Critic David Thomson, author of the essential "Biographical Dictionary of Film," re-examines a series of moments from 70 films across 100 years in his new book, "Moments That Made the Movies," which will be published this month by Thames & Hudson. In some cases, he focuses on one scene -- or even a few seconds from a wide range of films -- everything from "Sunset Boulevard," "Citizen Kane," "Casablanca" and "The Red Shoes" to "When Harry Met Sally," "Zodiac," "The Piano Teacher" and "Burn After Reading."
"There are surprises, offbeat choices, as well as plenty of films that you might have guessed would be included -- though not always with the moments you anticipated," writes Thomson. Below you can read an exclusive excerpt from the book's introduction, as well as some images from the book:
Do you remember the movies you saw, like whole vessels serene on the seas of time? Or do you just retain moments from them, like shattered lifeboats where a very fierce tiger and Hedy Lamarr (change the animals to fit your history) are gazing at you from the other end of the boat wondering how the story will end? Can you recall the intricate plot of Laura, or do you simply see Dana Andrews falling asleep beneath that portrait on the wall? Most people, I find, remember moments from films they saw as children or adolescents (so true film buffs like to extend those stages of life). Yet often the moment has overwhelmed the film itself.
At fifteen, I walked into Rebel Without a Cause before the end of the previous screening, and I was confronted by the scene in which James Dean is trying to coax Sal Mineo (and his gun) out of the planetarium. In the movie as a whole, Jim (Dean) is as kind to Plato (Mineo) as an older brother and is trying to save him. But in that first moment, I saw Dean making a plan: so he seemed devious and cunning, and I always have seen his character, Jim Stark, as less a lost kid than a potential director.
Excerpted from Moments that Made the Movies, by David Thomson
Copyright © 2013 David Thomson
Reprinted courtesy of Thames & Hudson Inc.