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- The remainder of this chapter presents and dissects discourses about the former, i.
- Perhaps nowhere was the criti- cal battle as protracted and vicious as in Britain.
- For the first time the photoplay has been seriously compared to theatre in the entire daily press.
- See also ff.
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To be sure, case studies charting developments in Japan, Sweden, Brazil, or other nations could also illuminate some of the issues under consideration here. Nevertheless, for the sake of coherence there are limits that need to be placed on any attempt to write history; there is a balance that must be struck along axes of breadth and depth. This comparative project thus seeks a broader, stronger claim than single-nation studies.
For the purposes of this book, critical authority is a textual position that assumes the privilege to speak on a certain matter; the authority is asserted by critics and tacitly granted by their readers. Nevertheless, according to Daniel G. Many of these positionings are purely textual: that is, performed in words in a variety of ways, including exalting the object of critique, comparisons or contrasts to other arts, canon-building, references to legitimate critics from the past, and by many other means.
We will also see examples about how this is achieved in the type, size, and look of a published printed page or in the format of magazines; in banding together in unions or associations; in repre- senting a national-cultural institution or a publication of historical merit; and so on.
Demonstrating these various assertions of authority will be an important part of this book. The negotiation of a proper tone towards and relationship with the audience is a key matter in creating authority. Writing at a time of perceived moral and social crisis the waning of religious and aristocratic influence , Arnold proposed in Culture and Anarchy a way to counteract the malaise befalling the nation in the s.
Crisis History I am not the first scholar to note the discourse of crisis surrounding criticism, nor am I the first to link crisis and criticism, as concepts, to one another.
Crisis and criticism have been connected literally since ancient times: both derive etymologically from the Greek root word krino, which means to separate, select, decide, judge, size up, clash, or fight. Sorokin, who conceive of the past as a chronicle of crises, have organized the history of ideas in such a way.
The modern notion of economic crisis is an example: crisis appears when the equilibrium between supply and demand, between pro- duction and consumption, between the circulation of money and the circulation of goods, is disturbed; when this happens recession and the slide down the eco- nomic scale are said to become visible everywhere.
Yet it is held as a law of ex- perience that a general rise in productivity follows a recession induced by a cri- sis. The Marxist notion of a final crisis of capitalism leading to the end of class differences and a utopian future represents another itera- tion of this historiography. The crises under scrutiny in this book may subscribe, depending on perspective, to all three models in an interconnected fashion.
It is true that in every case under discussion, some commentators saw the challenges to their authority as an existen- tial dilemma that needed to be identified and resolved. Crises, as Crosthwaite re- minds us, are discursive phenomena, and there is invariably a strategic element to invoca- tions of the language of crisis, whether this be as a means of engendering fear, stifling dissent, and consolidating hegemonic power structures, or, conversely, of mobilizing disaffection, laying bare societal divisions, and agitating for radical change.
Dealing with both individual critics and critical institutions, these historical episodes unearth the key moments in the course of film criticism where authority was especially at stake, under duress, and in a perceived crisis; these specific pressure points, I submit, best illuminate and contextualize the current impasse and debate.
In order to establish film criticism as a legitimate activity, writers needed to advocate the cultural respect- ability of film as a medium, gain access to mainstream periodicals, and create their own outlets. Rather than a consensual procession towards a definition of film as an art and easy attainment of authority, critics engaged in a messy dispute, Chapter 1 reveals, with complex and shifting fronts that included the need to both compare and contrast the medium to other arts, erect standards and police bad practice, and develop unique methods.
Once film critics had established their right to exist on arts pages and postwar film culture began to flourish, practitioners were faced with a renewed challenge to their authority: sophisticated arthouse audiences. Initially using Siegfried Kracauer and his brand of ideo- logical-symptomatic criticism as a legitimate model for their authority, Filmkritik transformed within a decade into a forum for subjective auteurism.
Chapters 5 and 6 re-approach the current crisis of criticism. Chapter 5 challenges this view as a fal- lacy. The Conclusion then returns to the notion of crisis and critical authority and asks: What is so good about authority and what do fears of its loss tell us about our cultural commentators? The field is better described as having suffered a series of crises. Many of them, as we shall see, were productive ones, while others simply replayed prior crises.
Synthesizing and building on the national case studies of Richard Abel, Claude Beylie, Helmut Diederichs, Sabine Hake, Sabine Lenk, Myron Lounsbury, Laura Marcus, and others, these chapters — for the first time — compara- tively approach early film criticism in Britain, France, Germany, and the United States in order to sketch existential debates that attended the establishment of the activity and profession as well as to set up an international basis for the subsequent crises.
These first chapters investigate the crisis rhetoric surrounding the profession and purpose of criticism. These rhetorical gestures, I argue, were instrumental in asserting a critical authority and anticipate later crises and positionings in the chapters to come.
In further contrast to their studies, the body of evidence I provide is international. Indeed, of all the chapters in this book, the first two examine the widest national and historical range. However, I do not intend to occlude differences.
There are surely subtleties and nuances at work in these national histories. Such differences should not be brushed over; indeed, as I have argued elsewhere, in order to understand the contours of early film writing, cultural matters must be taken into account. Whether the cinema reform movements in Germany and the United States or the rivalries between cinema and theatre critics in France and Germany, debates across borders often ran in parallel if not outright overlapped.
Rather, my aim is to quickly provide a background framework in order to pick up on these themes as I turn to the particular discursive categories of the birthing crises of criticism. Early film writing, from the beginnings of cinema to the Second World War, shows a dramatic shift in mode, purpose, address, and venue of publication. These changes, especially those that took place through the s — when professional film criticism became established and a regular feature of mainstream dailies and weeklies — both introduced critical authority and, simultaneously, precipitated its initial crises.
Although histories often date the first film review to , such claims are typically qualified as not representing film criticism in the modern sense: in other words, a piece of writing that describes but also evaluates or interprets a film or set of films on the basis of artistic merit or entertainment value and which addresses primarily the cultural consumer.
Special- ized film publications began appearing in the first decade of the twentieth century, but the vast majority is best described as trade press. These were service organs to the industry and in many cases were affiliated with a particular company. It largely pertained to advancements in production and exhibition technology; pointing out flaws in cine- matography, editing, continuity, and script; or describing business models and prac- tices.
For this reason, its ultimate addressees were the makers and exhibitors of film and its goal was to enable this demographic to manufacture and deliver better prod- uct.
The first film columns began appearing — albeit irregularly — in mainstream news- papers from in France and shortly thereafter in the United States and Germany, coinciding with the establishment and consolidation of the French film industry and the progressive lengthening and sophistication of narrative-driven fiction films.
With this change, and with the es- tablishment of institutional parameters for film criticism as a profession — in other words, the birth of the film critic — a bifurcated crisis of criticism ensued.
In France, Germany, Britain, and the United States — in the first instance already in the early s and then through the s — writers on film developed the means to establish their authority as critics. Rather than, as Haberski chronicles, the pinnacle of cultural authority to be matched only in the s golden age , the origins of film criticism were a scene of existential crisis: the birth of the profession was marked by debate over the right of film critics to exist and over their proper profile in mediating be- tween object and reader.
This chapter and Chapter 2 examine the debates of early film writing as discursive manoeuvres to establish critical authority. Chapter 2 will deal with the latter, i. The remainder of this chapter presents and dissects discourses about the former, i. This includes comparisons — but also contrasts — to theatre and the other arts for models of cultural respectability. This line of debate resulted in calls for a new criticism for the new art and the erection of professional rules and standards.
The Promotion of Film as a Culturally Respectable Object Already by , as the length, ambition, and sophistication of film narratives in- creased and the economic and mass-cultural potential of the new medium was ra- pidly becoming apparent to those in the industry and beyond, calls for film criticism arose.
The latter created cultural respectability for the medium, justified the need for criticism, and worked towards ascribing authority to those writing about film. On the one hand, there was a need to establish film as an art and thus parallel to theatre, sculpture, music, and so on in order to justify its critique as warranted and required and its arbiters as cultural authorities.
On the other hand, there was the necessity to differentiate film from these other arts, e. Writers advocated a new form of criticism — and basis of authority — for a new me- dium. But only since recently; for about six months. In the United States, Life film critic Robert Sherwood called for the photoplay to reach a refinement that might favourably com- pare to the traditional arts; at the same time, he recognized the popular appeal of the medium.
His inaugural column presented an ironic scenario in which cinema applies to Apollo to become the tenth muse. As the symbol of cinema, I crave recognition. I desire to break into the snobbish Muse colony. In a formulation that we shall see throughout the history of film 1.
The Comparison to Theatre and the Other Arts Criticism In Germany, Britain, France, and the United States, the earliest critics attempted to gain legitimacy via comparisons — but also contrasts — between film and the estab- lished arts and by invoking the ideals and functions of arts criticism of the past, and especially, of the eighteenth century.
Lejeune, and Sergei Eisenstein, to name just a few international examples44 — helped early critics justify film as an autonomous form of significant aesthetic value that required serious criticism. The German example is in- structive.
In , the films of canny producers who had employed famous authors and actors, the so-called Autorenfilme, began to appear. For the first time the photoplay has been seriously compared to theatre in the entire daily press.
Film has become ripe for the arts page. It must shore up the judgement of the audience by pointing out mistakes and possibilities for improvement and seek to funnel these demands through the proper channels. The cinema urgently needs the regard and cooperation of all those who call themselves the intellectual leaders of the people. There too, as Sabine Lenk has detailed in depth, a theatre-cinema rivalry took place across a wide spectrum of pub- lications. This shifted the basic attraction of the medium from the local cinema or cinemagoing as activity, to the artistry of individual works.
In , Georges Dureau accused the media of encouraging puff pieces on dramatic produc- tions in order to support the theatre business while treating the new medium with disdain if not outright contempt. Dureau called for the equal treatment of film and drama in French journalism.
By that time, the backlash against comparisons with theatre and its criticism was widespread. The excellence of a play is a defect in film. Yet many critics [ When Rudolf Arnheim recollected the development of film criticism a few years later, the move towards medium specificity and an independent film criticism was complete. In Britain, writers such as C. We stumble along, doing the best we can with the old terms while we try to rough out a new vocabulary, borrowing from this art and from that, compromising, slip- ping in a tentative technicality here and there; without quite the courage to in- vent, as the movie actually demands, a new vernacular [ In that case every spectator who expresses his opinion would be a critic.
Encour- agement not depreciation is needed. Criticize if you will, but criticize justly, impar- tially, and above all with knowledge. In rhetoric that partook of typical promotional discourses, French film journalists in the early s agitated for colleagues to write better informed and less negative articles on the fledgling medium.
The critic should only mention individ- ual themes or even the course of the plot when he wants to illustrate a point, describe a philosophy, or identify a great success. But why unnecessarily rob the public in advance of the suspense which is so important to film? Pleas for and the introduction of press screenings in France and Germany provided critics with discrete space and advanced knowledge, which served to reinforce their authority and distinguish them from mere viewers.
According to one German commentator, these special projections finally put film critics on the respected level of their theatre colleagues. In her memoir, C. As sociologists such as Pierre Bourdieu and Shyon Baumann have ela- borated, associations serve as sources of cultural legitimacy and authority.
It is also an important artefact that points to the internal contradictions at work in s criti- cism, to the delicate balancing act between film as art and popular medium, and ahead to the second-wave mediation crises on the horizon in Chapter 2. Why is every operetta turned into a cultural event, but no critics bother with film? Why does no one bother with the art of the people? Aesthetes may turn up their aristocratic noses, but that does not alter the fact that the cinema has become the art, the poetry, the vision of the people, a decisive element of popular culture.
Wondering whether this is good or bad is silly; for in Vienna alone there are already , I repeat, cinemas showing films every night. One hundred and eighty cinemas with an average of seats, presenting two or three programs every day.
If we figure houses three-quarters full, this amounts to , people a day. Those who see this fact as a great danger are the very ones who have an obligation to help out with constant, earnest, systematic criticism.
Beginning today, I plan to open my columns to just such pertinent, methodical criticism. It resolved thereby the first-order crisis of criticism: the establishment of cultur- al recognition for the new medium and of film criticism as a professional pursuit in the mainstream press. His statement already contains, however, the seeds of the next crisis. Nevertheless, as we shall see, this transition was not as smooth as sometimes implied. The struggle marks the entire history of criticism to this day.
Indeed, the solutions to the initial crises highlighted in the previous chapter cre- ated secondary problems. If a film critic acted as an advocate for film how could he or she still maintain the relationship towards culture that professional criticism de- manded i.
But if film was a democratic art, how could critics maintain the authority they needed to lead opinion and make taste? Thus, in a second-wave crisis of early film criticism, debates about objec- tivity, competence, and influence ensued.
Critics needed to negotiate both an in- touch proximity and authoritative distance to two key stakeholders: audiences and the industry. Barry was together with C. Producers openly advertised films as having the worst press, but best attendance.
How could early film critics be respected by the industry — and even influence production — without sacrificing their claims to objectivity and creating the appearance of complicity in its commer- cial projects? Wrestling with this question, a permanent feature of film criticism, contributed in this period to the formulation of new modes of criticism, in particular aesthetic criticism.
This function — to herald and to agitate for better films — would reappear over the years. In , Herbert Ihering would pronounce that it was clear that criti- cism should help and nourish film.
One of the powerful arguments for maintaining close ties was, in fact, to preserve authority among industry profes- sionals. One major source of such views was, unsurprisingly, the industry itself. Although such attitudes and debates would climax in the s, they were already anticipated much earlier.
These conflicting roles saw the authors both promoting and evaluating in equal measure and assuming the perspec- tives of both the producers and consumers. This was all too evident in the hybrid publications being founded. In the United States, Film Spectator was founded on such principles in The rivalry between the trade and mainstream press only intensified in the s with the blossoming of film criticism at national newspapers and arts and political weeklies.
For Willy Haas, screenwriter for films such as G. Haas pursued a criticism that took technical craft and effects into account. In the mids, Claude Beylie submits, French magazines negotiated a delicate balancing act between mass and niche-cinephile audiences and between industrial and artistic concerns. Guidelines for film critics issued by the national press association that year forbade critics from profiting from or working for producers or exhibitors.
Lejeune responded to charges of incompetence from the local trade press and asserted the need for a separation between critics and the industry. In an ironic self-dialogue called 2. As discussed, a formalist, aesthetic criticism represented one efficient way to distinguish film criti- cism from theatre criticism.
Unlike programmatic statements, simply performing aes- thetic criticism, i. American cinema. If he, too, is forced into the production process, there is no real authority left to differentiate good from evil. He may leave hundreds of films unmentioned, since they are industrial mass products; where, however, there is an instructive example or an instructive error, he must intervene.
For the critic should not give grades. Grades are imma- terial. He should help navigate. Crucially, such discussions about the purpose of criticism dovetailed into delibera- tions over the proper relationship between critic and audience. One major stream of thought in this debate — and the current that dominated the earliest proper film criticism in the first years of the s — largely borrowed the ideas and tropes of eighteenth and nineteenth-century arts criticism, from Lessing to Arnold.
In the face of such romanticism, Adolf Sellmann claimed in his monograph Der Kinemato- graph als Volkserzieher? In the institution of art criticism, including literary, theater, and music criticism, the lay judgment of a public that had come of age, or at least thought it had, became organized.
Correspondingly, there arose a new occupation that in the jargon of the time was called Kunstrichter art critic. The art critics could see themselves as spokesmen for the public [ These tensions are particularly pronounced in film criticism and betray fundamental paradoxes in the establishment of the field. Film was understood as an art with specific formal properties to be learned and applied, but nonetheless as a popular medium of universal comprehensibility.
Yet, criticism — as Barry intuited — was and is largely consumed by middle-class audiences. These efforts, as we have seen, were often triangulated with a third entity: the public. He does not want to educate the masses; rather, he receives his ability to discern from them.
And it is the elegant cinema that got it wrong. But the lively arts can bear the same continuous criticism which we give to the major. I thought of myself as un- not dis-covering merits in what was, by definition, popular, hence well-known. At times he called for the public to respect pundits; at others he scolded commentators who tended to whine excessively and express opprobrium unfairly. Star Critics, Subjective Modes, and Sociological Criticism Louis Delluc and Gilbert Seldes point ahead to Pauline Kael in a further, significant way: both were recognizable critics.
In the early days, few writers on film were known out- side of small trade coteries; this was compounded by the fact that reviews went 2. Lejeune Manchester Guardian, later the Observer and Iris Barry Daily Mail, The Spectator, Vogue in Britain; and Robert Sherwood Life , John Farrar Bookman , Clayton Hamilton Theatre , Alexander Bakshy Theatre Arts Monthly , Seymour Stern Quill , and Gilbert Seldes Vanity Fair, The New Republic in the United States. As film criticism established itself in the dailies and in the middlebrow weeklies and monthlies, editors allowed, and in some cases actively encouraged, critics to develop subjective modes or distinctive personalities.
This observation applies, in any case, to the great ma- jority of films that the critic reviews. First, Chapters 1 and 2, in their examination of early film criticism and the crises attending the establishment of the activity and profession, have challenged the view proposed by Haberski and others that early film writing represented a smooth birth of critical authority that would be steadily undermined.
Instead, I have argued that this period, the origins of film criticism, presented scenes of crisis that previewed subsequent concerns. Establishing film as a worthy object of critique; comparing or contrasting film to other arts in order to justify its cultural import or aesthetic value; invoking authoritative critics from the past; broaching questions of objectivity and critical distance; defining and policing the profession; negotiating the relationship to the industry; grappling with the ability to influence and lead opinion; functioning as both an avatar of and mediator for the public: these themes recur again and again in the history of film criticism right up to the present debate.
In the postwar period examined in Chapters 3 and 4, for example, such crises returned. The next generation struggled to define and practice proper criticism and used the early 2. In both of these case stud- ies, we shall see how the imagined vanguard position of French film culture — to some extent already visible in this chapter — functioned as a point of departure for these deliberations. On the one hand, this demonstrates the degree to which these writers were prone to self-reflection — not only on film as a medium, i.
This fact represents a further challenge to the many commentators, including McDonald, who posit a historical caesura in the s on this issue. In addition, it should be noted that a number of these early critics were also deeply involved in practical filmmaking and the moving image industry, a fact that certainly contributed to the ambivalent attitudes to the industry. Several scholars have highlighted the need for approaches to figures such as Kra- cauer and Arnheim that take account of where and how their writings were initially composed and disseminated.
