I have a love/hate relationship with David Thomson’s writing. (I don’t know the man at all so there’s no reason I could have a love/hate relationship with him personally.) His writing seems to me to be preoccupied with sex. Or maybe he’s occupied with sex the normal amount but he writes about it more than other film critics. It seems to take me longer to read his books than other books. Not because they’re necessarily harder to comprehend, they just hit stretches that fail to keep my attention. I’ve been reading Thomson’s The Big Screen off and on for over a year. Inevitably, after I pick it back up, I hit a patch that opens a newly discovered subject for me or gives a rich insight into something about which I thought I was completely conversant.
Shortly after this past Christmas, I wandered into Barnes & Noble with a gift card I’d received in my stocking. I walked out with Thomson’s How To Watch A Movie — knowing full well that it would be more (and less) than advertised. The book is a collection of meditations (a little over a dozen) on the elements that make up a movie – and therefore shape the movie watching experience. Compared to previous experiences with his work this book is short and to the point. My copy is full of notes in the margin and lists of films scribbled on the flyleaf that I must see.
Just when I think Thomson will lose me again, he comes up with a line like this:
One might as well, in considering how to watch a movie, recognize the extent to which public life in America has itself become an untidy, unrated motion picture that has a captive but disenchanted audience. – How To Watch A Movie, David Thomson
A disenchanted audience, indeed. It may be more my problem than Thomson’s.
HOW TO WATCH A MOVIE | David Thomson | 2015 | Knopf 228 pgs