James’ Brand New Blog

Andrew Sarris, RIP: You introduced me to Lola Montes, the most beautiful movie ever made

- June 21st, 2012

sarris-hitch-new-yorker

Andrew Sarris, left, & Hitch in an undated photo courtesy of http://tsutpen.blogspot.ca

NYC film critic & professor Andrew Sarris died Wednesday. (The Reuters obit follows).

Arriving in our house via the Village Voice, where he reviewed film & even provided capsule notices about flicks on TV in the NYC area for a time, Andrew Sarris has been a direct & indirect influence on whatever it is JBNBlog does as a critic.

He championed Lola Montes, the 1955 Max Ophuls masterpiece which is my all-time favourite movie. Here is one Sarris insight on Lola Montes. I recall him calling it the most beautiful movie ever made (well, it is) but can’t find that.

Lola Montes is in my unhumble opinion the greatest film of all time.”
Film critic Andrew Sarris

Like many movies, Sarris advocated it had been a dismal failure commercially . . . he would call the box office method of evaluating success the gold standard. Still believe that art trumps commerce. Every time. Thank you, Andrew Sarris.

His wordplay and love of alliteration . . . phrases like Belmondo’s brilliant, but not particularly calculating, career having more Zen than zing, those are turns I try to emulate . . . he wrote amazingly about Chaplin and his discussion of the farewell speech look up, Hannah, look up. That inspires me . . . right now, I am enjoying the TVO archival interview with Elwy Yost chatting sweetly with Sarris & his wife Molly Haskell, an ace critic too. Elwy just asked Andrew Sarris about seeing That Hamilton Woman 85 (?) times. “Obviously, I had a crush on Vivien Leigh,” the great critic says & the discussion moves on. I am pretty sure there is another solo Sarris session where he is expressing his views on The Godfather series. He was less enthusiastic than many other critics, if memory serves, another case of Sarris being independent of the received wisdom. Sarris would say how serious & introspective & monkish the gangsters were & he kept putting his hand over his face, seemingly camera shy himself. Elwy beamed like the sun throughout. (Elwy, you are missed . . . what great guests you had & how you treated them with respect & not fawning).

The obituary focuses on Sarris one-liners & mentions the auteur theory. Auteur is a word I’ll use to indicate who might be the “author” of a given London record. There are limits, though, in the hands of a disciple. After a spirited defence of Jerry Lewis (Sarris rejected French auteurist arguments on Lewis’s behalf) in Arthur, the Trent student paper, I received a thoughtful note from a professor who taught film. Enjoyable, he wrote, but like the auteur theory too literary in concept to analyse cinema.

Andrew Sarris, you inspire me to keep auteuring.

BC-PEOPLE-ANDREWSARRIS/OBIT Film critic Andrew Sarris dies at 83
By Todd Cunningham
LOS ANGELES (ThWrap.com) – Influential film critic Andrew Sarris, who helped introduce a generation of American moviegoers to Europe’s new wave of directors in the 1960s and ’70s, has died at the age of 83.
Sarris died at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan after complications developed from a stomach virus, his wife, film critic Molly Haskell, said Wednesday.
Sarris was best known for his work with the Village Voice and New York Observer.
With contemporaries like Pauline Kael, with whom he famously feuded in print about a number of films, he helped Americans view filmmaking as more than popular entertainment. He championed directors Federico Fellini and Ingmar Bergman, older works by American helmers like Howard Hawks and John Ford and newcomers Alfred Hitchcock, Robert Altman and Martin Scorsese.
His works greatly heightened awareness of the role of the film director and a 1962 essay “Notes on the Auteur Theory,” brought the term “auteur” into the American vernacular. His 1968 book, “The American Cinema: Directors and Directions 1929-1968,” is widely credited with raising the bar for American film criticism.
In that book and his reviews, he assessed the work of many of the leading American directors and actors of the day. Some examples:
Howard Hawks: “He stamped his remarkably bitter view of life on adventure, gangster and private eye melodramas, the kind of thing Americans do best and appreciate least.”
Alfred Hitchcock: “His reputation has suffered from the fact that he has given audiences more pleasure than is permissible for serious cinema. No one who is so entertaining could possibly seem profound to the intellectual puritans.”
Raquel Welch: “I still don’t believe that Raquel Welch really exists. She has been manufactured by the media merely to preserve the sexless plasticity of sex objects for the masses.”
John Cassavetes: “As a director, too much of the time he is groping when he should be gripping.”
Roman Polanski: “His talent is as undeniable as his intentions are dubious.”
Stanley Kramer: “He will never be a natural, but time has proved that he is not a fake.” REUTERS

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