Moments That Made the Movies (2013)

15 February 2014


This is not my favorite of David Thomson’s books (his New Biographical Dictionary of Film is endlessly pleasurable) but it’s certainly the most beautiful. And what an excuse to flip through these gorgeous photographs, cooing over your favorites, putting all the others on your Netflix queue.

Have I mentioned I’m grading papers this weekend?

The book also makes me want to find images of my own, exemplary of those breathtaking little moments in film that stop you short.

As a result of reading his bit about my favorite film of all time, The Third Man (1949), I found myself scrolling through images online. Thomson loves that last scene, in which the beautiful and enigmatic Alida Valli walks toward the camera and past poor Joseph Cotten, who wants her to love him. The zither music plays unrelentingly.

LIV_20131124_ENT_022_29671804_I1Fair enough; it’s an amazing scene. But I have some others to suggest:

Third Man Alida Valli




The Third Man movie image


thrd man

org third man13711


Tell me: do you have a favorite moment from a favorite film — a crystalline, perfect, deeply pleasurable moment that somehow brings forth all manner of emotion when you recall it?

11 Responses to “Moments That Made the Movies (2013)”

  1. Frances Clarke Says:

    On my way to work one morning years ago, I decided to take the day off. It seemed like an incredibly decadent thing to do, since I’d never taken a sick day before, and I was standing outside my office building feeling perfectly fine at the time. But for some reason, I just couldn’t face the idea of sitting at my desk. So I called in sick, and walked around the corner to the nearest movie theatre. I bought a ticket to the only film showing—which was Immortal Beloved, with Gary Oldham playing Beethoven. It’s not the greatest movie—probably not even the greatest movie about Beethoven—but I’ve never had such a perfect movie moment, where everything came together in such a way that I was completely transported. The scene I most remember is the one where they’re playing Ode to Joy. An old, deaf Beethoven is standing on stage while the orchestra plays his Ode, and he’s recalling a time in his youth when he ran away from home and went swimming in a lake. The song ends while he’s floating suspended in a lake that’s reflecting a star-filled sky, and the camera slowly pans away from him so that he eventually becomes just a small white dot on the lake surface; another tiny point of light that’s merged in with the stars. I know. It’s probably terribly corny. But I was the sole viewer, sitting in a darkened cinema surrounded by Old to Joy. What can I say? I’ve had endless movie moments since—especially at films depicting historical events, where I get blown away by the visual recreation of history—but nothing has ever compared to wagging work and finding myself unexpectedly immersed in a film.

  2. Servetus Says:

    If it can be a scene, the barnraising scene in Witness.

    • Didion Says:

      Oh yes. And those looks they share between them.

      • Servetus Says:

        If I were going to pick a brief moment, it would be either the point at which Kelly McGillis takes off her cap before going to bed — or else the opening scene in Ruby in Paradise where Ashley Judd slams into her car to get the hell out of Dodge.

      • Didion Says:

        You know, I can’t find a copy of Ruby in Paradise after our conversations about it. I’ve got to see it again.

      • Servetus Says:

        I don’t think it ever made it to DVD, only to VHS. I have a VHS copy somewhere but in storage …

      • Didion Says:

        That explains a lot!

  3. Becky Says:

    You can watch the full length, Ruby in Paradise on youtube. You’re welcome.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: