HOW TO WATCH A MOVIE by David Thomson


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Celebrated movie critic and film studies teacher Thomson (Moments that Made the Movies, 2013, etc.) implores viewers to scrutinize themselves as closely as what’s playing on the silver screen—or YouTube.

Whether reclining in a darkened movie theater or on your couch at home, there’s a lot more happening on our collective screens than the fantastic images might suggest—and it appears as if the author has considered them all, including the screens themselves. Readers will need to possess a storehouse of cinematic knowledge that stretches all the way back to D.W. Griffith and Fritz Lang to fully appreciate the rich and robust dissertation Thomson undertakes with ease. Those lacking that price of admission should probably slip out and at least prime themselves on Citizen Kane, Personaand Psycho to try and catch up. But once they do, they’ll see that Thomson not only closely mines those legendary films, but also the likes of Pretty WomanHeatand The Godfather as well. The author’s encyclopedic knowledge of cinema history makes for some truly fascinating associations—often in the space of a single poetic phrase. Reams have already been written about Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will (1935), but how many other authors or critics could careen so effortlessly between that infamous work of Nazi propaganda and a Gatorade commercial featuring Yankees great Derek Jeter? Or the heretofore-unknown relationship between Persona and recent DirectTV spots starring actor Rob Lowe? In probing these uncanny parallels, along with other cinematic information, including story, editing, and sound, Thomson assuredly seeks to expose the magician’s many secrets—but only so we can all access a better appreciation of the wonder of film. “If you really want to watch a film,” he writes, “you must be ready to recognize your own life slipping away.”

An enjoyably deep dive into the interaction between cinema and psyche.

Pub Date: Nov. 12th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-101-87539-1
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2015


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