A brief excerpt from the Siren's brief review of David Thomson's The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, at Barron's Magazine this week.
The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, now in its fifth edition, is more accurately a long, melancholy love story: Boy (author David Thomson) meets movies, gets hitched to movies, spends rest of life veering between passion and petulance, always craving reassurance that his love object is worthy of the care he's lavished on it...The entries that pulse with life are the ones written in the first flush of love and discovery, such as those on Howard Hawks, Luis Buñuel and Cary Grant, or those updated with rekindled ardor, like the one on director Max Ophüls. There are living filmmakers who earn Thomson's admiration, but the author brings his greatest passion to the cinema of the past.
It is, in fact, better to be a dead person in The New Biographical Dictionary, in which even the most treasured working directors can disappoint—such as Baz Luhrmann, wildly overpraised in the past but here found guilty of Australia, a movie journey that even Thomson refuses to make...Actresses, for their part, dismay him by turning 30 or passing 40. At times, Thomson seems to mourn their lost beauty more than they do themselves. Even their efforts to stay in shape can displease him, as he describes how Jodie Foster sometimes looks "sick from exercise," or says young Leslie Caron had "the face of someone who has been doing exercises: tight, preoccupied and dull."
The Siren's own favorite review of this latest edition came from Dan Callahan, at Slant Magazine.