Film Criticism

A subforum to discuss film culture and criticism both old and new, as well as memorializing public figures we've lost.
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Maltic
Joined: Sat Oct 10, 2020 1:36 am

Re: Film Criticism

#1201 Post by Maltic » Sat Apr 03, 2021 9:07 pm

Robin Wood - still in his auteurist phase - called the book "maddening, indispensable."

There are the usual caveats, too: Sarris was writing in large part from memory, he was treading whole new ground in many ways, and so on.

Also, he has a chapter on Wilder in You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet from 1998, in which he says Wilder belongs in the Pantheon (I would've settled for the Far Side of Paradise, personally). I believe he revised his position on Kubrick as well. Cahiers weren't big on Kubrick early on either, btw (unlike Positif). And Rivette is supposed to have said, when he met Kurosawa, decades later: "Master, we were wrong". They had championed Mizoguchi at the expense of Kurosawa in the 1950s.

The distinction between Less Than Meets the Eye and Strained Seriousness was never clear to me. The charge against both seems to be pretension/Seriousness, although the former group you might argue is generally posher and more Oscar friendly (Huston, Wyler), where the latter group is drearier (the New York TV guys like Lumet and Frankenheimer + the British "angry young men").

Sarris also contradicts himself... his write-up on George Stevens (as far as I remember) makes him sound like a Less Than Meets the Eye director, and yet Sarris puts him in the Far Side of Paradise.

Anyway, I'm sure this has been discussed somewhere on this board before.

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kingofthejungle
Joined: Wed Feb 29, 2012 11:25 am

Re: Film Criticism

#1202 Post by kingofthejungle » Sun Apr 04, 2021 9:46 am

FrauBlucher wrote:
Sat Apr 03, 2021 7:39 pm
Reading through Sarris' The American cinema which I find a little frustrating. Reading through his chapter characterizations I came across this...

LESS THAN MEETS THE EYE
These are the directors with reputations in excess of inspirations. In retrospect, it always seems that the personal signatures to their films were written with invisible ink.
Directors he is talking about....John Huston, Elia Kazan, David Lean, Rouben Mamoulian, Joe Mankiewicz, Lewis Milestone, Carol Reed, William Wellman, Billy Wilder, William Wyler and Fred Zinnemann.... Good grief :roll: . The first three directors along with Wilder all have strong "signatures" that have not disappeared in my opinion. And you can argue for others in this group

Also, I'm surprised he has nothing on Dorothy Arzner.
The American Cinema is a great work that I return to a lot, but I find it useful to keep a couple of things in mind while reading it. First, Sarris is attempting to judge these directors primarily on the strengths and uniquenesses of their visual styles, and how those styles express and/or comment on their thematic interests or worldview. A lot of the guys in the Less The Meets The Eye category - like Wilder and Huston- are more distinct writers than they are visual stylists. This was a polemic choice, because to that point in film criticism had largely been the purview of slumming literatis who could appreciate the writerly aspects of Hollywood cinema, but were usually blind to the visual gifts that would have distinguished films by directors like Sam Fuller or Andre De Toth. So, The American Cinema was intended as a corrective that elevated the latter at the expense of the former. Second, Sarris nearly always errs on the side of underrating people. There are lots of directors that I would rate more highly than he does, but almost none that I think he over-values.
Maltic wrote:
Sat Apr 03, 2021 9:07 pm
Sarris also contradicts himself... his write-up on George Stevens (as far as I remember) makes him sound like a Less Than Meets the Eye director, and yet Sarris puts him in the Far Side of Paradise.
He is a little wishy-washy on Stevens. If I remember, I think his position is that Stevens began as a great director, but became less interesting as he gained a reputation and began taking himself more seriously.

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Dr Amicus
Joined: Thu Feb 15, 2007 10:20 am
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Re: Film Criticism

#1203 Post by Dr Amicus » Sun Apr 04, 2021 3:29 pm

When I was looking for a place to study for my PhD, my first proposal, before settling on Amicus, was on critical and theoretical responses to Wyler seeing the extent to which auteurism had passed him by and where this placed him in the canon. Anyway, I wasn’t taken on - it was at Warwick - I think partly because I was asked by one of the interviews, Richard Dyer, if I’d considered Stevens as an equivalent test case. My rather silly answer was to paraphrase Sarris in that he was a minor director with major virtues before A Place in the Sun and a major director with minor virtues after. I don’t think Dyer was terribly impressed, his response being that he thought that film was a masterpiece!

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ianthemovie
Joined: Sat Apr 18, 2009 10:51 am
Location: Boston, MA
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Re: Film Criticism

#1204 Post by ianthemovie » Wed Apr 14, 2021 11:05 am

Did anyone else end up attending Jonathan Rosenbaum's virtual seminars on 1940s cinema through the Gene Siskel Center? They wrapped up last night with a session on Ozu's Late Spring. I attended all eight of them and I'm so glad I did--what a treat to hear Rosenbaum hold forth every week on Eisenstein, Italian neo-realism, Jacques Tourneur, Asian cinema, etc., with occasional (but almost always interesting) digressions about other related films, growing up in Alabama as the son of a movie-theater proprietor, and living in Japan. He can be a bit rambly but he's so knowledgeable that even when he goes off-topic it's usually worthwhile. He was also very generous with the participants of the course and there were lots of opportunities to chime in with comments or ask him questions. He mentioned possibly running another seminar soon and I really hope he does. My only complaint would be that I wish each week's session were a little bit longer--an hour is not really enough time to dig into these films, especially when some of that time is eaten up by introductory preamble.

