For twenty-five years, David Thomson's Biographical Dictionary of Film has been not merely "the finest reference book ever written about movies" (Graham Fuller, Interview), not merely the "desert island book" of art critic David Sylvester, not merely " great, crazy masterpiece" (Geoff Dyer, The Guardian), but also "fiendishly seductive" (Greil Marcus, Rolling Stone).
Now it returns, with its old entries updated and 300 new ones--from Luc Besson to Reese Witherspoon--making more than 1300 in all, some of them just a pungent paragraph, some of them several thousand words long. In addition to the new "musts," Thomson has added key figures from film history?lively anatomies of Graham Greene, Eddie Cantor, Pauline Kael, Abbott and Costello, Noël Coward, Hoagy Carmichael, Dorothy Gish, Rin Tin Tin, and more.
Here is a great, rare book, one that encompasses the chaos of art, entertainment, money, vulgarity, and nonsense that we call the movies. Personal, opinionated, funny, daring, provocative, and passionate, it is the one book that every filmmaker and film buff must own. Time Out named it one of the ten best books of the 1990s. Gavin Lambert recognized it as "a work of imagination in its own right." Now better than ever--a masterwork by the man playwright David Hare called "the most stimulating and thoughtful film critic now writing."
|Publisher:||Little, Brown & Company|
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This is the most amatuerish job of E-Book formatting I have yet seen. Extra spaces and even carriage returns are inserted in the middle of words, the chaptesr are assigned by letter of the alphabet and are just too long. This was an opportunity to create a really nice hyperlinked text with a table of contents and index by title or by name, but the person who created this did the minimal amount of work possible. A good book ruined by a sloppy presentation.
BOOK REVIEW: David Thomson, "The New Biographical Dictionary of Film," New York: Knopf, c2002, 963 pages. Copyright by Harvey Karten. What a pity that David Thomson's masterful encyclopedia of film is updated so infrequently. Patience is rewarded. Mr. Thomson?who like Anthony Lane is a Londoner though he now lives in San Francisco?has come out with a smashing new volume almost a thousand pages in length. Unlike the late Ephraim Katz's bible of film knowledge, "The Film Encyclopedia," Thomson's book avoids the staid and abounds in his personal opinions on a large but selected group of people connected to the movie industry. The new encyclopedia, just published, contains three new entries (including one for Reese Witherspoon, appropriately enough since Ms. Witherspoon is getting into all the romantic comedies she can while she retains her unique, youthful charm), not only names the names but chats about art and entertainment in general, tossing in some of the author's viewpoints on the New Vulgarity that brings in the principal targeted market of the big studios. An example of Thomson's first-person-ism: Entry for Winona Ryder (Winona Laura Horowitz): "In 1994, pressed for space and surrounded by young actresses, I backed a hunch that Winona Ryder would outlast Nicole Kidman and some others. Well, Ryder holds her place, but Kidman has clearly outstripped her in both daring and accomplishment. And Ryder is now thirty, and pretty in a way more suited to twenty." On the Coen Brothers: ""Raising Arizona" was, for me, close to unwatchable: unfunny, technologically impelled, showy and not just empty but condescending. "Barton Fink" was show-off time again, a dash of Nathanael West, a pinch of sophomore surrealism, numb satire, another kid's film. "Hudsucker Proxy" was a return to zero?or less....the plot ponderous and flimsy, and the people stooges to a dumb comic-book style. A travesty." An encyclopedia that's shy of the length of the OED cannot include everyone, but why have entries for Demi Moore (Demi Guynes) and Julianne Moore (Julie Smith) but nothing at all for one of the hottest names of the 21st century, Michael Moore (Michael Moore)? Nick Nolte but not Harry Knowles? Emma Thompson but not David Thomson? Sir Carol Reed and Donna Reed (Donna Mullenger) but not Rex Reed? Diane Lane but not Anthony Lane? (After all, there is an ample entry for Pauline Kael.) The major omission is the lack of information on matters covered by Katz's encyclopedia, to wit: "Iranian Cinema," "Hollywood" and the like?only people get the headers. This "dictionary" is so comprehensive, so enjoyable, that the only criticism one might make is that Thomson does not cover some of the more notable and colorful personalities of the biz, particularly the critics we daily read with keen anticipation.