VSL:BOOKS // The movie buff’s new BFF

Every self-respecting cinephile has a well-thumbed copy of David Thomson’s Biographical Dictionary of Film on hand. But even avid Thomson fans may have puzzled over his most recent offerings: A loopy book-length mash note to Nicole Kidman? A novel he co-wrote with Marlon Brando? Really?

Now, finally, Thomson has given us another charming monster of a book, one that revisits and reevaluates 1,000 great (and not-so-great) films that have gotten under his skin and stayed there. Thomson’s reviews are as witty and rigorous as ever: Taking a second look at Jules and Jim, he writes, “It looks brittle, nervy, too rapid to face its own doubts, too hurried to let deep feelings emerge.” Of the haunting but baffling Paris, Texas, he observes, “I’m not sure that many films are as moving and as incoherent.” Such nuanced insights abound, but the real joy of this book lies in its ingenious alphabetical structure. There are no stars or rankings here, no measured procession through theoretical thickets. Instead, there is the thrilling whiplash of one striking juxtaposition after another as we swerve from The Black Stallion to Blade Runner, from Force of Evil to Forrest Gump, in a brilliant, idiosyncratic tour of film history.

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