Have You Seen...?: A Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films

Overview

In 1975, David Thomson published his Biographical Dictionary of Film, and few film books have enjoyed better press or such steady sales.

Now, thirty-three years later, we have the companion volume, a second book of more than 1,000 pages in one voice—that of our most provocative contemporary film critic and historian.

Juxtaposing the fanciful and the fabulous, the old favorites and the forgotten, this sweeping collection presents the films that ...

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Have You Seen...?: A Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films

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Overview

In 1975, David Thomson published his Biographical Dictionary of Film, and few film books have enjoyed better press or such steady sales.

Now, thirty-three years later, we have the companion volume, a second book of more than 1,000 pages in one voice—that of our most provocative contemporary film critic and historian.

Juxtaposing the fanciful and the fabulous, the old favorites and the forgotten, this sweeping collection presents the films that Thomson offers in response to the question he gets asked most often—“What should I see?” This new book is a generous history of film and an enticing critical appraisal written with as much humor and passion as historical knowledge. Not content to choose his own top films (though they are here), Thomson has created a list that will surprise and delight you—and send you to your best movie rental service.

But he also probes the question: after one hundred years of film, which ones are the best, and why?

“Have You Seen . . . ?” suggests a true canon of cinema and one that’s almost completely accessible now, thanks to DVDs. This book is a must for anyone who loves the silver screen: the perfect confection to dip into at any point for a taste of controversy, little-known facts, and ideas about what to see. This is a volume you’ll want to return to again and again, like a dear but argumentative friend in the dark at the movies.

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Editorial Reviews

Charles Matthews
In the end, everyone …will find much to like and learn from. Thomson is, after all, an incisive observer and a tremendously clever writer, and his enthusiasms have taken him into dusty corners: He's a great fan of film noir, for example, so the book is dotted with obscure melodramas from the 1940s. There are also films in this volume that only a few fanatics like Thomson have even heard of, let alone seen.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Film critic Thomson (The New Biographical Dictionary of Film) gives cinephiles and film novices alike a comprehensive yet personal list of 1,000 must-see films. Arranged alphabetically-a chronological index is included-Thomson's tome opens with a slapstick American comedy (1948's Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein) and closes with a social critique from talented Italian director, Antonioni (Zabriskie Point from 1970). For Thomson, films are products of both their time and our own, and the act of watching (and re-watching) reminds us that film is a medium where the past perpetually enhances the present. It can't be a coincidence that the oldest entry (1895's L'Arrosseur Arrossé) and the newest (2007's No Country for Old Men) are both twists on the revenge epic helmed by innovative brothers (the Lumières and the Coens, respectively). As Thomson points out, "Story is as long and twisty as a hose. It goes on forever." (Oct. 15)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Film historian Thomson's introduction to his essential yet personal list of "must-see" films offers a sweeping overview of how critics have rated movies throughout culture shifts and time periods. By lifting the veil, he allows us to see that any attempt to list the best films of the last 100 years is doomed to break at the point where familiarity, popularity, and subjectivity intersect. Yet, armed with an astounding breadth of knowledge, Thomson, a frequent contributor to a host of national publications, presents his answer to the oft-repeated "what should I see" question. From the outset, it's apparent that his list is not without some capriciousness. For example, his original opener entry, "Abe Lincoln in Illinois," was replaced by the far sillier "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein." Thomson also offers an insightful defense for his inclusion of the movie Adaptation despite an admission that he twice nodded off. Entries are arranged alphabetically with a chronological index.
—Kelli Perkins

The Barnes & Noble Review
Allow an expert in his or her field to go to town on a favored subject, while keeping it all short, sweet, and accessible, and pay dirt is usually just around the corner. Fording the rivulet that divides the short essay collection and the "list" book, Have You Seen...: A Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films is the kind of brief-attention-span read that leaves one not only free of guilt for having dipped into it but edified, itchingly eager to engage a fellow cineaste in aesthetic battle. Agree with him or not on his assessment of a given film, one can't argue with the fact that David Thomson knows his stuff and then some. Author of the equally addictive Biographical Dictionary of Film, the San Francisco–based critic and author has seen -- and evidently pondered -- more movies than most of us will likely encounter in a lifetime. Have You Seen... considers those he deems particularly essential despite any faults his spot-on prose so clearly reveals. Thomson's taste is refreshingly broad -- he kicks off with a critique of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein -- but far from down-and-dirty populist. Recognized Hollywood and international classics from Gone with the Wind to Persona are the norm here, sprinkled with intriguing personal choices (Went the Day Well, Rumble Fish) that reveal Thomson's basically urbane taste -- look to his critical grandchildren to find the best in Grindhouse and the like. We turn to Thomson to pinpoint why a film works or not, ("Don't try telling the picture business, or the audience, that The Sheltering Sky was just another version of The Sheik with a white woman [Debra Winger] swept off her feet, her camel and her existential worldview by a glorious Arab"), and for the most part, he nails it. --Steve Futterman
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307264619
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/14/2008
  • Pages: 1024
  • Product dimensions: 7.10 (w) x 9.34 (h) x 2.05 (d)

