Film talk, literary division

Robert Birnbaum, ex-publisher of Stuff magazine, is expanding the art of the author interview with two literate chats a month on the culture-crit Web site Identity Theory ( A recent conversation with writer/film scholar David Thomson ("The New Biographical Dictionary of Film") ranged from the British as film critics to the power of the big screen. Some excerpts:

* "In principle there is something tremendously important in the idea of movies that defy the commercial regulations of the industry. But equally you would have to say that many of the people who have made their debut in independent film have been co-opted by the industry.... It's a very difficult subject because it's the last subject people will really come clean on. You can find Hollywood people who will tell you about their sex lives, whether you want to hear it or not. But how much they actually were paid and how much that determined what happened, they get very shy of that."

* "This film, 'Far From Heaven,' that is playing now, it's as big as an oil tanker.... It's got these wonderful camera movements and color composition, all of which look a little overwrought on a small screen. See 'em on a big screen and they look more natural.... It's like big, epic painting. You can do things in big painting that you wouldn't think of in a little watercolor landscape."

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