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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whaleallright
Joined: Sun Sep 25, 2005 12:56 am

Re: Film Criticism

#1126 Post by whaleallright » Wed Nov 18, 2020 1:09 am

In this context I'm always amazed by the stuff in books by midcentury film historians like Georges Sadoul, where he's obviously doing his best to recall details from one Paris screening of some Japanese or Swedish film from some 30 or 40 years earlier. Meanwhile I can't remember what I ate this morning.

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Matt
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Re: Film Criticism

#1127 Post by Matt » Wed Nov 18, 2020 6:11 pm

I remember before IMDb existed having to rely on the synopses and credits in the printed American Film Institute (AFI) Catalog of Feature Films. It had a little icon of a pair of glasses to indicate that the writer of the synopsis (an/or compiler of the credits) had actually viewed the film in its entirety to verify it (which is replicated on the website version, but as an eye next to the title).

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domino harvey
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Re: Film Criticism

#1128 Post by domino harvey » Wed Nov 18, 2020 7:24 pm

hearthesilence wrote:
Tue Nov 17, 2020 10:00 pm
The first inkling I had of this was reading Donald Spoto's Hitchcock study published around 1976 when Vertigo, Rear Window, Rope, The Trouble with Harry, and The Man Who Knew Too Much were still unavailable (and had been since 1961 or so). If memory serves, I think he was pretty upfront about how difficult that made it to write about those films.
This was a problem with the first book on Hitchcock by Chabrol and Rohmer too. I remember trying to use it for a paper on Mr and Mrs Smith and it was pointless as they got large details wrong-- though again, at this time especially, they were at best going off one-off screenings at the Cinematheque for the more obscure titles

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FrauBlucher
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Re: Film Criticism

#1129 Post by FrauBlucher » Wed Nov 18, 2020 7:45 pm

That disappoints me to read these old criticisms when all they go by was recollection or other's recollection no matter the legacy of the critic

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Ovader
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Re: Film Criticism

#1130 Post by Ovader » Wed Nov 18, 2020 8:16 pm

Adrian Martin posted on Facebook he will have a new book published in January.

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whaleallright
Joined: Sun Sep 25, 2005 12:56 am

Re: Film Criticism

#1131 Post by whaleallright » Wed Nov 18, 2020 10:38 pm

FrauBlucher wrote:
Wed Nov 18, 2020 7:45 pm
That disappoints me to read these old criticisms when all they go by was recollection or other's recollection no matter the legacy of the critic
But that's just how it was, in the days before home video. Unless you had direct access to a collection like the Cinémathèque Française—and even then—you were reliant on the decisions (indeed, the whims) of studios and distributors to much of anything older than a few years. We've discussed this elsewhere on this board, in terms of the relative uniformity of "top ten lists" in the mid 20th century: compared to today, at least, every cinephile was watching from the same smallish group of movies, at the same time. (Of course, it mattered whether you were in a capital of Culture—but people in New York, Paris, Los Angeles, Moscow, etc. are the people who have written most of film history and the film criticism we tend to remember.)

Has anyone written something on this situation in general? Not just about issues of access in a particular place or era, but about how the entire economy of access sustained an entirely different relationship to individual films and indeed broad conceptions of the "history of cinema"? I'm sure people like Sadoul cultivated remarkable—if imperfect—memories for individual films in part because they knew they wouldn't get a chance to see them again, if not ever, then for a long, long time. Whereas most of us can choose to watch any of many thousands of films over and over again, at our leisure. There's a kind of fetishization that can promote, but it's hospitable to a certain forgetfulness, too.

nikita101
Joined: Wed Nov 18, 2020 10:34 pm

Re: Film Criticism

#1132 Post by nikita101 » Wed Nov 18, 2020 10:46 pm

Hey!

I'm trying to find something new to read about cinema. Though I've developed interest in film quite recently, I'm already kind of getting bored and annoyed reading journalistic style film criticism (like that of say, Rosenbaum or Adrian Martin), which mostly deals with expression of personal taste and frank evaluation (don't get me wrong, I enjoy this kind of writing, but it's just not what I'm interested in reading right now).

What I'm looking for is something more akin to very thorough film appreciation, sensitive to film style and grounded in theory and history. You know - that kind of criticism, which shows you how to look at a film, makes you go "aah, now I see it" and sort of infects you with its thought. That happened to me with V.F. Perkins and Gilberto Perez, but I've read everything by them I could found. Robin Wood could be another example (or Raymond Durgant, or Benjamin Britton - though I don't enjoy reading these two as much as others).

So could somebody share their favorite pieces of criticism with me? I've recently scrolled through Rouge and Lola magazines and though I really enjoyed some of the pieces, nothing struck me as something as smart, lucid and observant as say Perez's 'Material Ghost'. I've ventured to ask you, because I do know, that I'm familiar with the most prominent names in film criticism.

Hey, and I'm just genuinely interested to know what other people read! I live in Russia and have literally no cinephile friends, so I don't really know, what actual people read, and get my picture of state of affairs in intellectual trends from media and reading MUBI.


P.S. I almost never write in English, so I'm sorry if I may sound clumsy and disrespectful - I would be much more discreet was I to write in Russian.

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: Film Criticism

#1133 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Nov 19, 2020 12:01 am

nikita -- Have you read David Bordwell's Figures Traced in Light? I found it very interesting and useful.

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HinkyDinkyTruesmith
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Re: Film Criticism

#1134 Post by HinkyDinkyTruesmith » Thu Nov 19, 2020 12:47 am

David Bordwell definitely sounds up your alley––he's less comfortable making the big claims that Perez for instance does, but he's incredibly attuned to technical and formal details. I think his book Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema is the single best book on a filmmaker––it may not be comprehensive on Ozu, but it is incredibly thorough. It's out of print but Bordwell keeps a pdf on his website, I believe. His other books are very good as well.

I also recommend director Alexander Mackendrick's On Film-Making, which although is technically a collection of his handouts to students I find very insightful about how dramatic filmmaking works and also contains some very striking criticism and practical demonstrations––the chapters on Citizen Kane and on the variations of drafts from Sweet Smell of Success are at the very least worth looking at.

And I have great affection for William Paul's book on Lubitsch, which I think is great criticism but obviously might not interest you if you're not into Lubitsch.

nikita101
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Re: Film Criticism

#1135 Post by nikita101 » Thu Nov 19, 2020 1:47 am

Bordwell's blog and the textbook on film art he co-authored with Thompon were among the first texts, that educated me on cinema! I've been saving Figures Traced in Light for the moment when I am able to watch more of Mizoguchi and Hou Hsiao Hsien.
Thanks a lot for the book on Lubitsch, I'll definitely check it out! I'm a huge Lubitsch fun. And speaking of screwball, I'm in fact reading Cavell's The Pursuit of Happiness right now and so far it's really promising! But it's kind of too thick and intense (not something you would read out of idleness), so I go through it very slowly. Mackendrick's book sounds very intriguing.

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hearthesilence
Joined: Fri Mar 04, 2005 4:22 am
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Re: Film Criticism

#1136 Post by hearthesilence » Thu Nov 19, 2020 3:38 am

whaleallright wrote:
Wed Nov 18, 2020 10:38 pm
Has anyone written something on this situation in general? Not just about issues of access in a particular place or era, but about how the entire economy of access sustained an entirely different relationship to individual films and indeed broad conceptions of the "history of cinema"? I'm sure people like Sadoul cultivated remarkable—if imperfect—memories for individual films in part because they knew they wouldn't get a chance to see them again, if not ever, then for a long, long time. Whereas most of us can choose to watch any of many thousands of films over and over again, at our leisure. There's a kind of fetishization that can promote, but it's hospitable to a certain forgetfulness, too.
I think Sight & Sound has brought this up every time they've run their polls, or at least since 1992 or 1982 when different films were breaking into the top ten due to their sudden availability or a major restoration in some cases. (Vertigo once it was made available again obviously, but also L'Atalante and Sunrise made tremendous leaps into the top ten when they were re-discovered through new restorations and a return to circulation/home video.)

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knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: Film Criticism

#1137 Post by knives » Thu Nov 19, 2020 8:43 am

nikita101 wrote:
Wed Nov 18, 2020 10:46 pm
Hey!

I'm trying to find something new to read about cinema. Though I've developed interest in film quite recently, I'm already kind of getting bored and annoyed reading journalistic style film criticism (like that of say, Rosenbaum or Adrian Martin), which mostly deals with expression of personal taste and frank evaluation (don't get me wrong, I enjoy this kind of writing, but it's just not what I'm interested in reading right now).

What I'm looking for is something more akin to very thorough film appreciation, sensitive to film style and grounded in theory and history. You know - that kind of criticism, which shows you how to look at a film, makes you go "aah, now I see it" and sort of infects you with its thought. That happened to me with V.F. Perkins and Gilberto Perez, but I've read everything by them I could found. Robin Wood could be another example (or Raymond Durgant, or Benjamin Britton - though I don't enjoy reading these two as much as others).

So could somebody share their favorite pieces of criticism with me? I've recently scrolled through Rouge and Lola magazines and though I really enjoyed some of the pieces, nothing struck me as something as smart, lucid and observant as say Perez's 'Material Ghost'. I've ventured to ask you, because I do know, that I'm familiar with the most prominent names in film criticism.

Hey, and I'm just genuinely interested to know what other people read! I live in Russia and have literally no cinephile friends, so I don't really know, what actual people read, and get my picture of state of affairs in intellectual trends from media and reading MUBI.


P.S. I almost never write in English, so I'm sorry if I may sound clumsy and disrespectful - I would be much more discreet was I to write in Russian.
The two Deleuze books although controversial since he wasn’t interested in previous film criticism are nonetheless quite good.

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FrauBlucher
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Re: Film Criticism

#1138 Post by FrauBlucher » Thu Nov 19, 2020 11:21 am

whaleallright wrote:
Wed Nov 18, 2020 10:38 pm
FrauBlucher wrote:
Wed Nov 18, 2020 7:45 pm
That disappoints me to read these old criticisms when all they go by was recollection or other's recollection no matter the legacy of the critic
But that's just how it was, in the days before home video.
Right. But in this day and age there is no reason to waste time and money reading and buying books as I did with Sarris' book based on some sort of recollection. This will be the last book I buy from a film critic from that era

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knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: Film Criticism

#1139 Post by knives » Thu Nov 19, 2020 12:17 pm

There’s plenty of reason such as their work as criticism outside of the historical plane. To run with Dom’s Caheirs point those are often entirely disconnected from the films they are discussing and are more useful as windows into how film was understood and processed at the time.

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Altair
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Re: Film Criticism

#1140 Post by Altair » Thu Nov 19, 2020 2:46 pm

And ironically, the print film culture of the '60s and '70s in France and the Anglosphere was probably richer, more exciting, more diverse in thought than it is now. Plus, because they were operating with a different set of orthodoxies, it means you'll come across reviews or critiques that run counter to current consensus.

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Red Screamer
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Re: Film Criticism

#1141 Post by Red Screamer » Thu Nov 19, 2020 3:03 pm

nikita101, I'd recommend reading Rick Altman on film sound and film genre. He's thoroughly academic but has a clean prose style, and he structures his arguments with force. Nearly everything I've read of his has made me rethink how I approach movies.

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: Film Criticism

#1142 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Nov 19, 2020 3:46 pm

Bordwell's online version of his Ozu book has much nicer pictures than the out-of-print published version. Although I never had a chance to take a course given by him, I consider Bordwell my only real "teacher" about cinema (aside from the film creators themselves).

AlexFar
Joined: Mon Jun 27, 2016 1:55 pm

Re: Film Criticism

#1143 Post by AlexFar » Thu Nov 19, 2020 6:31 pm

You know - that kind of criticism, which shows you how to look at a film, makes you go "aah, now I see it" and sort of infects you with its thought. That happened to me with V.F. Perkins and Gilberto Perez, but I've read everything by them I could found.
As someone who treasures Perez and Perkins, I’d recommend Theory of Film Practice by Noël Burch, slim but as stimulating as anything ever written about cinematic form, and Cinephilia and History, or The Wind in the Trees by Christian Keathley, which is reminiscent of the freewheeling criticism with theoretical backing at the heart of The Material Ghost. The Bordwell recommendations are great but he’s a much more sober writer than Perez or even Perkins, and I’ll second the Deleuze books; even denser than the Cavell you are working through, however.

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whaleallright
Joined: Sun Sep 25, 2005 12:56 am

Re: Film Criticism

#1144 Post by whaleallright » Fri Nov 20, 2020 12:22 am

FrauBlucher wrote:
Thu Nov 19, 2020 11:21 am
But that's just how it was, in the days before home video.Right. But in this day and age there is no reason to waste time and money reading and buying books as I did with Sarris' book based on some sort of recollection. This will be the last book I buy from a film critic from that era
OK.

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hearthesilence
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Re: Film Criticism

#1145 Post by hearthesilence » Fri Nov 20, 2020 12:41 am

I didn't know Richard Hell had a movie column in BlackBook. Lasted roughly three years, it was apparently "stupidly axed in a staff bloodbath" according to Robert Christgau, but it looks like every one turned in by Hell has been archived on his primitively-designed, content-rich website.

