Thursday, January 19, 2012

Forgotten Books: The American Cinema by Andrew Sarris

Ed here: I'm going through some health problems which is why I haven't been posting the last few nights. I'm feeling better but the issues haven't been resolved as yet.

Forgotten Books: The American Cinema by Andrew Sarris

There was a time in my life, college age and maybe a decade after, when I took Andrews Sarris' opinions of American films and American filmmakers pretty much as gospel. Times and people change. I bought a copy in a dime bin and looked through it and realized that it is in fact a rather pedantic and downright goofy survey of American films.

Sarris sensibly enough divides his opinions into chapters with headings such as Pantheon Directors, The Far Side of Paradise and Less Than Meets The Eye and so on. Hard to disagree with his Pantheon which includes Keaton, Chaplin, Ford, Ophuls and so on. With one exception that is. He includes Fritz Lang in the Pantheon and then in Less Than Meets The Eye dumps on Billy Wilder. What? There are few directors who have captured their AMERICAN time better than Wilder. The Lost Weekend, Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, Ace In The Hole, The Seven Year Itch, Some Like It Hot,The Apartment...I take nothing away from Lang, though his self-mythologizing got tiresome. He is certainly a major director. But as far as serious accomplishments go...Lang but not Wilder in this so-called Pantheon?

He also dumps on, among others, Robert Aldrich, Robert Wise, Nicholas Ray, Preston Sturges and Anthony Mann--good sometimes but not good enough for the Pantheon. Really? Preston Sturges not as "good" as Ernest Lubitsch? Not even Sturges would have claimed he was. And Wilder doesn't belong even on this list?

Sarris is at his most readable when he deals with directors he considers sub-human. Peckinpah, Roger Corman, Curtis Harrington and Ida Lupino. He has cordial fun with them and sees merit in their assumed irrelevance.

But unfortunately then it's back to the pot shots. Under the Heading "Strained Seriousness" we have...Stanley Kubrick? Really Stanley Kubrick?

Be warned: You'll neeed a lot of Prozac for this one. And your dental bill will shoot up because of all your teeth gnashing.'

10 comments:

Bill Crider said...

Take care, Ed!

Jerry House said...

Ditto what Bill said.

Ronald Tierney said...

Glad your back. Missed my daily read.

Cap'n Bob said...

Feel better soon, Ed.

Martin Edwards said...

I agree with you about Billy Wilder - one of the greats. Hope you're soon feeling better.

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Cullen Gallagher said...

Sorry to hear about the health problems, hope they are resolved soon.

I remember picking this up for a couple bucks in a used bookstore in Maine when I was in 8th or 9th grade. It was very important to me at the time for the lists. It was a great way to get titles of movies to track down. As soon as I started watching them, I realized I didn't agree with him, but it did still serve its function as forming somewhat of a canon of American film history. He wasn't always right, and he could be downright annoying at times, but it was a great place for a teenager to start learning about film.

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Gary said...

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