Alas, this has to be done away from your husband. He set out to explore the notion that “the atmosphere of all movies had a gay air—as in a mounting suspicion that America’s approved romantic formulae might be demented.” In the early chapters that spring from this idea, Thomson finds a through line of queer subversion in even the most staunchly heterosexual of classic Hollywood genres: the Western, the musical, the screwball comedy. In this bravura new collection, the Esquire columnist trains his eye on Hollywood's ghosts, exploring their tendency to rise from the grave or descend from the screen to intimately haunt our lives. In this particular book, there’s a dream sequence set in a Parisian bordello that verges on the embarrassing, and there are occasional sentences that could have been lifted directly from Photoplay magazine circa 1938: “It is Nicole’s nature to be sturdy, cheerful, robust, a real person, full of common sense." Start your Independent Premium subscription today. As you can probably tell, I'm bothered by the ethical implications of this kind of writing about film and celebrities. Enter your email to follow new comments on this article. Thomson is a cinephile, a fantasist and an autobiographer, who writes about movies -- and the characters in them, and the people who make them -- as his possessions, imagined aspects of … Independent Premium Comments can be posted by members of our membership scheme, Independent Premium. This blurb on the Random House site about Thomson's collection, "Beneath Mulholland: Thoughts on Hollywood and Its Ghosts," nicely summarizes Thomson's fantasy approach to movies: If most film critics write about movies, David Thomson creates their literary counterpart with essays that are as dazzling, haunting, and moving as the pictures they discuss. Instead, Thomson approaches his subject thematically, shaping chapters around, for example, the coded love between the heroes of classic Westerns and their loyal sidekicks (“Buddies and Cowboys”); the existence of a thriving gay subculture within the Hollywood social scene as early as the 1930s (“Gable and Cukor”); the complicity of gossip columnists and talent agents, many of them also gay, in concocting offscreen heterosexual romances for less-than-straight movie stars (“The Cat’s in the Bag, the Bag’s in the River”). Starting this week and running through the summer, I am going to propose, and do what I can to explain, my top 10 in the Film Studies column. I should add that my 10 are not listed in rising order of merit. Thomson has long assumed the role of critic/stalker, a perpetual outsider who imagines himself an insider, who fantasizes himself an intimate of the people he writes about and makes few distinctions between them as movie characters, public figures, or actual human beings. In listing their names, I also asked them to give me their three favourite pictures – the films they'd want if they had just three for the rest of their lives. All Rights Reserved. Toback has lost 60 pounds! Kubrick would operate the camera himself. The days of Bicycle Thieves, I suspect, are not coming back. 'active' : ''"> With equal aplomb, he imagines a James Dean who survived the car crash and a post-Saturday Night Fever Tony Manero. ", “I dare say she wakes up some nights screaming because she felt it [aging, losing her looks] was about to happen. Guidelines. Skip to content. If so, shouldn't "Nicole Kidman" be positioned as criticism/fiction in the form of a celebrity biography, rather than as traditional nonfiction? This September, the magazine of the British Film Institute, Sight and Sound, will publish the results of its international poll among critics and film-makers on the 10 best films ever made. try again, the name must be unique, Please I think Kubrick made a film that whispered to Kidman: you are a real actor, a sexual phenomenon — and he is not. In seeking lists, it has encouraged voters to think historically and artistically, not just to list favourites – after all, we may "know" that Kieslowski, say, is "better" than Norman Wisdom; but we may crave a little bit of Norman when drawing up our desert-island programme. As such, it was a very welcome rediscovery of the fundamental notion (held by Griffith and Chaplin, even if both were rather "outside" figures) that it might be possible to make a "great" movie – by which I mean a picture that impressed the artistically educated classes – and a box-office smash at the same time. Equally, there is a rediscovery of silent film going on, which may show up, though it won't reclaim Potemkin and Intolerance so much as Sunrise, Pandora's Box, The Wind or even Dziga Vertov's The Man with a Movie Camera. When you’re inside the protected bubble of “movie”—when that bubble exists to enclose and enchant people like you—it can be hard to see what and who has been left on the outside. As one of them, I set aside my primitive urge to just have 10 Howard Hawks films; I have allowed myself only one. Kenneth Tynan was an important figure in my life. My view of them is like that of Eugene Morgan (Joseph Cotten) on cars in Orson Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons. In a chapter called “The Male Gaze,” Thomson details the casting-couch process by which the 16-year-old Natalie Wood allegedly won her part in his adolescent favorite, Rebel Without a Cause. David Thomson. “We all of us sleep with strangers in our heads,” David Thomson declares near the beginning of Sleeping With Strangers: How the Movies Shaped Desire. I am still not sure, having reached 60, whether movies have been good for me, or the rest of us. I suspect the 2002 results will reveal a lot about how far that hope endures. Rather than expressing anger or sadness for the, again, hundreds of women whom Toback allegedly abused, Thomson expresses the hope that his old friend’s newest project might help him out of a rough spot that’s lasted, wow, a little more than a year now. She has only spoken to him briefly on the phone about her acting processes and various films. It was just the three of them. In Marlene Dietrich’s gloriously artificial costumes (designed by Banton) for the films she made with her longtime director and possible lover, Josef von Sternberg, Thomson sees a treatment of feminine beauty so mannered that it constitutes an inquiry into the limits of glamour. Oh, Tom, I must take Nicole away to somewhere private. Our journalists will try to respond by joining the threads when All film criticism (and all writing, fiction or "non-fiction") is to some degree autobiographical, and Thomson has been more aggressive and up-front about his obsessions with his fantasy-objects, from Warren Beatty to Nicole Kidman, than most. (I remember an insufferably smug Film Comment piece he wrote about Scorsese in the 1980s that spoke directly to "Marty" in a sophomoric way that made me mildly ill. What this seductive yet at times repellent book never fully grapples with is the privilege required to grant yourself that innocence. In the eyes of the law and of most parents I know, 16-year-olds still count as children. It is an important part of the arc of the film. Critic or stalker? Thomson’s approach to the collective psychosocial phenomenon he sometimes designates simply as “movie” (“ ‘movie’ was a place people longed to be”) is guided by a deep-seated critical principle: Desire is a form of understanding. Many situations were shot that do not figure in the film. 'active' : ''"> will be published daily in dedicated articles. According to Thomson, it was his shock at the revelations about his friend that first led him to include stories drawn from Hollywood’s long and varied history of preying on women. The most insightful comments on all subjects Thomson’s struggle to fully grasp the first principle of the #MeToo movement—that women’s accounts of their experiences deserve, at long last, not to be drowned out by men’s voices—goes from awkward to enraging in a chapter near the end titled “Burning Man.” In 1978, while teaching at Dartmouth and reviewing movies for a Boston paper, Thomson developed a deep friendship with the young filmmaker James Toback, whose first movie, Fingers, Thomson regarded, then and now, as “one of the great debuts in American film.”.
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