Wednesday, 29 April 2015

The Bigger Screen: A book review of David Thomson's 'The Big Screen'

Film Studies 2.0 starts here. Scratch that, Moving Image Studies starts here.

What is most impressive about The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies and What They Did to Us is Thomson's range of knowledge that extends far beyond the Film Studies field; the lack of which is something that puts many other film academics at a great disadvantage. 

This is a disadvantage that limits many film academics to just being able to talk about the films and their aesthetics - something that has quite literally been done to death by the Film Studies and criticism field and it is further sounding the death cries of the Film Studies and criticism field!

We are in touch with cinema like never before.

Thomson, on the other hand, extends his viewpoint beyond just presenting yet another history of the cinema and instead provides an exploration, consideration and criticism of our larger relationship with screens and audio-visual media; a part of which films and the history of film are only a few players.

"The coming of sound was termination for some people. Photoplay magazine mocked the claim that sound had been perfected: 'So is castor oil,' it said. The the audience dropped off in the 1930s. In 1951 there was David Selznick wandering in an empty studio and crying, woe is us - we betrayed our chance, we made so few worthwhile pictures. Television seemed the obvious and natural way of watching moving imagery, including movies. Later in the 1950s, attendance fell for good and a few smart films nudged us and said, 'Arn't we stupid?' We killed Technicolor; we betrayed black and white. From 1960, for a few years, Goddard was a surgeon excising every stale convention with a look of contempt and superiority. Then video was offered as an easier way of seeing more pictures. We gave up cinematography for digital. We knew that so many movies had been lost for all time, and still there were too many to see. One day in July 2007, Michelangelo Antonioni and Igmar Bergman died, not together, but as if in a pact that wanted to teach us something. Yet ghosts go on about their business, like Michael Myers in Halloween or the Living Dead hearing their cue. We still like to look"   
- Thomson, 2012:503.

Be under no illusion, the title of this book is only a selling tactic; the contents of the book other something that is far grander in its consideration of where we exist now in relation to ALL of our aesthetics, logistics, technologies and cultures of our moving pictures.

I have gained a great deal from this book and not just in regards to my dissection of moving images, but also in regards to the creation of my own original content and this is most evident in my Cameo Micro-Films and in my current 365 FRAMES 2015 project.

If you want an introduction or re-introduction/re-invigoration to where we exist in reality in relation to our moving pictures and our considerations of those moving pictures, then start here. Breaking Cinema, the podcast I am currently developing has also drawn heavily from Thomson's way of thinking.

My personal reflection on The Big Screen

The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies and What They Did to Us is a book that unflinchingly dissects our ongoing dread and desire of the moving image. This is pioneering work that will undoubtedly inspire new pioneers.

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