The New Biographical Dictionary of Film: Fifth Edition, Completely Updated and Expanded Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 26, 2010
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"The best book on the movies ever written in English." —The New Republic
“Thomson proves anew that he is irreplaceable . . . His monologue has blossomed into an unlikely, searching dialogue about what to value in the movies—how to love what’s come before without nostalgia, and how to find the courage to demand more from the stuff being made right now . . . Deservedly treasured . . . One of the most probing accounts ever written of a human being’s engagement with the movies.” —Sarah Kerr, The New York Times Book Review
“Delicious. One of the best and most useful books written about the movies.” —Edward Guthmann, San Francisco Chronicle
“The Dictionary is not only an indispensable book about cinema, but one of the most absurdly ambitious literary achievements of our time.” —Geoff Dyer, Sight & Sound
“A marvel . . . Eccentric, audacious, sparkling . . . Probably the greatest living film critic and historian, Thomson writes the most fun and enthralling prose about the movies since Pauline Kael.” —Benjamin Schwarz, The Atlantic
“From Abbott and Costello to Crumb’s Terry Zwigoff, David Thomson expertly caters the banquet of film history in the latest edition of this classic. One critics’ poll called it the best movie book ever; it also has some of the finest, orneriest writing in the English language.”
“Truly, maddeningly, gloriously subjective . . . Buy this book for a friend, and bask in the pleasure of knowing that you have incalculably enriched his life. Buy it for yourself, and book some quality time with one of the finest writers the story of film has ever had.”
—Saul Austerlitz, San Francisco Chronicle
“[A] mad and magnificent opus . . . Thomson is a great rhapsodist of how film acts on his, and therefore our, imagination. . . . Close viewing, and the insights that spring from rapt attention, are what Thomson’s criticism is all about. Despite its seemingly straitlaced A-to-Z format, the ‘Dictionary’ is oddball and Borgesian, finding imaginative ecstasy in its encyclopedic tendency. The book crackles with epigram while often reaching for meanings that endow familiar subjects with a new reality. . . . It’s an essential, loony, irresistible book, and scarcely a week passes when I don’t submerge myself for an hour or two in its labyrinthine marvels.”
—Richard Rayner, Los Angeles Times
“Essential . . . Razor-sharp reviews are often commentaries on both the filmmaker and the audience. . . . We’re always aware that we’re engaging with a passionate educated human being. Isn’t that more interesting and rewarding than marketing-driven Netflix summaries? Great critics are cinema’s most inspiring enthusiasts. Four stars.”
—Jeffrey Overstreet, Books & Culture
“Witty, expasive, convincing, honest, more than a little mischievous and, so often, absolutely on the money. Thomson’s voice is one of the most distinctive and enjoyable in film criticism. It leaps from the pages of this spruced up classic like flames from a bonfire. . . . Almost every page contains at least one unexpected nugget of information that you would struggle to come across by any other means. . . . However, the real value of this book lies not in facts, but in opinions. Thomson’s views are so shrewd, so exquisitely stated that, more often than not, they feel like thoughts you already held but were never quite sure how to put into words. . . In a world awash with amateur pundits, the value of a genuine expert who knows his own mind has never been higher. . . . Dip into any entry and you will find irrefutable proof that his gaze remains as sharp as ever. For as long as there are films worth writing about, Thomson’s opinions will remain worth reading.”
—Benjamin Secher, The Telegraph
“The newest edition of David Thomson’s New Biographical Dictionary of Film is 1,076 pages long. It weighs a ton. And yet, it’s almost impossible to put down.”
