Peter Falk’s Columbo had a heavy patina of grubby naturalism. His raincoat had never seen a dry-cleaner; he was often unshaven and his hair was wild. One of his eyes could look the wrong way—but which eye? His halting speech affected shyness, befuddlement, or hours spent watching John Cassavetes films. He was as unkempt as Hercule Poirot is spick-and-span. But the two characters were equally artificial. I’m not complaining. If I’d done a murder, I’d rather be drawn into serpentine discussions with Falk, and even be arrested by him. He had respect for a wily games player.
The trouble with the new Selznick version of A Farewell to Arms which stars Rock Hudson as the ambulance driver, Frederick Henry, and Jennifer Jones as the nurse, Catherine Barkley, is that to be the least bit convincing or moving it demands that the viewer help along considerably by recollecting the novel—that he fill out the action, give emotional significance to the landscapes, add dimension to the characters. Otherwise it is a spiritless, silly, and, I fear, embarrassing movie.
The Big Small Screen
June 23, 2011
Too Big to FailHBO Bobby Fischer Against the World HBO In the last few weeks, America has had the chance to see two disturbing movies about our warping emphasis on heroes. Both of them played on cable, on HBO in fact, and some may think that therefore they fall under the rubric of “television.” But this misunderstanding has not prevented many of the best film directors in America from being driven to cable recently for worthwhile work.
David Thomson on Films: What Does a Producer Do?
June 23, 2011
What does a producer have to do to get noticed by film critics? It’s not enough to raise the money, order the cars, serve the lunches and make sure the location latrines are in working order—all of them.
TNR Film Classic: Greta Garbo (September 28, 1932)
June 18, 2011
Since Miss Greta Garbo came to America some years ago, her fame has grown and grown. In her last picture, a Hollywood and rather nursery version of Pirandello’s “As You Desire Me,” she has come to the end of her contract and to her highest success; the piece has passed from one end of country to the other in triumph, and Miss Garbo has gone back to Sweden, to return or not to return as the case may be. During all this time her position has steadily advanced.
Here’s another “movie” from Britain that without a touch of pomp or pretension seeks to ask us, “Well, why in hell do you think you know what a movie is, or has to be?” Since nearly anything could serve and function within the gloriously loose structure of The Trip, I found myself hoping that its two guys might find one of their conversations leading into a lugubrious consideration of what Terrence Malick thought The Tree of Life was really about.
TNR Film Classic: 'Hell's Angels' (October 1, 1930)
June 11, 2011
Hell’s Angels, according to the unexpectedly accurate statement of its corps of press agents, is “the most pretentious spectacle ever produced.” It cost four million dollars. It took four years to write and film. The producer and director, Mr. Howard Hughes, assembled for it the largest fleet of aircraft ever brought together by an individual—a larger air force than is possessed by the governments of many great countries. In an aerial conflict between Mr. Hughes and China, between Mr. Hughes and the Argentine Republic, between Mr.
Stanley Kauffmann on Films: The Whole Thing
June 09, 2011
Stanley Kauffmann is on temporary leave. This review was written by David Thomson. The Tree of LifeFox Searchlight The Greatest virtue of Terrence Malick’s new film may be the controversy attending it. Whatever we think of The Tree of Life as a show or a work of art, there are going to be defenders and doubters driven to join a fierce debate that turns on these questions: “Very well, in 2011, with the movies on life support, what should an ambitious American motion picture look and feel like? What should it do to us? And what do we require of this strange medium?
David Thomson on Films: Hollywood Hopeful
June 07, 2011
You feel it’s a story you’ve heard before, but that’s often the way in Los Angeles where there are more scripts than cars on the street. This happened at a cottage on Benedict Canyon, one of those roads that wind down from the crest of Mulholland Drive to Sunset Boulevard. The cottage was tucked into the hillside, overgrown with ivy, shrubberies, and bad karma. It looked like the forsaken or forgotten house in a fairy story. Over a period of time, a neighbor noticed that its delivery box was crammed with more and more junk mail. So she decided to break into the house.
David Thomson on Films: ‘Midnight in Paris’
June 01, 2011
Opening in May and reaching out into the early summer, Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris is an artful and shameless encouragement of going back to Paris. I suppose that’s better than artless and shameful, but, from a director who is aged 75 now, wouldn’t it be nice to feel some age and regret, to say nothing of this being the last time he’ll see Paris with the euro stronger than a two-day old croissant?