San Francisco-based film critic and historian David Thomson joins us to discuss his sweeping new work, “The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies.” Thomson’s other books include “The New Biographical Dictionary of Film” and “Have You Seen…?”

David Thomson, film critic, historian and author of his latest book is "The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies". His other books include "The New Biographical Dictionary of Film," and "Have You Seen...?"

  • $15668096

    To what extent does the continual use of small screens (and we should include small speakers as part of this) affect our ability to perceive detail in the world? With audio compression being accepted as the norm, do we lose the ability to discriminate finely grained “live” sounds? With the visual compression needed to fit images into small screens, do we lose the ability to see detail?

    One of my favorite films is “Dersu Uzala” (Kurasawa, 1975). It makes a good case that our senses are fully engaged in nature, geared to sensing an extraordinary level of detail, potentially. But I think small screens and speakers are dulling our senses by neglect, and it changes what people can even hear or see in person, at a live, unamplified concert, or at an art gallery, for example, as well as in everyday life.

    • thucy

      Couldn’t agree more: Kurosawa’s “Dersu Uzala” is a quiet work of genius. I re-screened the film, which I first saw as a kid, with some twenty-somethings last year. It was far more potent than I had recalled.
      I’m looking forward to what I think may be a film along similar themes: Besson’s film adaptation of “Wolf Totem”.

  • $2870056

    Voyeurs? Spies? The past, yes. Movies are so much more now. Especially the small stories, ubiquitous on small screens, made on shoe-string budgets, one-person operations, some with no human actors, or dialogue.

    We are becoming better witnesses, observers, participants, when stories can be told in film and video, by so many more people.

    Alas, many young people – just spectators satisfying a need for distraction, not attraction to any thing of any kind.

    Always enjoy your writing, Mr. Thomson. You are a superb observer, teacher and participant, never a spectator.

  • Kent Hall

    It seems to me that today’s audiences have a very difficult time losing themselves in older films. When I go see films at the rep houses these days, I find audiences laugh at just about everything, from the price of goods, to the apparently “fake” violence, to the sentiment of the dialogue. Not to mention our own political correctness. I find it upsetting that we can’t just accept that these are different times and see what we can learn from them, instead of going in with our notions and laughing when the film falls short of them.

  • Stacy

    Movies taught us to see something “real” on screen and react; we
    are removed from it. How does this translate to the real world? When we see a real tragedy in front of us, will we just watch? Are there more bystanders nowadays?

    • $2870056

      People have seen, in words, both fiction and non-fiction. Some remain spectators, others become participants in what they have read.

      So it is with motion-pictures and photography and video. For example: Arab Spring.

      Newtown? Only members of Congress pretend to be “bystanders.”

      We know films are “movies.” When we see broadcast “news” that is neither factual, accurate, or objective reporting, then, sadly, more screen watchers (than readers of words) seem to become spectators. (no one living is a “bystander”)

  • $2870056

    Which person in your latest or pending version of the Biographical Dictionary of Film has an entry that has been revised the most? (dead or living)

  • Anne-Louise

    When I called in, I neglected to mention that my friend witnessed the 9/11 event with her own eyes, not on television, as she worked only several blocks away from the World Trade Center at the time. Anne-Louise.

  • johnqeniac

    Unbelievable. Your guest thomson has the unmitigated hide to compare the idiotic ‘fiscal freaking cliff’ – a completely artificial crisis engineered by the repellant repubs to decimate services for the masses in favor of endless sickening special treatment for the putrid rich – compares this to a war! It would be laughable if this was not so widely believed. There are no serious immediate consequences to going over the artificial congressional cliff. It’s another attempt at outrageous extortion by the repubs. This man needs some backbone. Go over the cliff. Call the repub’s impotent bluff! And thomson needs to grow a spine! And so does Harry Reid, who has never shown one. Any bets he totally caves to the repubs demands? Any takers at all?

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor