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May 1995, Week 5


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Undetermined origin c/o LISTSERV maintainer <[log in to unmask]>
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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 29 May 1995 14:20:00 PDT
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As you mention the 60s (I've been reading him since then), perhaps we've
changed too.  I still read him, although the rightward tilt of the New
Republic has me doing it on-line and not via subscription.  His analysis seems
less energetic (he's older too), but his taste, to my mind, remains
impeccable.  As a filmmaker myself (documentaries) I'm always impressed with
his awareness of the many crafts that go into making a fine film.  Few critics
mention editing and/or cinematography with such sympathy, sensitivity and
insight.  While his reviews may seem somehow less these days, he almost always
zeros in on keys elements of a film.  If not to totally evaluate, at least to
raise essential questions.  His luke-warm response to Pulp Fiction was such a
(shared) case with me.  You asked why we don't have young Stanleys these days.
 I can only quess that it might be a factor of time, critic and reader.  The
time (the 60s and early 70s) when we discovered Kauffmann was one of the most
creative in film history.  Exciting films were being made and formulas were
being ignored.  These were films that deserved thoughtful comment.  Add to
this, the fact that Kauffmann is a literary man (he wrote a novel that I
actually read) with broad knowledge beyond film, including his short stint as
theater critic with the NY Times.  His perceptions almost always go beyond
surface issues of "good' and "bad."  I know few widely read critics with
similar qualifications.  Lastly, I think readers have changed.  I don't follow
the academic film world, even though I teach a once-a-year class at USC, but
the general reader seems more more than ever interested in the thumbs up or
down school of criticism, and more "serious" viewers are tangled in obscure
theoretical fantasies.  In both cases, Stanley's more traditional humanist
approach to criticism probably seems either too much or too little. Many films
these days also seem to be driven more by technology these days, limiting
opportunties for Stanley's kind of commentary.  If not, style over substance
too often rules.  Lastly, there's us.  Who do you read?  Why not Kauffmann?  I
agree that he may not always seem exactly "up to date," but like fine wine
that's not always a negative.  So many critics make me impatient with their
simplistic ratings, or self-conscious hipness.  And few have much depth in
their understanding of artistic tradition, let alone the world. And in the
end, could your enthusiasm for leisurely critical analysis cooled with age?  I
hasten to add that I raise this question as a probably contemporary!
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