David Desser writes:
" This situation was further
exacerbated by the situation I alluded to in an earlier post, the decline
of the "public intellectual."  The great, readable, exciting critics of the
50's (remember the glory days of CAHIERS DU CINEMA), 60's and into the
70's, were aided both by  public intellectual forums like PARTISAN REVIEW
(from the late 40's and the writingsd of Dwight Macdonald and Robert
Warshow), to the beginnings of the small film journals, like FILM CULTURE.
Neither CAHIERS, nor MOVIE (among others in Britain) nor FILM CULTURE were
written for an "academic" audience (unlike, say, CINEMA JOURNAL, which I am
NOT insulting [I am, after all the current editor!]).  To Murray
BRING ABOUT A NEW SITUATION?," one can say that this very forum (the net!)
is one solution.
     I also think that there is, and is always going to be, a significant
difference between film criticism as "consumer guide" and more detailed,
thoughtful criticism that is by nature difficult to produce in daily or
weekly publications, whether it is newspapers, magazines, or even TV shows
a la Siskel & Ebert (who ARE indeed the best of the TV bunch by far!)
Denby in NEW YORK is very good, I agree (one can subscribe to it, but it is
very New-York-City oriented, moreso than the NEW YORKER), but the one-page
limitation on him (it seems) is literally limiting."
One problem that deepens the situation David describes is the lack of outlets
for "think pieces".  Even Pauline Kael got something of an unusual spot with
her position for the NEW YORKER.  Sarris had the VILLAGE VOICE--and J. Hoberman
is often very good there as well.  But despite the continuation of a few mags
that mainly center around New York (eg., NYRB) and some smaller press items,
there aren't many outlets for the kinds of writing that Agee and MacDonald
others practiced.  On the other hand, I've read some very readable and cogent
criticisms in various places on the net.  Just as the short story as a form
is now centered in writers living in or emerging from the academy, as opposed
to the Hemingways and Fitzgeralds and Kate Chopins who earned their way in
the literary marketplace of the magazine, so film criticism evolves in form.
Perhaps there's something else in the nature of the film market itself.  While
foreign and independent films were often hard to come by in the pre-video days,
reviewers could make them seem worth seeking out.  With certain exceptions,
no one seems to point to these films as being worth seeing--or at least for
being controversial.  But then, what these days could puzzle, shock, annoy or
delight in the way that Bergman, Fellini, Kurosawa and so forth did when first
seen on American shores?  There's a whole world of films out there, but we
hear precious little about any but a few.
Don Larsson, Mankato State  U (MN)
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