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hearthesilence
Joined: Fri Mar 04, 2005 4:22 am
Location: NYC

Re: Film Criticism

#1205 Post by hearthesilence » Wed Apr 14, 2021 11:24 am

ianthemovie wrote:
Wed Apr 14, 2021 11:05 am
Did anyone else end up attending Jonathan Rosenbaum's virtual seminars on 1940s cinema through the Gene Siskel Center? They wrapped up last night with a session on Ozu's Late Spring. I attended all eight of them and I'm so glad I did--what a treat to hear Rosenbaum hold forth every week on Eisenstein, Italian neo-realism, Jacques Tourneur, Asian cinema, etc., with occasional (but almost always interesting) digressions about other related films, growing up in Alabama as the son of a movie-theater proprietor, and living in Japan. He can be a bit rambly but he's so knowledgeable that even when he goes off-topic it's usually worthwhile. He was also very generous with the participants of the course and there were lots of opportunities to chime in with comments or ask him questions. He mentioned possibly running another seminar soon and I really hope he does. My only complaint would be that I wish each week's session were a little bit longer--an hour is not really enough time to dig into these films, especially when some of that time is eaten up by introductory preamble.
Ah totally missed this but I would have been up for it. I feel overloaded with Zoom sessions of late, but it sounds like it would have been far more intellectually stimulating. Even a Richard Thompson book Q&A I jumped on last night was a letdown where he basically answered questions he's already answered in-print in support of the book.

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Maltic
Joined: Sat Oct 10, 2020 1:36 am

Re: Film Criticism

#1206 Post by Maltic » Thu Apr 22, 2021 2:13 pm

Yeah, I've stopped chasing Zoom sessions at this point. :) I manage to catch up only with what's put on YouTube (or a fraction of it).

Suchwas McTeague
Joined: Sat May 08, 2021 9:35 pm

Re: Film Criticism

#1207 Post by Suchwas McTeague » Wed May 12, 2021 8:51 pm

I've only read the briefest bits of James Naremore, but I found this recent two-part interview with him at the World Socialist Website - one half about Charles Burnett, the other Max Ophuls - pretty great:

https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2021/0 ... 1-m10.html

https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2021/0 ... 2-m11.html

And, as a bonus, the interviewer and interviewee don't resort to calling each other "Comrade" throughout, as so many of the commenters at the site hilariously tend to do.

It does make me want to seek out his other stuff, especially his book on Kubrick.

And it's a good reminder how massively influenced Kubrick must have been by Ophuls. At one point he planned an adaptation of Zweig (something Ophuls had done) and of course spent years planning his adaptation of Schnitzler (also adapted by Ophuls).

Revelator
Joined: Tue Feb 24, 2009 11:33 pm

Re: Film Criticism

#1208 Post by Revelator » Wed May 12, 2021 9:40 pm

Naremore's book More Than Night: Film Noir in its Contexts is also superb and highly recommended. Its only flaw is the dismissive reference toward The Maltese Falcon, presumably stemming from the auteurists' hatred for John Huston.

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Maltic
Joined: Sat Oct 10, 2020 1:36 am

Re: Film Criticism

#1209 Post by Maltic » Thu May 13, 2021 9:46 am

Suchwas McTeague wrote:
Wed May 12, 2021 8:51 pm
I've only read the briefest bits of James Naremore, but I found this recent two-part interview with him at the World Socialist Website - one half about Charles Burnett, the other Max Ophuls - pretty great:

https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2021/0 ... 1-m10.html

https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2021/0 ... 2-m11.html

And, as a bonus, the interviewer and interviewee don't resort to calling each other "Comrade" throughout, as so many of the commenters at the site hilariously tend to do.

It does make me want to seek out his other stuff, especially his book on Kubrick.

And it's a good reminder how massively influenced Kubrick must have been by Ophuls. At one point he planned an adaptation of Zweig (something Ophuls had done) and of course spent years planning his adaptation of Schnitzler (also adapted by Ophuls).
:lol:

Thanks for the links.

Like many of the critics from his generation, he started out as an aspiring literary scholar, and I noticed he often gets into the relation between lit and film, like James Joyce and Journey to Italy, Raymond Chandler and the noirs..

Of course, he's written some of the best director monographs (Minnelli, Welles) and one of the few great books on acting I know of. His New Critical background reveals itself there, too, as he does relatively close readings of particular performances (Cagney in Angels With Dirty Faces, Dietrich in Morocco etc) as part of his overall argument.

I've dipped into the Burnett book, specifically the chapter on To Sleep with Anger. Unfortunately, I was somewhat disappointed.. seemed like just a very thorough synopsis of the film.

Haven't read the Kubrick book.

Oh, and his commentary on Chimes at Midnight is great, as you'd expect (another literary adaptation).

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