He liked Ophüls and Hal Hartley. Adios.
Wow . . . that’s terrible. HUGE figure in American film criticism, obviously.
His favourite films
the man who brought auteur theory to america. RIP.
This is the worst news…I read his CONFESSIONS OF A CULTIST in paperback until the binding broke.
He championed both Chaplin & Welles long after others disgarded them…a great writer and a very witty one!
Sarris’s annual top ten lists
Thank you Mr. Sarris!
R.I.P. One of the first American critics to champion Hitchcock, and others.
“We all said some stupid things, but film seemed to matter so much."
I read “The American Cinema” RELIGIOUSLY in college, right before spending a year in Paris: he completely influenced my taste in films for the next… well, up till today. He was right about Welles, while Kael raged against Orson in the press.
sarris’ first review at the village voice for psycho, reprinted for the 50th anniversary of the film
Read The American Cinema and although I would argue with a large majority of his groupings it was never a dull read. His review of Psycho is great and it’s funny reading it in context.
I must confess I don’t know if I have read any of his writings, but I think he has had a major influence on the film world with the auteur theory. Whether or not the auteur theory really has any basis in how a film is directed, some may say it is a team effort or a collaboration, but I myself put some stock in the auteur theory anyways. He was a huge influence on the French New Wave and their writings in Cahiers du Cinema and even though he would later distance himself from the auteur theory, it is pretty clear that he made a major contribution to the criticism of film, film theory and filmmaking in general. R.I.P. Mr. Sarris You will be sorely missed.
A remarkable legend who championed the new voices in film and yet still respected the past (how rare is that in a critic or cinephile). I would always look forward to his top 10 (or 25 in some cases) at the end of every year. Even when I didn’t agree with him, I understood why he went down that path. He will be sorely missed.
So few of those great critics left…
Thanks for the insights Mr. Sarris. You’re voice will be missed.
I saw Sarris just a few weeks ago at the Columbia U. Stduent Film Festival at Lincoln Center. He waved to a cheering crowd from his wheelchair when he was introduced.
Here’s an obit by Kenneth Tynan:
Andrew Sarris was champion of the auteur director
By KENNETH TURAN
Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES – To paraphrase Jean Cocteau on Picasso, there was American film criticism before Andrew Sarris and there was American film criticism after Andrew Sarris, so it’s hard not to view his death Wednesday at age 83 as the end of an era.
The first was the nerve of judgmentally dividing up all of American filmmakers into 11 categories, ranging from “Pantheon Directors” and “The Far Side of Paradise” through “Expressive Esoterica,” “Lightly Likable” and “Strained Seriousness.”
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/06/21/2860658/andrew-sarris-was-champion-of.html#storylink=cpy
is this the man that is responsible for the dodgy translations that confused generations of people about what Auteur Theory really was?
Joks: Yes, Sarris had some limitations, including the translations found in Cahiers du Cinema in English. Another was his overly fulsome praise for Max Ophuls, who was a great filmmaker but not AS great as Sarris claimed.
In that formative era of the 1960s-1970s, he was, nonetheless, an important voice for art cinema and film style in a period often devoted to the “triumph opf the shrill” in movie reviewing.
Could either of you go into this mistranslation business for those of us unfamiliar with the controversy?
Apparently he was the guy who made Spielberg
BRAD: I can’t go into detail. I just read a few articles back in my university days when i wrote an essay on the auteur theory. I’m sure Frank can help you out though ;-)
Sarris was a great critic though, no doubt.
Here’s an obit by Kenneth Tynan
that threw me for a loop, Frank, till i saw it was a typo and you meant Turan.
Girlfriend: Sorry about the Freudian slip/typo.
Brad: The issue with Sarris’s editorship at Cahiers du Cinema in English was not so much a matter of mistranslation but of misunderstanding the nuances of the early French “politique.” I don’t believe that the French critics intended auteurism to be a “theory,” per se. It was more of a way of ranking and evaluating films, based on the recurring personal Themes and Techniques of the directors. In fact, maybe Sarris didn’t really misunderstand; he may have wanted to go beyond Cahiers to establish a THEORY that would account for more than just a rating system.
