November 4, 2013 by Reader's Connection
Every gift suggestion list should include at least one coffee table book, and mine for this year comes from David Thomson. The prolific film scholar has released yet another batch of speculations and broodings, shot through, as usual, with surprising new ways of looking at movies. Readers get some extra help with looking, this time, because Thomson’s descriptions of Moments that Made the Movies are illustrated with stills.
If I name the movies, you can guess some of the moments. Meg Ryan’s fake orgasm from When Harry Met Sally is included, even though Thomson isn’t crazy about that film. “The big moments don’t always come in outstanding pictures. Still, when I outlined the book, acquaintances knew I had to do When Harry Met Sally. They would have felt wronged if I left it out.”
Other selections might surprise you. From Psycho, Thomson doesn’t fix on the horrid shower scene, but on the conversation that the character Marion has with the gentleman who runs the motel where she has just checked in. He is “the first gentle, sympathetic or insightful person in the film. Now I will concede that there are some worrying things about Norman Bates . . . But Norman is as shy, polite and engaging as Anthony Perkins. Despite his solitude, he seems to understand people. This is not just the most absorbing personal conversation in the film, it is one of the most searching talks in all of Hitchcock.”
I don’t like the cymbal-clashes with which Thomson concludes some of his pieces–e.g., The Shop Around the Corner–and I think the last sentence that he writes about Zodiac has a typo. Perhaps the book’s pieces were assembled in a hurry. But there’s insight and heart in all his accounts of key moments, and the pictures are wonderful. The picture of Margaret Sullavan from The Shop Around the Corner really is magnificent, and the shot of John Carroll Lynch, playing the man who may have been the Zodiac killer, reminds me that Thomson and I agree about this chilling, memorable moment.
And this blog post probably contains at least one typo.