The Last Picture Show
David Thomson seeks to sum up a lifelong film obsession
The final sequence of Abel Gance’s silent epic Napoléon (1927) unfurls in something called Polyvision: a triptych of screens in which the center panel shows the main action, while complementary or simultaneous action plays out on the side panels. In person, the device can feel more theatrical than cinematic, particularly if you’re lucky enough to have a live symphony orchestra playing along. And yet I can’t think of a better template for the sensibility we bring to watching movies: filtering the main event through the unending stream of images that floods our brains.
There is, in other words, an ongoing conversation between what’s on that screen and what was on the screens that came before it—and there’s no student of film who’s held up his end of that conversation better than David Thomson. Indeed, one
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