Stephen Bush, Herbert Ihering, Penelope Houston, Pauline Kael, Rex Reed, and Armond White — rather than, for instance, Christian Metz or Peter Wollen — represents in itself an intervention. Nevertheless, in a film studies context — where such texts are routinely an- thologized in readers and primers — the point does need to be made that such pro- nouncements were not being made primarily in ivory towers, but rather in mass- media practice.
These were daily, weekly, or monthly repeated performances of the assertion to speak legitimately and authoritatively to the public about the young medium. Its tone and style, its mode of communication with its readers, and its blithe assertions of authority — as we shall see in the following two chapters — would both influence the course of film criticism and produce extreme reactions, the next flare-up in the permanent crisis of criticism.
These moves initiated, on the one hand, a broader cultural legitimacy for film and its critical practitioners; on the other hand, it produced competing definitions and imperatives for the critic.
With these two phenomena — institutional film cultures and niche cinephile audi- ences — increasingly at odds, the former needed to re-evaluate their modes of critique and how they addressed their readers.
This was, for such institutions and their critics, a new crisis: Once film criticism was established as a recognized organ of national- cultural importance, how could an authority be articulated that nonetheless nego- tiated a proper relationship to an increasingly sophisticated audience? The case of postwar British film culture and, specifically, a late s, early s debate on the role of the critic conducted in Sight and Sound, but proliferating na- tionally and internationally, is particularly illuminating in this regard.
Even those critics who disagreed over the aesthetic value of the French upstarts wrote in unison about their cultural impor- tance. Perhaps nowhere was the criti- cal battle as protracted and vicious as in Britain. The Radcliffe Report, Sequence and s Sight and Sound In order to approach the crisis that Sight and Sound had to resolve around , I need to telegraph key earlier developments that illuminate and anticipate the remit, position, and later reaction of the magazine and its critics.
Many of the initial articles advocated a national body to represent and pro- mote film; in , the British Film Institute was established and took over the pub- lication of the magazine.
He responded by inviting them to take over the editorship of Sight and Sound, revitalize the magazine, and make it appeal to a wider middle-class audi- ence. Indeed, subscribers felt that Sight and Sound had not even made the changes in their relationship to their audi- ence that Arnheim, Seldes, or Kracauer had negotiated fifteen years prior. Among readers, the consensus spoke that — despite advances in film culture and greater appreciation and awareness by the lay public — Sight and Sound remained old-fashioned and stuck in an Arnoldian mode.
Stand Up! Such opinions, Anderson submitted, were endemic in UK criticism and evi- denced by figures such as Alistair Cooke, a prominent critic for the BBC and in the mids a regular columnist for Sight and Sound and whose pronouncements against film theorists we have already encountered. However much I want in private to rage or protest or moralise, these actions [ Gable away. In his What is Literature?
Sartre hoped that minority voices might find a forum through such channels. Lambert even wrote a letter in sup- port of Anderson to the magazine from Hollywood. Nevertheless, although Lambert and Anderson advocated a moralistic, yes political criticism, it clearly did not take aesthetic shapes into account, nor did it adopt a true Kracauerean symptomatic procedure.
The approach reveals serious tensions, not only regarding the proper content and style of criticism; at issue was a significant difference in the mode of addressing the audience. These certainly exist. Witness the following passage from Anderson, one of several that applies metaphors of illness and sin: The French again. For the light they throw on certain vices endemic in French criticism, however, they merit attention.
This perceived defiance precipitated self-reflection about the role of Sight and Sound within film culture and how critics might relate to audiences depending on the status and aims of their medium.
The conversation also be- came a forum to compare British criticism to international trends. It is therefore perhaps unsurprising that the article sparked a series of strongly worded letters from young mavericks who believed that the journal was now seriously misjudging and underestimating its readers; critical authority could no longer be gained or sustained by appealing to high-minded moral values.
A director is analysed like a Royal Commission, and conclusions are remote, buried under a welter of conditional clauses.
Judgements are too sober and refined. Unpretentious films are cynically dismissed. Film, the organ of the British film society movement fol- lowed suit.
So awful that I propose not to talk about it, but to say what it should be. Anderson, Scottish by descent, was born in colonial India to an Army officer and, after boarding school in West Sussex and stud- ies at Oxford, served as cryptographer for the Intelligence Corps in Delhi during the final year of the war.
It is all a bit hermetic, as though its practitioners had chosen to live in the dark, emerging to blink, mole- like, at the cruel light, to sniff the chilly air, before ducking back into the darkness of another cinema.
The French must occupy themselves with theory and form, just as the English are naturally in- clined to empiricism and human relationships. In the same way that Houston under- stands cinema as a collection of national industries,52 so too film criticism should be divided into national schools.
