To celebrate the publication of Philip Lopate’s American Movie Critics: An Anthology from the Silents Until Now we’re convening a panel of critics whose writing appears in the book, including Mr. Lopate himself, Stanley Kauffmann, Andrew Sarris and our very own Kent Jones. We had to settle on a movie to precede the discussion, and we decided on Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt. Why? Because it’s a great movie, and because it sits right on the borderline between what is now called “classical” cinema and modern cinema.
American Movie Critics: An Anthology from the Silents Until Now is a wonderful new collection of film criticism from The Library of America. Editor Phillip Lopate begins at the very beginning, with poet Vachel Lindsay, and stops with The New York Times’ formidable Manohla Dargis. There’s a wealth of wonderful and judiciously selected writing along the way, from masters of the form both celebrated (Manny Farber, James Agee, Pauline Kael, Andrew Sarris) and relatively unheralded (Otis Ferguson, Donald Phelps, William S. Pechter), with some wonderful surprises along the way. Lopate’s selection gives us a history of the medium, and a history of the culture around and sprouted from the medium in the bargain.