—The New York Observer
“Invaluable and occasionally maddening.” —Steven Rea, The Kansas City Star
“Skip the movie; read David Thomson instead. Addictive . . . his landmark work. You’ll see how erudite, generous, cheeky, elegant and fascinating Thomson’s writing is. Take any entry and it’s impossible not to want to read to the finish.” —Kyle Smith, New York Post
About the Author
- Publisher : Knopf; Expanded, Updated edition (October 26, 2010)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 1088 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0307271749
- ISBN-13 : 978-0307271747
- Item Weight : 3.6 pounds
- Dimensions : 7 x 2.1 x 9.5 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #978,466 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Writing at 1,000 word clips, Thomson opines on every major player in Hollywood's history. His favorites include Robert Mitchem, Anthony Hopkins ("the greatest living actor"), Howard Hawks, and Nicholas Ray. Those he trashes are David Lean (totally unconvincing), Robert Redford, and Tony Scott (utterly convincing). His writing is often vulgar, and at times a little too cute, but like Pauline Kael, he always has something to say and a judgment to be respected. What is amazing in retrospective is the incredible devotion to watching so much film over so many decades with such intensity and discernment. A highly engaging reference book from a first-rate critic.
The book is equally weighted across time, meaning earlier film figures don't get short shrift. Particularly good are tantalizing references to early French and Japanese film figures, Ozu and Pagnol for example, that will make you want to seek out these hard-to-find treasures. I don't always agree with Thomson (am I the only person who loved "1941"?), but it's always interesting to pull out this book and see where our overrated-lists agree (Affleck!) and disagree ("1941"!!).
This is a must-have, not just for film fans but for its pure entertainment value as a gigantic collection of biographical short takes.
My highest recommendation.
About Bruce Dern in the film Coming Home:
". . . A rapturous embrace between Jane Fonda and Jon Voight was being watched by a wistful, suspicious Bruce Dern, his eyes lime pits of paranoia and resentment."
Or Basil Rathbone:
"The inverted arrow face, the razor nose, and a mustache that was really two fine shears stuck to his lip. Ladies looked fearfully at him, knowing that one embrace could cut them to ribbons."
Both these passages capture the essence of the star perfectly. Just perfectly. The book is full of this kind of superior writing.
The update has all the new stars, some who probably wish they were excluded. Who can not read a reviewer that says of Ben Affleck: ". . . Mr. Affleck is boring, complacent, and criminally lucky to have got away with everything so far."
As I say, Thomson has a way of capturing things perfectly in a few words.
On Tarkovsky he says that Ivan's Childhood is his best film and from the rest of the chapter one gets the feeling that it is because it is clear what the film is about. Everything from that was kind of down hill, according to him. Andrei Rublev was too slow, too Russian and too long. Solaris was boring. He does not talk about The Mirror or Stalker (just says, after he made The Mirror and Stalker he moved to...) Then he says a few things about the last two films, where one gets the feeling that he is just repeating something he read, empty facts. And that's it. Nothing about cinema of poetry or anything. Either he just did not like Tarkovsky or he had seen next to nothing by him. And here is my problem. If he does not like him, should it shine so clear through? And if he has not seen enough films by him, then why
1) publish before you have done your job
2) not get someone to write the book with you to ease the load?
And this is the expanded and updated edition. I wonder how the first one was!
Top reviews from other countries
Leider liess sich die Kindle Edition (gekauft Juni 2013) in der iOS-Version für iPhone/iPad zunächst nur sequenziell lesen (also Seite um Seite wie ein Roman), da das (ohnehin etwas sonderbare) Inhaltsverzeichnis, welches nur aus den Buchstaben A-Z besteht, die entsprechenden Seiten nicht ansteuerte. Ein technischer Mangel, der einem professionellen Verlag nicht unterlaufen dürfte. Auf MacOS hingegen funktionierte dies einwandfrei.
Inzwischen hat der Verlag den Mangel behoben; für einen Update des Buchs unter Mein Konto > Mein Kindle > Meine Geräte verwalten > automatische Buchaktualisierung einschalten.
Nebenbei sei noch bemerkt: Ein Personenverzeichnis würde die Orientierung im Buch wesentlich erleichtern, da das Werk immerhin über 1000 reale Seiten aufweist.