Thai cooking of their lives and the rapturous experience of seeing elephants come to drink in the evening. Go if you must. I only know that my daughter—a world traveler—says South Africa is the scariest place she’s ever been.

David Thomson on Films: 'The Way Back'
December 28, 2010

It is 1940, somewhere in Soviet-occupied Poland. A Pole is being interrogated; he has been beaten. Then a woman is called in, his wife; some torture has degraded her. She informs on her man; he will be sent to a gulag. The horror is clear, but the feeling is everyday and commonplace.

David Thomson on Films: 'True Grit'
December 24, 2010

Early on in the Coen Brothers’ True Grit, the 14-year-old Mattie Ross has a negotiation with a cunning stupid merchant in the town where her father has just been killed. It concerns money, horses, legal threat, and language, and it is the surest signal of where this lugubrious but charming picture is headed. The merchant, Colonel Stonehill (played by Dakin Matthews), is devious and calculating, and for a moment you may believe his dainty language is a fair approximation of educated gentility in Fort Smith, Arkansas, in the latter half of the nineteenth century.

Feel-Good Noir
December 06, 2010

Dennis Lehane has written a piece of feel-good noir. Everyone ends up dead or better than they started off, which is the clean-up that excuses any for

Demon Dog or Faithful Retriever?
September 14, 2010

James Ellroy’s new book injects his mother’s maiden name—Hilliker—into its veins and describes itself as just a memoir. But its sub-title, “My Pursuit

Fudging Holly Golightly
August 31, 2010

This book is such a swift, sweet, smart stroll through the making of the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s that it takes a little while for one to realize

Chinamen
August 27, 2010

Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and his Rendezvous with American History By Yunte Huang (W.W. Norton, 354 pp., $26.95)  Even in our fading half-life of cultural memory, the notion may endure that 1925 was a good moment for American literature. In that year, we were given Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Anita Loos’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and Willa Cather’s The Professor’s House. Hemingway was writing The Sun Also Rises.

Chinamen
August 27, 2010

Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and his Rendezvous with American History By Yunte Huang (W.W. Norton, 354 pp., $26.95)  Even in our fading half-life of cultural memory, the notion may endure that 1925 was a good moment for American literature. In that year, we were given Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Anita Loos’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and Willa Cather’s The Professor’s House. Hemingway was writing The Sun Also Rises.

Where Does Ethan Edwards Go?
August 04, 2010

Let me say straightaway that this is a very thoughtful, observant book, well worth the time for any reader who takes Hawks, Ford, and the Western seri

The BACK LOT: The Menace of ‘Metropolis’
July 24, 2010

I have just had a sensational night at the movies, and the picture was only 83 years old. At the Silent Film Festival in San Francisco, the Castro Theater was packed for a showing of a “complete” Metropolis. Moreover, the screening was graced by the presence of the two Argentineans—scholar Fernando Pena and archivist Paula Felix-Didier—who discovered the previously lost footage in Buenos Aires a couple of years ago. I honor their work, and their amusing commentary on the discovery—they were a couple once, then separated, then back together with the excitement of the find.

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