Film can make us want things we can not have. But, while sometimes rapturous, the interaction of onscreen beauty and private desire speaks to a crisis in American culture, one that pits delusions of male supremacy against feminist awakening and the spirit of gay resistance. Combining criticism, his encyclopedic knowledge of film history, and memoir, David Thomson examines how film has found the fault lines in traditional masculinity and helped to point the way past it toward a more nuanced understanding of what it means to be a person desiring others. Ranging from advertising to pornography, Rudolph Valentino to Moonlight, Rock Hudson to Call Me By Your Name, Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant to Phantom Thread, Thomson shows us the art and the artists we love under a new light. He illuminates the way in which film as art, entertainment, and business has been a polite cover for a kind of erotic séance. And he makes us see how the way we watch our movies is a kind of training for how we try to live.
David Thomson is the author of The Biographical Dictionary of Film, Moments That Made the Movies, and the pioneering novel Suspects, which was peopled with characters from film.
Lili Anolik is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. Her work has also appeared in Harper's, Esquire, and The Believer, among other publications. Her latest book, the Los Angeles Times bestseller, Hollywood's Eve: Eve Babitz and the Secret History of L.A., was published by Scribner in January 2019.