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In Memory of Andrew Sarris

Monday, July 2, 2012   (1 Comments)
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SCMS wishes to acknowledge with sadness the death of Andrew Sarris (1928-2012), the influential film critic and professor who taught for decades (until 2011) at Columbia University, as well as more briefly at Yale, Julliard, and New York University.  For the past decade, the Columbia University Film Festival has honored the Professor Emeritus by presenting the Andrew Sarris Award for outstanding service and artistic achievement to distinguished alumni of the School of the Arts Film Program.  Andrew Sarris is survived by his wife, fellow film critic Molly Haskell, who he married in 1969.

Few working film critics have had the impact on the development of the discipline film studies as Sarris, whose 1962 Film Culture essay "Notes on the Auteur Theory” and 1968 book The American Cinema: Directors and Directions 1929-1968 followed the lead of the young French critics of Cahiers du Cinéma by championing the directors – elevated as "auteurs” -- who had worked in the commercial Hollywood studio system.  The American Cinema -- "surely the most audacious, influential and glorious single volume in U.S. film history,” according to Time magazine critic Richard Corliss, who took classes from Sarris at NYU – became the Bible of college film societies and launched heated debates over the ranking of specific figures within Sarris’ "whimsical” categories, as well as general questions of authorship that continue to animate both academic film studies and the popular understanding of cinema.   One measure of Sarris’s impact can be traced in the continual scholarly attention to filmmakers like John Ford, Howard Hawks, or Alfred Hitchcock after Sarris placed them in his "pantheon” of directors "with a personal vision of the world.”

Sarris served as an associate editor of Film Culture (1955-1965) and editor-in-chief of Cahiers du Cinéma in English (1965-1967), and Sarris eventually published and edited many more books, including one of the first extended studies of John Ford.  However, he was best-known for his regular reviews for the NY Film Bulletin and especially for The Village Voice, beginning in 1960 with a then-audacious defense of Hitchcock’s Psycho; between 1989 and 2009, he wrote reviews for the New York Observer, continually demonstrating a range of interests – including a lifelong devotion to French cinema – that extended well beyond the classical Hollywood films he helped to legitimate for film studies.

Comments...

Charles Warren says...
Posted Monday, July 23, 2012
He was right. - Charles Warren.

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