r.i.p. manny farber

glenn kenny, and a whole lot more here, in the center column down a bit.

Any edition—there is also Movies, an ugly but complete reprint of the 1971 edition—is worth celebrating for the same reasons as any collection of “practical criticism” that displays flair and insight over an extended period: Jonathan Gold’s Counter Intelligence, Robert Christgau’s Consumer Guides, The Complete Prose of Marianne Moore. (Not to mention the collected film writing of Kael, Andrew Sarris, Renata Adler, Agee, and Ferguson.) But the book’s singularity is not explained by the jar-of-cashews addictiveness common to its genre. None of the books just mentioned is merely a colloquy of freestanding aesthetic judgments; each determines a sensibility, if not a theory. But Farber’s seems uniquely tensed between the particular and the general, between the sense that the object of critical attention is being wrestled with in all its specificity and the impression that one is about to receive some broader enlightenment. This never happens; or, when it does, the illumination is partial, and comes from unexpected angles. More often, pinpoint observations and word-by-word stylistic decisions provoke questions which repeated readings deepen: just what is it for a film to be sustained? [franklin bruno]


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