COLUMNS

  • Books

    Other Criteria: Confrontations with Twentieth Century Art

    Leo Steinberg, Other Criteria, Confrontations With Twentieth Century Art (New York: Oxford University Press), 1972, 436 Pages, 278 Black-and-white Illustrations.

    You can, as an artist, try to say something big about life; or be content to make the stuff in your hands come to life. And this humbler task is the greater, for all else merely follows.

    —Other Criteria

    AS A BOOK MODE, the collection of a critic’s occasional essays tends to be unjustly neglected or condescended to. Prejudices in these matters run in favor of the substantial thesis, the monograph, the survey, the in-depth or the full-scale,

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  • Books

    The Genius of the Future

    Anita Brookner, The Genius Of The Future (New York: Phaidon Press, 1971), 16 pp. black-and-white illustrations, 172 pp.

    MY EXPECTATIONS OF ANITA BROOKNER’S The Genius of the Future were high because her subject, art criticism, has emerged recently as an object of study. To the writing of criticism has been added self-awareness of the act of writing and, as a result, some currently practicing critics have become aware both of present problems and of earlier art criticism as a subject. A study of Diderot, Stendhal, Baudelaire, Zola, the Goncourts, and Huysmans as art writers sounds like a marvelous

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  • Film

    The Venice Film Festival

    THE GREAT OCTOPUS, THE Venice Film Festival, whose tentacles pull in every film except the Baillie-Lehr-Snow structuralism, which is just too radical, takes place in a building as bland and depressingly familiar as Volker Schlondorff’s Strohfeuer. Neither the film palace nor the film (a young woman’s bid for freedom from her marital grind, but Schlondorff doesn’t give her a fighting chance) has a hint of Venice’s eccentric grandeur. There’s nothing Italian about the brand new two-story mausoleum which has to be perked up with massive freestanding bouquets of gladiolas (visiting sex bombs like

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  • Film

    Esthetic Polarity in Independent Cinema and Wintersoldier

    Any formulation of esthetic polarity in the independent cinema would most likely counterbalance social or political documentary with technologically oriented color abstract film. Although both forms create expectations of total immersion into the surface of the screen (the former emotional, the latter sensual in effect), the documentary is predicated on a naturalistically photographed image, a unity between subject and operational space, and the activation of all extrareferential material inherent in that space—usually by way of a spoken soundtrack (I am here excluding the travelogue and

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  • Film

    The End of Summer and Women in Love

    One of the strongest images in Ozu’s The End of Summer (1961) is the crematorium smokestack at the top of a bland, inexpressive landscape, symbolizing the end of an old rake, who sneaked a day at the bicycle races with his mistress and died of overexposure. The sinewy sturdy old man (Ganjiro Nakamura, who looks like Picasso himself with his cockiness and golden sturdy vigor) is the only rambunctious member of a very restrained, duty-conscious family—the invariable cornerstone around which Ozu constructs his pared down home drama perfections. The tactics of the long lead-in to the crematorium

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  • Film

    Loving, Zabriskie Point, Topaz, The Damned, and Au Hasard Balthazar

    Despite many good things (the first notable eyes since Per Oscarrson’s in Hunger in Segal’s sodden performance, Eva Marie Saint’s intelligent and tense mimicries emphasizing a hungry, tensed-for-disaster face, the dress shop scene which has a compassionate pessimism but stops before all the material is exploited), Loving at times looks disturbingly like the “two together” cigarette commercials. Actually, the movie is a fifty-fifty movie: it shows a sensitive touch for a man who is a complete mess, whose habits are wrong from the ground up, and, along with a sharply acted wife, creates this pain

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  • Books

    L’Esprit Nouveau

    L’ESPRIT NOUVEAU, Complete Edition, reprinted by Da Capo Press, NY, 1969. Eight volumes.

    In France, as throughout most of Europe, a new spirit reigned during the 1920s which embraced all areas of creative activity. The visual arts, music, literature, philosophy, and politics were but some of the diverse fields affected, and this breadth and vitality was reflected in L’Esprit Nouveau; a publication which brilliantly captured the spirit of this intellectually exciting age. Its editors, predominantly painters, understandably emphasized their chosen art, yet the subtitle justly proclaimed it “an

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  • Books

    The Americans

    THE AMERICANS, by Robert Frank. Aperture, Inc., New York (republished) 1959/1969.

    In 1956 Robert Frank, a Swiss photographer living in New York, applied to the Guggenheim Foundation for funds to photograph America. In his proposal he offered “. . . to produce a social document the visual impact of which will nullify explanation.” The grant was awarded, and after it another grant followed. For two years Robert Frank traveled throughout America photographing almost every aspect of our culture. In 1959 he published these photographs, first in Europe (Delpire Press, Les Americans) and later in America,

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  • Film

    Space in Film

    Space is the most dramatic stylistic entity—from Giotto to Noland, from Intolerance to Weekend. How an artist deploys his space, seldom discussed in film criticism but already a tiresome word of the moment in other art, is anathema to newspaper editors, who believe readers die like flies at the sight of esthetic terminology.

    If there were a textbook on film space, it would read: “There are several types of movie space, the three most important being (1) the field of the screen, (2) the psycho logical space of the actor, (3) the area of experience and geography that the film covers.” Bresson deals

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  • Film

    The Ten Best: Black Girl, Ma Nuit Chez Maud, Tom, Tom the Piper’s Son, ←→, Ghronik der Anna Magdalena Bach, Le Gai Savoir, _The Wild Bunch

    THE TEN BEST: 1) Black Girl 2) Ma Nuit Chez Maud 3) Tom, Tom the Piper’s Son 4) ←→ 5) Ghronik der Anna Magdalena Bach 6) Le Gal Savoir 7) a tie among three Hollywood eccentricities, The Wild Bunch, Easy Rider, The Rain People 8) High School and La Raison Avant La Passion 9) Coming Apart 10) They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? and La Femme Infidèle.

    One. Black Girl could have been sentimental pro-African anti-white (a very quiet, particular, personal story: an obstinate, naive Sengalese, taken to France as a mother’s helper, finds that she has no freedom of movement when she gets there. Thrilled to

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  • Film

    Wavelength, Standard Time, ←→, and One Second in Montreal

    THE COOL KICK OF of Michael Snow’s Wavelength was in seeing so many new actors—light and space, walls, soaring windows, and an amazing number of color-shadow variations that live and die in the windowpanes—made into major esthetic components of movie experience. In Snow’s Standard Time, a waist-high camera shuttles back and forth, goes up and down, picking up small, elegantly lighted square effects around a living room very like its owner: ordered but not prissy. A joyous spiritual little film, it contains both his singular stoicism and the germinal ideas of his other films, each one like a

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