If we conform to the ancient tradition of twenty-four frames in a movie second, then a two-hour film has 172,800 frames. It’s a stretch to regard every frame as a moment, but fifteen frames can make a distinct contribution to and shift in a film, while some other moments last a minute or two, or even twenty minutes. There are certain films -- like High Noon or 12 Angry Men -- where the entire picture may be construed as an extended moment, a piece of unbroken duration, and a kind of narrative momentousness. I noticed, as I composed my new book, that some films seemed packed with distinct, quotable moments, while others -- often great works -- seemed to possess a continuity from which it was more difficult to isolate or extract moments. Once you were into that sort of film, it was harder to get out. Jean Renoir’s movies -- La Regle du Jeu especially -- seem to flow like the rivers he often took as a model. It is harder with Renoir to attend to just one scene without wanting to speak about everything in the film. Yet American films, by and large, do look to have sensational events, knock-out set-pieces that will be treasured long after the rest is forgotten and which will feature in the trailers and the advertisements...

"The Lady Eve"
Image credit: Paramount/Photofest. "The Lady Eve"

Excerpted from Moments that Made the Movies, by David Thomson  
Copyright © 2013 David Thomson  
Reprinted courtesy of Thames & Hudson Inc.