Thomson on Films: Cliff Robertson and the Sordid Ways of Old Hollywood
September 15, 2011
Cliff Robertson died the other day. He was 88, and I suppose he was what is called an establishment figure. Long ago he had won an Oscar for his performance in Charly (1968) about a retarded man who is given an experimental drug that lets him find genius (and his doctor, Claire Bloom) but then slips back to being a fool, and he was perfectly OK in the film if you can manage to sit through it now, in which case you may surmise that nearly any actor in that begging role might have won the Oscar.
David Thomson on Films: ‘The Hour’ Is the Most Complex and Absorbing Story Currently Playing on Any Screen
September 06, 2011
If you haven’t caught up with it yet, “The Hour” is halfway over. The fourth of six hour-long episodes will play on BBC America on Wednesday, September 7th. But don’t be disheartened. You don’t want to watch it in its original transmission because it is stretched out to 90 minutes with some especially egregious commercials. If you wait a day, you can pick it up on Exfiniti “on demand” without the commercials. Start now and you can catch up on the first three episodes, and get in training for the most complex and absorbing story playing on film (and in English) at the moment.
TNR Film Classics: 'The Gold Rush' and 'The Freshman' (1925)
September 02, 2011
It was asserted by the present critic, when The Gold Rush appeared last August, that the comedy of the moving pictures had come to be dominated by the school of Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton, the exploitation of comic tricks or gags. And I prophesied that Chaplin, with his finer comedy and his less spectacular farce, would not be able to hold his popularity against it. What has happened is precisely the reverse of what I predicted. The Gold Rush has had a great success; and, so far from playing Chaplin off the screen, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd have taken to imitating him.
David Thomson on Films: Skip This Remake of ‘Brighton Rock’ and Catch the Grim, 1947 Original
August 30, 2011
Graham Greene published his novel Brighton Rock in 1938 and over the years he categorized it as one of his “entertainments.” Nobody should fall for that coyness. The novel is dipped in cruelty, wrapped up in bogus debates over faith and guilt (the Roman kind), and it is about as entertaining as being trapped in a corner by a cobra and feeling you must stare it down to avoid the venomous strike. The novel was filmed in England in 1947, with a twenty-four-year-old Richard Attenborough giving one of the best performances of his life as the monstrous Pinkie Brown.
TNR Film Classic: 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' (1939)
August 26, 2011
Frank Capra’s “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” is going to be the big movie explosion of the year, and reviewers are going to think twice and think sourly before they’ll want to put it down for the clumsy and irritating thing it is. It is a mixture of tough, factual patter about congressional cloakrooms and pressure groups, and a naïve but shameless hooraw for the American relic—Parson Weems at a flag-raising. It seems just the time for it, just the time of excitement when a barker in good voice could mount the tub, point toward the flag, say ubbuh-ubbah-ubbah and a pluribus union?
Stanley Kauffmann on Films: Treasuring Art
August 24, 2011
The Woman with the Five ElephantsCinema Guild The FutureRazor Film Mozart’s SisterMusic Box Films The Woman with the Five Elephants is not, of course, a circus picture. The title would be too square. The five elephants are the five major works of Dostoevsky. (Listing the titles would be too obvious or perhaps too arguable.) The woman is Svetlana Geier (d.
David Thomson on Films: ‘One Day,’ A Gimmicky ‘New’ Attempt at an Old-Fashioned Love Story
August 23, 2011
The one day is July 15th, and in 1988, as they both graduate from the University of Edinburgh, Dexter and Emma have a friendly night together. There is sex and, on Em’s part, at least, there is love. This is still a movie in which the girl is reckoned to feel love sooner, and with more loyalty. Dex assumes he is handsome and commanding enough to be an adventurer and a flake, with a field to play and no urge to commitment. But I’ve only told you the half of it (or less than half).
The New-Wave classic 'Band of Outsiders' turns 50
He was born in Norfolk as the Great War began, and he died in Cambridgeshire at 94. He looked like someone content with English country life, a slender, bright-eyed man, handsome when young, and modest, decent, and amiable as he grew older. He had an honest humility not common in the movie business. Even in the technical pursuits or the laboring jobs, movie people like to think they own their worlds. The limo drivers have a catalogue of famous people they have driven, and the scandalous stories they have heard confessed.
TNR Film Classic: ‘The Magnificent Ambersons’ (1942)
August 12, 2011
Orson Welles’s second I-did-it should show once and for all that film making, radio and the stage are three different guys better kept separated. The Magnificent Ambersons is one of those versions of the richest family in town during the good old days. Front and center of the Ambersons is the Oedipean situation between Dolores Costello and son Tim Holt, which, according to the movie, started when Dolores married the wrong man. All her frustrated love went toward smothering her son, and sure enough he grew up to gloriously rotten manhood.