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From Film Society Review Vol. This was my third and final piece for them. At the time, the very fact that one man had seen enough movies to reach this kind of astronomical overview was staggering enough. What was Sarris doing to us, and to himself? Ulmer Esoterica? The implication was either that by ignoring such presences we were wasting our time at the movies, or that by pursuing them, Sarris was wasting his.
At this writing, for example, U. Today, despite its shortcomings, it is already on its way to becoming a classic of sorts. For documentation, cf. Precisely how and why it is indispensable can perhaps best be seen if I first outline some of its limitations:. Obviously this requires a kind of critical shorthand and some very broad descriptions.
The worst perpetrators of this syndrome that I can think of are John Simon — mainly in his assaults against Godard — and the anonymous scribes of TIME. Ironically, Sarris manages to communicate interesting ideas more frequently then either because his style tends to be less polished: even when the images crack, the concepts usually come across.
Still, the very existence of categories inevitably produces certain irritations, and encourages varying amounts of patness and oversimplification. In addition, when when mated with the belletristic style, the categories sometimes bring up.
In retrospect, it always seems that the personal signatures to their films were written with invisible ink. His description, moreover, is quite persuasive. In general, when one considers the wealth of information in this book — particularly the filmographies — the level of accuracy seems far above the norm.
Two possible answers to this are a that Sarris is chronicling as well as recommending, and b delivered with a gulp and a sigh : television. Many of the films, of course, can no longer be seen at all. As for television, the various corruptions, distortions and losses suffered by movies on the home screen are too extensive and all too familiar to be enumerated here. Practically speaking, a moviegoer who wants to see several films by a single director must either wait for a rare retrospective — if he is lucky enough to live in an area that has them — or check the weekly pages of TV GUIDE.
Until the hypothetical day arrives when we can purchase films as easily as books, when the collected works of Chaplin will be no less available to homes than a complete set of Dickens, television will have to function as a poor substitute for private archives. Pickett, which comprises the last 83 pages. This is a rather small quibble to make — what, after all, is the dividing line between worthlessness and mediocrity? The creation of this ambiguity seems to come from shifting criteria, which theoretically can enliven a reviewing column if the inconsistencies are separated by weeks, but which can make for real confusion when found on successive pages of a book.
And what finally matters about Sarris, thumbnail descriptions is that the best of them always reveal more about movies than we originally thought was there. At the very least they tell us that s omething is there, when otherwise we might never have looked.
Featured Texts Notes by Date. Posted October 19 , Precisely how and why it is indispensable can perhaps best be seen if I first outline some of its limitations: 1 The problem of scope. In addition, when when mated with the belletristic style, the categories sometimes bring up 3 The problem of consistency.
Lost your password? Please enter your username or email address. You will receive a link to create a new password via email. The title of Andrew Sarris's new book is really a misnomer.
The American Cinema
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The American Cinema: Directors and Directions, 1929-1968
Andrew Sarris, who died today, at the age of eighty-three, is the one indispensable American film critic. Sarris whom I met only briefly, at several screenings was the American critic who meant the most to me when I was first learning about movies, because I sensed that he was interested in the essential thing—what makes the cinema an art. In the classic split between hedgehogs and foxes, he was the great hedgehog of American criticism. He knew one big thing: the colossal gravitational pull of the director, the true star that held all in its orbit and gave its light to reflect.