He expanded on this in many essays, especially in “Notes on the Auteur Theory” (1962). He also used this “theory” to champion the Hollywood cinema, which the French also wanted to do—but in a slightly different way. They wanted to call attention to lesser-known American auteurs (Nick Ray, Fuller, etc.) or well-known directors who were only considered entertainers and not artists (Hitchcock, Hawks, etc.). Sarris seemed to want to argue that, overall, the American cinema was superior to the rest of the world — except at the very highest reaches of the Pantheon.
Sarris seemed to want to argue that, overall, the American cinema was superior to the rest of the world — except at the very highest reaches of the Pantheon.
I’m not sure this is true. In “Towards a Theory of Film History,” Sarris argues that the best Hollywood directors were the equals of the great directors of world cinema, but he also makes clear that, due to the language barrier, foreign films are overrated in the U.S. and, “[b]y the same token, American movies are often overrated abroad.” Sarris’s emphasis on American films was a deliberate attempt to compel Americans to take their own film tradition seriously. I think Sarris had a tendency to overstate his case sometimes, especially in his earlier, more strident, writings, and this tendency seems to have led to a lot of misinterpretations. (It’s also true that Sarris was constantly revising his opinions, usually softening the hard edges of his harshest pronouncements, so a statement about Sarris might be true for a certain period of his career but not for another.)
As for Sarris’s use of the word “theory,” I’d say it was another example of Sarris overstating his case a bit. Auterism was never really a “theory” in the sense that it could be tested or even formally defined. Sarris recognized this, writing in “Toward a Theory of Film History,” “Ultimately, the auteur theory is not so much a theory as an attitude, a table of values that converts film history into directorial autobiography.” He later came to almost completely disavow the term: “At this late date I am prepared to concede that auteurism is and always has been more a tendency than a theory, more a mystique than a methodology, more an editorial policy than an aesthetic procedure” ("The Auteur Theory Revisited).
Finally, as you can see in the interview to which Ruby helpfully links above, Sarris ultimately came to believe that the auteur theory had been too influential, causing many critics to overlook screenwriters completely: “Sometimes they don’t even mention the screenwriter. So it’s gone too much the other way since I wrote ‘Notes on the Auteur Theory, 1962.’” Interestingly, Sarris thought his theory had been too influential on directors as well: “There’s too much suspicion of well-written screenplays or anything even vaguely literary appearing on the screen. Every director has to show his wild visual style in order to establish himself and blaze a trail immediately.” If Sarris is right about this, and I think he undoubtedly is, it just goes to show how incredibly pervasive his emphasis on the director as the ultimate creative force behind a movie has come to be.
>>>>>> Sarris seemed to want to argue that, overall, the American cinema was superior to the rest of the world — except at the very highest reaches of the Pantheon.<<<<<<<<<
I suppose you could make this argument about virtually any critic (save John Simon, who’s saddled with living in WORLD of unbelievable mediocrity), but it’s certainly not true of Sarris. He’s written glowingly of Malle, Bresson and others…I don’t see anything that would lead me to think he favored any particular country’s cinema. Yes, he overpraised some things (e.g. EL DORADO, SEVEN WOMEN) but I found him to be one of the sanest of all critics for a very long time.
@JLC: The last clause in my pull-quote, “except at the very highest reaches of the Pantheon,” was an important one. To Sarris, Malle and Bresson (and his favorite, Ophuls) were in that Pantheon, so their (foreign) work was considered among the best in the world.
Boiled down, his argument was that by and large the American cinema was superior to other international films. Earlier, I may have misattributed the title of the essay in which he made these claims. I have in front of me his essay “A Theory of Film History,” which came after “Some Notes on the Auteur Theory.” Here are some direct quotes:
I. The Forest and the Trees
1. “Hollywood [is] a pejorative catchword for vulgar illusionism. … It connotes conformity rather than diversity, repetition rather than variation.” Then Sarris counters that argument.
2. The foreign film is better: Then Sarris counters that argument: “Hollywood can hold its own with the rest of the world. If there have been more individualized works from abroad, there have also been fewer competent ones. If Hollywood yields a bit at the summit, it completely dominates the middle ranges.”
II. The Auteur Theory
1. “The auteur theory is a theory of film history rather than film prophecy. Politique des auteurs referred originally to the policy at Cahiers to be for some diercvtors and against others. For Truffaut, the best film of Delannoy was less interesting than the worst film of Renoir.”
it just goes to show how incredibly pervasive his emphasis on the director as the ultimate creative force behind a movie has come to be.
I want to question that and say history was moving in that direction; Sarris gave voice to it.