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David ThomsonDavid Thomson

Major Film Scholar

Previous Visit:
October 20, 2005
Steven BachSteven Bach

Major Film Scholar

Previous Visit:
April 20, 2007


NYS Writers Institute, October 24, 2008
7:30 p.m. Discussion | Page Hall, 135 Western Ave., Downtown Campus

Two of America’s wittiest film scholars, David Thomson and Stephen Bach, will speak following a screening of Jean Renoir’s short classic film, “A Day in the Country” (1936) on Friday, October 24, 2008 at 7:30 p.m. in Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue on the University at Albany’s downtown campus. The free event, which is open to the public, is sponsored by the New York State Writers Institute.


Best-selling film writers David Thomson and Stephen Bach will offer commentary and a broader discussion of cinema immediately following the screening of the French cinema classic, “A Day in the Country” (France, 1936, 40 minutes, b/w, DVD, French with English subtitles, directed by Jean Renoir).

The film tells the story of a young middle class woman, engaged to be married, who goes for an excursion with her mother in the countryside outside Paris. In the course of their outing, they are wooed by a charming pair of local laborers. Based on a short story by Guy de Maupassant, this short film is widely regarded as a cinematic gem, despite the fact that Renoir never officially finished it (filming was called off due to bad weather).

David Thomson, major film critic and Hollywood biographer, has been called “probably the greatest living film critic and historian” (“Atlantic Monthly”). Thomson is best-known among film enthusiasts for his delightfully original reference work, “A Biographical Dictionary of Film.” First published in 1975, the book has since undergone four major revisions (the fifth edition appeared as the “New Biographical Dictionary of Film” in 2004).

Thomson’s most recent book is “Have You Seen...?:  A Personal Introduction to 1000 Films” (2008). A companion guide to his famous dictionary, the new book addresses the question,  “After 100 years of films, which ones are the best, and why?”

Of the new book, film critic Richard Schickel said, “What a prodigious, seductive and addictive achievement. David Thomson’s short, sharp little essays rescue dozens of films from undeserved obscurity while questioning the inflated reputations of an equal number of sacred turkeys. He wears his erudition (and his research) lightly and the result is a book that is authoritative but never magisterial, good-natured yet never lazy or idly nostalgic. It is a monumental addition to the very short shelf of truly worthwhile books about the movies.”

Steven Bach is both a leading film industry insider and film historian. As head of production for United Artists, he was centrally involved in the making of “Raging Bull,” “Apocalypse Now,” Woody Allen’s “Manhattan,” and dozens of other films. He is the author of four “New York Times” Notable Books, including “Leni: The Life and Work of Leni Riefenstahl” (2007), “Dazzler: The Life and Times of Moss Hart” (2001), “Marlene Dietrich: Life and Legend” (1992), and “Final Cut: Art, Money, and Ego in the Making of Heaven’s Gate, the Film That Sank United Artists” (1985).

The “Los Angeles Times Book Review” called “Leni,” “Brilliant. … A compulsively readable and scrupulously crafted work . …” Writing in the “New Yorker,” Judith Thurman said, “First-rate . . . [a] richly fleshed-out portraiture and social history.”

Steven Bach teaches Literature and Film at both Columbia University in New York and Bennington College in Vermont.

For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at https://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.