Light Years

Tom McDonough writes as a lifelong addict to film; he has a deeply intuitive sense of the mysteries and reveries that the medium can arouse. Because he never relinquishes his primitive, magical notion of film, he is equally at home with the sublime and the ridiculous, perfectly happy to analyze both the films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder and the acrobatics necessary to set up a two-shot of Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog in THE MUPPETS TAKE MANHATTAN.

Despite McDonough’s deep distrust of what Hollywood and modern production methods have done with an art form that would otherwise have retained more of its original sense of the sacred, there are no villains in the book, only heroes and weirdos. As if striving to be the Tom Waits of film criticism, McDonough has a limitless curiosity about unusual people, each blessed with a suitably picturesque name, such as Genghis the crane operator, Okay Freddy, Legendary Rooney, and Polly of the Jungle.

McDonough also has unreserved adoration for an interesting variety of heroes. It is easy to understand his deep respect for cinematographers, traditionally among the most under-acknowledged contributors to film art. McDonough gives quick sketches and reviews of important cameramen from Billy Bitzer, who worked with D.W. Griffith, to Gregg Toland, responsible for so much of the visual brilliance of CITIZEN KANE, to contemporaries such as Gordon Willis, clearly McDonough’s choice as the most important modern...

(The entire section is 411 words.)