Above all, the implosion of reigning middle-class standards and the mix of high and low culture disturbed Sight and Sound critics. Although Sight and Sound was clearly invested in the idea that film is art — and had fought that first battle since early on — this mixing of media was detrimental to the prescriptive, forward-looking, liberal mode of historiography and aesthetic to which Sight and Sound subscribed. Much in the manner that Daniel T. Nevertheless, it should be explicitly noted that the postwar critical debates surrounding commitment vs.
Within this framework, Nicholas Ray vs. In addition, it recog- nizes that the BFI organ required another mode of authority, another way of addres- sing the audience.
These initiatives were largely successful. Film culture in the United Kingdom was thriving and in many ways close to its zenith. As already stated, Britain witnessed a dramatic growth in the number of film societies in the s and early s; between and , Sight and Sound tripled its readership from to 15, As long as such voices and contrapuntal tones were contained within the publication rather than submerging into an invisible un- derground cinephile subculture , the magazine could still fulfil its prescribed func- tion to reach out to a larger audience with divergent tastes.
The intellectual forefather of this sense of canon-building was again Trilling, who, in this respect, very much followed in the tradition of Matthew Arnold, whose works he edited. One such material manifestation of the canon was being compiled in the form of the National Film Library. Sight and Sound and Monthly Film Bulletin continued into the s as the traditional bulwarks of national film culture, offering a functional critique and promotion of British cinema with a liberal humanist attitude towards world cinema, 3.
Groups of mavericks, including Raymond Durgnat, shifted alliances or remained on the fringes. Finally, another alternative route available at precisely this historical moment was taken by Lawrence Alloway. Mapping these shifting alliances becomes a key activity for the critic. It represented a vital crisis: a moment of onto- logical deliberation in which interlocutors were pulling in different, often diametrical directions and many alternatives were available.
These debates and the diversification of film culture that devel- oped from them would create a lasting framework for the profession. Nevertheless, in many ways, new media merely compensate for declining civic and cultural participation, rather than necessarily representing any net increase or uniform anarchy of information. A few hun- dred kilometres to the east, in the Federal Republic of Germany, the reception of French film culture was also producing a crisis.
The first attempt was the short- lived film The inaugural issue was published in January Patalas and the early Filmkritik sought to practice film criticism as a brand of broader cultural and social critique. In this vein, for instance, Reinhold Thiel deconstructs Generally speaking, it seems to me that you overemphasize manifest content at the expense of other considerations. Filmkritik enjoyed increases in readership in its early years and was able to expand its coverage year after year.
The magazine transformed from a thin collection of re- views with a single editorial into a vehicle for bold commentary on national and international film culture that suggested an increasingly outward-looking perspec- tive. Save a few exceptions e. These notices from overseas are significant not least because they take up a pro- minent part and considerable portion of the content — about one-third, until , when the magazine expanded and much of the foreign reporting could be done by the in-house staff.
Initially, Filmkritik cautiously regarded the developments in France. In and the new French filmmakers received a few sneers and backhanded compliments from the magazine. The critiques reflect the opinions of the author. What unites these forward-looking critics, according to Patalas and Berghahn, is their rejection of impressionistic writing.
The editors articulate their own vision of criticism against two distinct positions that they detect in the foreign press. Referring presumably to Positif, Patalas and Berghahn emphasize that the misguided pseudo-leftist approach can be illustrated by develop- 4. Indeed, for Patalas and Berghahn, Positif is a negative example of a socially engaged brand of criticism that transformed into a dogmatic mouthpiece for the Communist Party in the Cold War.
Second, it anticipated an internal struggle over the editorial direction of Filmkritik between the so-called political leftists and aesthetic leftists in the mid- s. This episode in the history of the journal has been documented by no less than two scholarly articles and thus should not be rehearsed in detail here.
In the mids, Filmkritik continued to grow in editorial confidence and redirect its perspective towards an international arena. What had begun as a small pamphlet of text with a Spartan layout transformed into a professional operation with colour covers, a host of photos, special offers, and cross-over deals with clubs and other institutions for subscribers. Advertising increased and issues bulged to 72 pages; in addition, the editors and their correspondents across the Federal Republic and over- seas were producing various books on stars, genres, directors and accompanying periodicals Filmreport with commercial ties to the publication.
This transformation, Patalas claimed in a revisionist editorial, had always been a goal: a move away from the evaluative and a partial return to the academic thrust of film 56 and film In the first installment, a short introduction provided a rationale. This veneration of the French did not go unnoticed by readers. After all, in some ways, this break in editorial policy was ironic in its timing: the move away from politics, history, and society as creators of artistic meaning took place just as the West German student politicization was approaching its climax, re-examining national history critically, and rejecting the desires of the individual for the needs of the collective.
