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The Noteworthy: "Psychos", In Conversation with Kent Jones, Critic Encyclopaedia

David Bordwell on James Agee, Steven Soderbergh cuts together Hitchcock and Van Sant's _Pyscho_, a strong defense of _Pompeii_, and more!

Edited by Adam Cook

  • During "The Noteworthy"'s three weeks on hiatus, a triptych of essential pieces by David Bordwell have appeared on his blog. One is a piece on the bridging of theory and practice in the cultural writings of Noël Carroll and others. The other two focus on the emergence of a new type of film criticism in the mid-20th century, signaled in particular by the great James Agee, Manny Farber, and Parker Tyler. Firstly, in what is already a sequel-article of sorts, Bordwell contextualizes the critical scene of the 1940s. Secondly, he hones in closer on Agee and his work:

"It’s terribly easy to be sentimental about Agee, and almost as easy to be hard on him. (Brutality, as Stroheim and Griffith knew, has its sentimental side.) But I think that reading him can do something rare in film criticism: He calls you to your best instincts. His dithering can be frustrating, and he often snaps open too many pipes in the sonorous organ of that style. Perhaps he’s best read in the adolescent window. Met at any time of life, like all good critics, he teaches us to look, listen, and feel more sensitively. As Parker Tyler put it in 1944, the viewer’s obligation is “to see as much as he can take away with him.” Now, seventy years later, Agee can still help us do our job."

  • Leave it to obsessive cutter Steven Soderbergh to mash up Hitchcock's and Van Sant's Pyschos.
  • Cinética has published a fascinating interview (in English!) with Nicole Brenez.

"The relationship between Milo and Cassia gains force as the disaster narrative takes over, the earlier doe eyes and sensitive-horseman claptrap disappearing as they cling to each other just to survive. Simple pantomime gestures exhibit greater force than anything in the clichéd script by Janet Scott Batchler, Lee Batchler, and Michael Robert Johnson (with an uncredited rewrite by Downton Abbey’s Julian Fellowes). A dying married couple embrace in the ruins, Atticus defiantly raises his fist before certain death, and Milo and Cassia sanctify their love in the inferno. It’s high melodrama, what many might describe as camp. Yet the grandiose power of the closing images—of a self-annihilating, all-consuming passion that will be preserved for centuries—obliterates the line between the ridiculous and the sublime."

  • Above: no doubt you've already seen this, and our intuition warns us it may be fake—but damn it if this isn't absolutely astonishing.
  • For his podcast "The Cinephiliacs," Peter Labuza talks to film critic & programmer Kent Jones about his views on film criticism, and specifically his plea for more context and definition in film writing and for less categorization and opposition. A must-listen!

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