David Thomson's Biographical Dictionary of Film has become an essential
reference guide, as well as a great discussion-starter, and now he has
followed it with this entirely new, slightly more manageable book, "Have You Seen . . . ?": A Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films. Very
simply, it's a collection of "reviews" of 1000 notable films, consisting
of about 1000 words each, one per page, in alphabetical order.
often playful; he begins with Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
because it looked better aesthetically than Abe Lincoln in Illinois.
It's personal; he lavishes gorgeous prose on his pet favorites (To Have
and Have Not, Celine and Julie Go Boating, etc.). It's historical; many
entries come with some fascinating behind-the-scenes tidbits. It's
controversial; not every entry is a glowingly good review. And it's
fresh; he manages to cook up readable entries on such heavily covered
classics as Citizen Kane and The Godfather, as well as some obscurities
that deserve more attention. The most current entry is a Swedish comedy,
You, the Living (2007), that didn't find U.S. distribution until a year
after this book was published.
Thomson's style is smart and dry, but not
overly academic. He's often poetic and passionate in his own way, and
like the "Dictionary," this one is compulsively readable. It comes with an
chronological index of the films as well.