Meet the Author

David Thomson
David Thomson is the author of more than twenty books, including the beloved classic The New Biographical Dictionary of Film. He lives in San Francisco with his family.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Read an Excerpt

Must-see films from select categories

Alcoholism
Days of Wine and Rose
Leaving Las Vegas
The Lost Weekend

Art
La Belle Noiseuse
F for Fake
The Horse's Mouth
Lust for Life
The Moderns

Berlin
Cabaret
Berlin Alexanderplatz
People on Sunday
Germany Year Zero

Biopics
Hoffa
Bugsy
Reds
Nixon
The Glenn Miller Story
Malcolm X

Boxing
Body and Soul
The Champ
Fat City
Gentleman Jim
Raging Bull

Children
Shoeshine
Forbidden Games
The Night of the Hunter
Cria!
Spirit of the Beehive
Les 400 Blows
Empire of the Sun
The Black Stallion
E.T.

Cops
Naked City
The French Connection
Dirty Harry
Bullitt
Heat

Costume adventure
The Prisoner of Zenda
The Adventures of Robin Hood
Aguirre, the Wrath of God

Crime
The Asphalt Jungle
Rififi
The Lavender Hill Mob
Good Fellas

Dance
The Red Shoes
French Cancan
Moulin Rouge
Funny Face

Elections
Election
All the King's Men
Citizen Kane
Shampoo

Fairytale
La Belle et la Bette
Into the Woods
Pretty Woman

Flying
Air Force
Hell's Angels
Only Angels Have Wings
The Right Stuff
Wings

Gambling
Baie des Anges
Casino
The Cincinnati Kid
The Hustler

Hollywood
The Bad and the Beautiful
The Barefoot Contessa
In a Lonely Place
The Player
Sunset Blvd
Mulholland Dr

India
Bhowani Junction
The River
The World of Apu

Killers
The Killers
M
The Silence of the Lambs
Suddenly
Targets

Law
Adam's Rib
Anatomy of a Murder
12 Angry Men
The Verdict

London
Eastern Promises
Knave of Hearts
Deep End
Oliver Twist
The Servant
The Lavender Hill Mob
It Always Rains on Sunday

Los Angeles
American Gigolo
Blade Runner
Chinatown
Heat
LA Confidential
True Confessions
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Short Cuts

Love stories
Brief Encounter
Love Affair
The English Patient
The Clock
Camille
L'Avventura
Le Diable au Corps
Pierrot le Fou

Monsters
Alien
Aliens
King Kong
Frankenstein

Mothers
Mother and Son
Stella Dallas
Psycho
Mommie Dearest
Bambi

Native American
Apache
Ulzana's Raid
The Last of the Mohicans
The Unforgiven
The Searchers
Run of the Arrow

New York
Dog Day Afternoon
Taxi Driver
My Man Godfrey
Radio Days

Newspapers
Ace in the Hole
His Girl Friday
Citizen Kane
All the President's Men
Sweet Smell of Success

Noir
Act of Violence
Out of the Past
Double Indemnity
They Live by Night
Gilda
Force of Evil
D.O.A.
Detour
Crossfire
The Killers

Old age
Umberto D
Make Way for Tomorrow
Sunday in the Country
Autumn Sonata

Paris
Bob le Flambeur
Les 400 Coups
An American in Paris
Paris Nous Appartient
Last Tango in Paris

Philadelphia
The Philadelphia Story
A History of Violence
Rocky

San Francisco
Greed
The Conversation
Vertigo
Bullitt
What's Up, Doc?
San Francisco

School
Blackboard Jungle
If
Rebel Without a Cause
Grease

Sex
Don't Look Now
Eve
In the Realm of the Senses
Last Tango in Paris
Pandora's Box
Eyes Wide Shut

Shakespeare
Chimes at Midnight
Hamlet
Hamlet
Othello
Throne of Blood
Henry V
Julius Caesar

Theatre
All About Eve
Les Enfants du Paradis
The Producers
Mephisto
To Be Or Not To Be

Trains
The General
The Lady Vanishes
North by Northwest
Strangers on a Train

Venice
Sait-On Jamais
Death in Venice
Don't Look Now

Vienna
Bad Timing
The Third Man
Liebelei
La Ronde

War
All Quiet on the Western Front
Paths of Glory
Apocalypse Now
Saving Private Ryan
Men in War
Platoon
The Big Red One
La Grande Illusion

Washington D.C.
Advise and Consent
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Nixon

Westerns
Duel in the Sun
Heaven's Gate
Red River
The Searchers
Shane
Winchester 73
Man of the West
Rio Bravo
Unforgiven

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