Attention must be paid to David Thomson‘s New Republic review of Peter Biskind‘s Star: How Warren Beatty Seduced America for the simple fact that Thomson, author of Warren Beatty and Desert Eyes, knows the realm of this former Hollywood heavyweight better than most.
It’s wrong that most of this review, called “You Used To Be In Pictures!“, is hidden behind a paywall. Here are the last three graphs:
“Warren Beatty is an emblem for our last cluster of male movie stars. He is the same age as Jack Nicholson, Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, and near enough to Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. All of them have lived beyond the natural span of their own stardom. There is a sadness about them now.
“De Niro and Pacino work on — and on — and their new films are, now more than ever, ordeals. Nicholson has said that he is washed up on the shore beyond the tide-line of good scripts. Redford seems as lost and as vacant as ever.” [Wells interjection: Redford’s The Conspirator is, at the very least, based on a well-written script. And Pacino, due respect, has just given one of his best-ever performances in Barry Levinson‘s You Don’t Know Jack.] “Stars are not necessarily self-aware or intelligent, but once they shone. Now these vets huddle together in soft-focus, in scenes that use doubles.
“Star is expert reporting but grinding to read, and it bespeaks an oppressive interest in movieland maneuvers. But it shows why, once upon a time — before AIDS, before Polanski, before special effects and monster budgets — a great-looking guy with his wits about him might think it would be fun to make a movie. And so it was, even if fun is a boy’s sport.
“Now the fun has gone out of American film. The rush of celluloid no longer lives and moves or believes in its own ninety-minute sensation. It isn’t even celluloid, and it’s never ninety minutes. Warren Beatty begins to seem like Norma Desmond.”
The New Republic guys should temporarily ease their paywall to allow people to read this. It’s Thomson after all, and the review is wise, perceptive and eloquent. Fuck it — here are the pages: #1, #2, #3 and #4.