This constitutes a crisis of authority, the threat of critical democratization. In this sense, the shift away from Kracauerism can be understood not as a seasonal swing of fashion but in light of the purpose of the approach itself: a historically cir- cumscribed, pedagogical method to be employed only under certain social condi- tions and whose function could be fulfilled but thereby exhausted by its own recep- tion in the social consciousness. Its success contributed to its obsolescence.
This explanation was, in a sense, the one that both Berghahn and Patalas implied in two opposing programmatic statements in the mids. For Berghahn, criticism — just like film — maintains a dialectical relationship with historical processes.
This belief ex- plains the attraction of Kracauer to the Filmkritik editors in the early days and ac- counts for their relationship to contemporaneous productions. In this sense, it is perhaps not ironic that Filmkritik retreated from ideological-symptomatic analysis precisely as the West German student movement had begun to internalize this in their readings of Hor- kheimer and Adorno.
This is a common theme in international postwar cinephile criticism. The editors needed procedures and vocabul- aries to respond to the Young German Film and renegotiate their relationship to domestic film culture. The Kracauerean method that Patalas and Berghahn had appropriated was essen- tially negative. This became urgent from on as the magazine needed to serve a larger purpose: a prescriptive, functional critique and promotion of the do- mestic cinema.
For: not only did the nouvelle vague provide a model for the filmmakers of the Young German Film. Certainly, Filmkritik had always regularly reported on the industry, if usually in a distanced, pejorative manner. There was a significant divergence between how Patalas and especially Gregor were writing about German cinema for foreign periodicals and how Filmkritik was actually commenting on the domestic cinema and, in particular, the nascent art cinema movement beginning in the early s.
At least since the Oberhausen Film Festival, and certainly by the incarnation and the Oberhausen Manifesto, there were serious hopes for and real promotion of the Young German Film. This coverage included notes on films in preproduction, excerpts from screenplays, interviews with the filmmakers and their letters to the editor , in- house notices, and write-ups of these films from abroad. Conquers Venice. It came down — it is said — to one vote. Ivens joined the jury at the beginning of the festival, taking the place of Erwin Leiser, who is ill.
When the film received positive attention from foreign critics, the officials attempted to take credit for the success. In a sidebar, the eight special jury prizes that Abschied von gestern received — bestowed by Italian, Spanish, and French critics — are listed and explained. The mere fact that the Schamonis, Straub, Schlöndorff, Kluge, and the others can shoot their films and that they will play in the cinemas has a special meaning for us. This too recalls old patterns and purposes of the critic since the early days of cinema.
In this context, the special attention lavished on Kluge, Schlöndorff, and Straub in and is significant. But precisely for this very reason, Ideologiekritik was inappropriate. These were the sorts of films that had been hoped for in the early years. The film criticism against which Filmkritik rebelled was, if not belletristic, then largely moral, narrative-based, and appropriated by the church, the state, or other institutions. Initially, in the context of the postwar desire for legitimacy and in keeping with discourses of re- education, Kracauer availed the young editors of an untainted authority and subject position that allowed them to fulfil another function coming to terms with the na- tional past in a way that other possible approaches, whether belletristic impression- ism or auteurism, could less effectively, if at all.
Nevertheless, as the new waves and, in particular, the Young German Film emerged, this stance became unsustainable. Although in the founding year of Film- kritik cinema was still a chief leisure activity for West German consumers, the course of the magazine coincided with the demise of film as dominant mass medium in the face of television, and the rise of art cinema and cinephilia as institutional and sub- cultural reactions to this process.
Indeed, with the host of positive exam- ples of filmmaking on offer, the cinephile could be directed towards these works, rather than simply warned to stay away from others. In the absence of pressing didactic imperatives and with the self-assurance of a niche cinephile demographic, criticism could engage with camp sensibilities, and function partly as a literary end, rather than merely a pedagogical means.
Unfettered by ap- peals to tradition or indeed any universal standards external to the critic, evaluations and interpretations had a low threshold for validity: they had to be true only for the critic and, as such, could accommodate a potentially limitless array of perspectives. Chapter 4, in particular, demonstrated how Filmkritik adopted a new methodology, style, and mode of address so that the journal could position itself in this global order and in relation to domestic filmmak- ing, as well as stay ahead of its readers, who increasingly had internalized the proce- dures of ideological-symptomatic critique.
The present chapter, which moves from Europe of the s, s, and s to the United States in the s, s, and s, picks up on some overlapping themes: for example, the way in which American critics approached and exploited New Hollywood to stake out fronts in ontological matters of criticism and taste and how these writers negotiated an informal, personal, and colloquial relationship with readers.
Nevertheless, in this chapter the perspective changes. Rather than looking at US film criticism from the mids through the late s purely on its own histori- cal terms, this chapter analyzes the period through the mediated memory of the era and thereby recontextualizes it within the current crisis of criticism, which will be the focus of Chapter 6.
