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Violent America

LAWRENCE ALLOWAY’S VIOLENT AMERICA: The Movies 1946–1964 (The Museum of Modern Art, New York) brings to its touchy subject a range of plausible observation that is foreshortened yet comprehensive, and a phrasing that is as economical as his ideas are manifold. Despite this, the book will appear iconoclastic, mildly or extremely, depending on the parti pris of the reader. It originated as a commentary on a film series he gave at the Modern in 1969. Within this context three years later, there appears a portmanteau treatise of approaches to film, written by an art critic unhappy about the overemphasis on cinematic visuals and an intellectual hostile to liberal complaints about the depiction of violence in the mass media. Where he could have gone sociological, he is art historical. Where there were temptations to philosophize, he is technical. It is a contentious essay, contrary to much that

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