It's no great surprise that film guru David Thomson should write a sweeping, cinematic tome about America, packed with more human insight, wit and compassion than a decade of Hollywood's output can muster. What may cause a few raised eyebrows is his choice of state.
But Thomson's beloved Nevada turns out to be an inspired choice. America's fastest growing state, it comes across as the raw, unhinged schizoid sibling to the rest of the union. It's home to strange phenomena--the Area 51 military base where UFO spotters gather to monitor the strange lights in the sky, Lake Tahoe where corpses sink rather than float, the pagan Burning Man Festival and Las Vegas, that most hygienically degenerate of cities.
Today the harsh environment may have been tamed but one thing unites the present and the past. Whether it's the first explorers' decision to cross an unmapped mountain range, a family man's decision to sell up and join the gold rush, physicists' quest for more and more destructive nuclear weapons or the hunch of the gambler about number seven on the roulette wheel, the need to plunge headfirst into the unknown is fundamental to the Nevada experience.
Thomson coaxes not only a wonderful story from his subject but crosscuts the narrative with verve, sprinkling the text with telling motifs and zooming in to record memorable cameos from a cast of walk on Nevadans. And like Coppola or Scorsese he does something more: he evokes a unique slice of America, a vibe--"Nevadana", if you like. --Tom de Castella [via]