This is necessary for two reasons. First, unlike Houston-era Sight and Sound and Filmkritik, which have elicited a smattering of academic trea- tises and journalistic recollections, American film criticism of the s and s has inspired a huge proliferation of memory, a meta-level that must be considered. Sec- ond, following from this, the memory has been deployed as a contrasting example in the contemporary crisis discourse: it serves an argument about a halcyon era of influ- ential, public critics that once existed.
Names such as Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris are nostalgically invoked — by critics and scholars such as Richard Corliss, James Wolcott, Craig Seligman, Raymond J. Indeed, I contest the very idea of critical influence.
First, in strongly personalized accounts it is asserted that critics from this era enjoyed widespread respect and made determinant mediations be- tween films and readers, thus shaping both the tastes of the public as well as influen- cing filmmakers and the industry. Second, these narratives often make direct paral- lels between the strength of critical authority and the quality of film production output and cinema culture.
Third, these testimonials imply that this authority has been lost or, at best, diluted because of the aforementioned lack of quality filmmak- ing and canny studio strategies, but above all on account of the prominence of super- ficial criticism on television and in a preview of Chapter 6 other new media. Pictures were things that mattered; ideas were worth fighting over. Forget Tracy-Hepburn. Film criticism was the main event, and these two were the champs.
Quick on the draw and easy to rile, they had the power to kill individual films and kneecap entire careers. In fact, in Raymond J. Leavis and Lionel Trilling, McDonald asserts that the early s marked the beginning of the end of a period in which critical writing flourished nearly indistinguishably between broadsheets and academic journals and critics made authoritative, evaluative pro- nouncements to a broad public.
Since then, scholarly and journalistic criticism have increasingly diverged and the vacuum of authority has been replaced by a host of blogging tyros and a dispersive field of reviewing that fails to capture the public imagination. According to McDo- 5. Such a link, be- tween the fate of filmmaking and film criticism, is a recurring trope in the history of film culture. Let us recall, for example, early critics such as Clayton Hamilton and Willy Haas or how the Filmkritik authors retrospectively justified their move away from Kracauerism as a symptom of the increasing quality of filmmaking in the late s and early s.
This was formulaic filmmaking, which — unlike the dazzling and daring New Hollywood — needed no interpreter and certainly no defender. Sequels, teen films, and copycat films led into the doldrums of the s. Depression among film critics was expressed by David Denby, Richard Corliss, Peter Rainer, J. Hoberman, Jonathan Rosenbaum, and others. Oscar Ebert and Felix Siskel. Hoberman and Dave Kehr — in the mainstream press and in magazines like Film Comment — is an endangered species.
Once it flourished; soon it may perish, to be replaced by a consumer service that is no brains and all thumbs. Probably not. Scott found the many eulogies around the end of At the Movies, the television programme that Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel began, to be ironic.
Media historians have shown how, time and again, the appearance of new media has been feared and loathed, whether these innovations were the telegraph, radio, or mobile phones. In addition, we can partly understand this history via the perceived position of television among media professionals and espe- cially the print media. Only anecdotal evidence has asserted that this period of increased cultural authority actually existed. The memory of Pauline Kael and the so- called golden age overstates and mischaracterizes the authority of critics in this peri- od and, indeed, in any period.
If a director was praised by Kael, he or she was generally allowed to work, since the money-men knew there would be similar appro- bation across a wide field of publications. Writers ascribe Kael with inspiring them into the profes- sion, pulling the strings to get them a job, or with convincing Paul Schrader — over a night of drinking at her flat — to give up his goal of becoming a minister in the Christian Reformed Church to become a pundit and win a place at film school.
In James 5. Kellow suggests that the performance of M. As de- tailed in the above section, there is no lack of critics and other opinion leaders who cite her as an influence on public taste and critical practice. In empirical studies performed over decades, however, sociologists, economists, and psychologists have doubted the extent to which pundits have the ability to perform this function.
Holbrook has made further inroads into this field by questioning the implicit assumptions made about the divergence of critical judgement and popular appeal of films. In each there is an abiding understand- ing of the professional critic as one whose knowledge about a certain area of art gives him or her the right to speak about it. Study after study shows weak — if any — influence that critics exert in the reception of a film.
Wyatt and David P. Measured in this way — and this is indeed one of the main indicators of cultural esteem that the many writers quoted above in this chap- ter are claiming — film critics do not possess significant authority. Shrum, Holbrook, Eliashberg and Shugan, et al. Pornhub provides you with unlimited free porn videos with the hottest adult performers. Enjoy the largest amateur porn community on the net as well as full-length scenes from the top XXX studios.
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