Wednesday, August 22, 2012

It has been two months since my attention turned to this blog. And, yes, a lot has happened. I've started to contribute my grades to CriticWire again. I'm still skeptical about this whole idea of consensus as a critical methodology... but we'll get to that later.

I've been going to various bookstores and magazine shops, waiting for the September 2012 issue of Sight & Sound to make it to our shores. (I just went today, and there's still the August 2012 issue, devoted to Alfred Hitchcock.) Of course, i've read all the stuff online, but i'd like to get ahold of the magazine. (Ok, the big news was that "Vertigo" replaced "Citizen Kane" as the Number One entry in the Top Ten poll.) "Citizen Kane" had been Number One in Sight & Sound's poll in 1962, 1972, 1982, 1992, and 2002: a fifty-year-run.

Too many people are (i think) getting bent out of shape about the poll. There aren't enough women represented on the poll. (But what's the consensus on which film directed by a women is important?) The poll is too historical, there aren't enough "recent" (made within the last decade) films. (But what would a consensus be on which film is important, and from where?) When people point to the fact that, in the first Sight & Sound poll of 1952, De Sica's "Ladri di Biciclette" made it to the Top Ten, and in the Sight & Sound poll of 1962, Antonioni's "L'Avventura" was the Number Two film (after "Citizen Kane"), what people forget is that, at the time, there were not as many films that had been made, and both films represented a very specific aesthetic which was agreed upon as important (Neo-Realism in the case of the former and Modernism in the case of the latter). But i'd like to take time to really look at the poll, not just the Top Ten (or even the Top Fifty) but also the various individual lists (which are available online). And i do have my own thoughts about the poll, but i personally think it is what it is, and it's a fair representation of what the canon of film looks like right now. But this consensus stuff: that wasn't why people read Otis Ferguson, or James Agee, or Manny Farber, or Dwight MacDonald, or Pauline Kael, or Judith Crist, or Andrew Sarris. You read them for their individual opinions. Too many people don't understand that you don't read a critic because you always agree with them (how can that happen?) but because their insights might show you something you might not think of yourself, or might expand your understanding or appreciation. (I always point to Manny Farber and Pat Patterson's review of Fassbinder's "The Merchant of Four Seasons" in Artforum; i'd already seen a number of Fassbinder films, because Larry Kardish had recommended Fassbinder among the filmmakers i should check out in Das Neue Kino retrospective at MoMA, but i was kind of neutral, and Farber and Patterson pointed out the specifics of Fassbinder's visual style, and made me appreciate it.) I mention this, even though, when i did meet Manny Farber, he turned out to be such a pig, i never felt the need to further the acquaintance. (Evidently, he mellowed once he got out to UCSD, where he taught a number of friends of mine, but that was long after my first encounters with him.) But this consensus stuff: what does it prove?

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of two "institutions" which have proven to be of great significance to me personally. One is the Judson Dance Theater, the other is the New York Film Festival. I'll be writing more, but suffice it to say that whatever i know about dance and performance, and film, i wouldn't have known without those institutions.

On another note: there have been so many deaths of late. On August 14th, Remy Charlip died in San Francisco. Such a dear man, he moved out to San Francisco a while ago, and in 2005, he suffered a stroke, and never quite fully recovered. But i remember this because, when i helped Wendy Perron and Cynthia Hedstrom with the Judson Dance Theater Reconstructions in 1982, Remy was one of the people i hadn't really known before, who became a friend. Another was Robert Ellis Dunn. I had no idea that Remy had been the inspiration for Brian Selznick's book "The Invention of Hugo Cabret"; the book is dedicated to him, and Remy posed as George Melies!

And there have been some really fascinating movies of late. Chantal Akerman's "Almayer's Folly" played for a week at Anthology Film Archives, and it's certainly one of the best movies of the year, even though i have some reservations in terms of how Akerman adapts the Joseph Conrad novel. So Yong Kim is one of the best American directors now working; her first two movies, "In Between Days" and "Treeless Mountain," were two of the best independent films of the last decade. Her latest film, "For Ellen," is problematic. I respect what she's trying to do in the movie, there is an attempt to extend her range in terms of subject matter (having a male protagonist, for instance) and there are wonderful scenes, but the last twenty minutes or so seem to lose focus: the movie seems to dribble away.

But i want to write more about these movies, as well as other movies i've seen lately, and i'll write more about Sight & Sound and film canons.


Post a Comment

<< Home