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DarkImbecile
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Re: Film Criticism

#1146 Post by DarkImbecile » Tue Nov 24, 2020 9:42 pm

Someone recommended to me that I check out the free online Saturday afternoon discussion series Walter Chaw is doing for the Denver Public Library, and there are some interesting pairings coming up (particularly Rian Johnson on Under the Skin if anyone wants to register:

12/5: Ugetsu w/Alex Winter
12/12: Let the Right One In w/Peter Ramsey
12/19: Shoot the Piano Player w/Allison Anders
1/2: Under the Skin w/Rian Johnson

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ando
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Re: Film Criticism

#1147 Post by ando » Fri Dec 18, 2020 7:46 pm

Randall Maysin wrote:
Fri Dec 18, 2020 5:41 pm
ando wrote:
Sat Dec 12, 2020 8:26 pm
FrauBlucher wrote:
Fri Dec 11, 2020 7:55 pm
Tonight at 11:30 PM Eastern Time... What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael (2018)
"She turned her lack of self-awareness into a triumph." :roll:

No. The film doesn't earn that attempt at a coda. Far too much emphasis on the traditional patriarchal response to her work and not nearly enough on her psychology or, specifically, the ways in which she changed the direction of filmmaking and/or, certainly, film criticism. No John Simon touchstones. No foreshadowing of critics like Hoberman (who was the most hip inheritor, imo). Tarantino hinted at the places she took readers but that should have been the starting point. Thanks anyway, Frau.
Please say more about this! Ive always been fascinated by people trying to assess her influence, positive or negative, even in my very limited experience of that discussion. I sort of get the feeling that this is something many commentators are not good at. Lightweight or no, she is hard to pin down. Her psychology lol!!! What do you mean by that (question mark, i cant afford question marks). Also, is there lots of archival footage in the documentary and is her daughter interviewed. Is Simon not mentioned at all (question mark).
Well, if filmmakers can be auteurs why can't critics be read in the same vein? When you read Kael (and knew at least some her work) you could expect a particular perspective. Someone said fairly early on in the doc that a Kael piece was about Kael. And that's true to a degree. The film's content is always the centerpiece but her take on it is often distinctively satirical, wry and often, simply smart. Further, and most importantly, she made contemporary culture at large the touchstone for judging films. Now, why did she bring these particular qualities to movie review writing? Why did she feel it necessary? What about her life drove her to do it? If a film is going to document a life the motivation that drives the subject to do whatever they do needs to be examined. That would include a bit of psychology. Basic dramatic requirements. Who is the subject? What do they want? WHY are they doing what they're doing? I mean, you still have to tell a story - even if it is a story as slippery as the life of a famous movie critic. :) And, no, unless I missed it (which is entirely possible) Simon isn't mentioned - and in all fairness, he was a theater critic. But the theater critic is a definite forebear of the film critic, especially with writing at the level of Kael (at her best). They do mention Crowther (NYTimes) in a passing diss which I enjoyed.

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FrauBlucher
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Re: Film Criticism

#1148 Post by FrauBlucher » Fri Dec 18, 2020 8:25 pm

That same night on TCM following the Kael doc there was another doc called For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism. It delves into Keal a little more along with Sarris. Hopefully TCM will replay it.

I think Kael was terrific. Even when I didn't agree with her criticisms or overall insights, like about downplaying the ideas of auteurs, I still found them enjoyable, funny and interesting. Her importance to film and film criticism is unmistakably influential. And I think she made every other critic better for it

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

Re: Film Criticism

#1149 Post by Maltic » Wed Jan 13, 2021 2:52 am

"Tarantino hinted at the places she took readers but that should have been the starting point."

As I recall, Tarantino talks about Kael's ability to find "plot holes" and ridicule a film on that basis, which would seem to make her a precursor not to Hoberman, but to Everything That's Wrong With and other such fan channels on youtube...

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colinr0380
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Re: Film Criticism

#1150 Post by colinr0380 » Wed Jan 13, 2021 4:06 am

Apropos of nothing but something I am often curious about with regard to film critics (and criticism in general) is how aware the individual critic is of taking a particular perspective on their subject before they even view the work in question. I presume that many of the best critics (like filmmakers) want to maintain a kind of healthy distance from any form of self-interrogation for fear that it would affect their style too much and just write to the work that they are critiquing without trying to surf trends too much. But there also seem to be critics who take up a kind of pre-defined oppositional stance and then write to that particular agenda (either to a feeling in the zeitgeist or based on a current political agenda, either pro or anti) whatever the subject matter of a particular article is actually about. There can often be interesting, well crafted writing that comes from that latter approach (such as Kael's Raising Kane), and maybe such critics need that existing societal framework in order to even begin to approach works of art rather than doing the opposite and looking at a work of art first then where it may fit into the current landscape but it often seems that it can be rather blinkered (and is usually the aspect that causes the most indignant, almost personally offended critical responses to a piece under review), even if such articles might be the ones that gain short term resonance in the zeitgeist for their 'wider resonances'.

Though that is also getting past individual critical approaches and also into the territory of writers tailoring their articles for particular publications or perceived audiences as well, and playing into those perceptions and preconceptions to a certain extent. But hopefully not so much as to end up becoming a caricature themselves.

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