Synopses & Reviews
The definitive story of the medium that defines our times
The Big Screen tells the enthralling story of the movies: their rise and spread, their remarkable influence over us, and the technology that made the screen as important as the images it carries.
But The Big Screen is not another history of the movies. Rather, it is a wide-ranging narrative about the movies and their signal role in modern life. The celebrated film authority David Thomson takes us around the globe, through time, and across many media to tell the complex, gripping, paradoxical story of the movies. He tracks the ways we were initially enchanted by movies as imitations of life—the stories, the stars, the look—and how we allowed them to show us how to live. At the same time, movies, offering a seductive escape from everyday reality and its responsibilities, have made it possible for us to evade life altogether. The entranced audience has become a model for powerless and anxiety-ridden citizens trying to pursue happiness and dodge terror by sitting quietly in a dark room.
Does the big screen take us out into the world or merely mesmerize us? That is Thomsons question in this grand adventure of a book, vital to anyone trying to make sense of the age of screens—the age that, more than ever, we are living in.
“David Thomson is, I think, the best writer on film in our time. If ‘Have You Seen . . . ? was his most succinct and entertaining book, The Big Screen is a large and vivacious map of ‘the screen: beginning with Muybridge and tracing careers ranging from Korda to Renoir to Hawkes to Mizoguchi, to David Lynch and Tarantino, then swerving over to television shows such as I Love Lucy and The Sopranos. Thomson has found and created a marvelous plot for the history of film, with insights and revelations on every page—as well as a few MacGuffins. He is our most argumentative and trustworthy historian of the screen.” —Michael Ondaatje, author of The Cats Table
“David Thomson has composed a grand aesthetic, spiritual, and moral account of cinema history assembled around the movies and artists that have meant the most to him. As Thomson reconstructs film history, movies bring us close to reality and deliver us into ecstatic dreams. A pungently written, brilliant book.” —David Denby, author of Snark and film critic at The New Yorker
“A great critic cuts both ways—he nudges you into reconsidering the films you love, as well as the ones you dislike. David Thomsons sensual prose has always amplified the imagination of a great critic. In broad outline, The Big Screen is a history of the movies, a wide-ranging task that usually carries with it a certain amount of connect-the-dots tedium. But Thomsons emphases are typically fresh and often ecstatic, even when hes disparaging a film you love. Nobody does it better.” —Scott Eyman, author of Empire of Dreams and Lion of Hollywood
About the Author
David Thomson, renowned as one of the great living authorities on the movies, is the author of The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, now in its fifth edition. His recent books include a biography of Nicole Kidman and The Whole Equation: A History of Hollywood. Thomsons latest work is the acclaimed “Have You Seen . . . ?”: A Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films. Born in London in 1941, he now lives in San Francisco.