Two days ago, David Phelps and I had the privilege to sit down and talk to Dave Kehr, who we consider to be one of America's best film critics. Luckily for us all, Kehr is still writing criticism; he currently writes regularly for the New York Times and casually hosts a small and impassioned film discussion community on his website, davekehr.com. He is now publishing a wonderful book of his criticism from the 1970s and 1980s in a collection called "When Movies Mattered: Reviews from a Transformative Decade", which includes terrific pieces on City of Pirates, Raoul Walsh (re-printed here), Risky Business, Carl Th. Dreyer, When a Woman Ascends the Stairs, and many more. It is essential reading: crisp, clear prose that leads the reader through a film or a filmmaker's work, characterizing and encapsulating, providing evidence simply, accurately, and expressively. On the occasion of the book's publication, the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens is showing a series of films Kehr has programmed this weekend, including the absolutely remarkable discovery of Raoul Walsh's 1933 picture Sailor's Luck, shown above, screening Saturday.
David and I simply wanted to chat with Dave, get to know him and talk about his book and the accompanying series of films, and so The Notebook's first podcast is a bit of an unofficial affair, intended to be casual and meandering, including some New York color in the form of blaring police sirens, and clocking in at just over an hour. We hope you enjoy the disussion.
Topics include: The book's title ,"When Movies Mattered", movie-going in the late 1970s and early 1980s; auteurist culture wars, Hitchcock and Dressed to Kill; Howard Hawks, Land of the Pharoahs, a shower of fake plastic gold; early Raoul Walsh, Sailor's Luck, Walsh's chaos and directorial style, deep space, The Man Who Came Back, auteurship; journeyman directors; lost films and new forms of distributing cinema's history; Kehr's role as a critic now, advocacy, analytic criticism; William A. Seiter, Sons of the Desert, Laurel & Hardy; the influence of Arlene Croce's writing, critical styles, the audience for criticism about older films; David's traveling retrospective utopia in Europe, European film preservation and culture and that of America; writing for the New York Times, the ideal critical piece, film criticism as emotional responses, using the first person in writing, the job of a critic; Lindsay Lohan's Confessions of a Shopaholic, reviewing; "When Movies Mattered" painting a picture of an era; contemporary cinema, David Fincher, The Social Network, craftsman directors, picking your feet in Poughkeepsie, speed and efficiency of film, and movie runtimes.