For half a century, the Village Voice has set the gold standard for serious film coverage. The New York City alternative weekly has boasted three of America’s best critics–Jonas Mekas, Andrew Sarris, and J. Hoberman–and the backup reviewers have been nearly as good. In the pieces collected here, they turn their acumen to some 150 films, from Bunuel’s L’Age d’Or and Vigo’s Zero for Conduct to Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence, from meritorious crowd-pleasers like Chi…
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3 thoughts on “The Village Voice Film Guide: 50 Years of Movies from Classics to Cult Hits”
I pretty much became a cinema studies major at American University in the 1980’s because the Village Voice film critics had taken an unfocused love of film and set it on fire. Nevermind that I never got the degree and switched over to journalism. Andrew Sarris, for me, was the greatest teacher of film I’ve ever known, and he did it in a way that combined theoretics, ideology and description with . . . passion and joy. I got excited about what he talked about. I argued and agreed with him and his quirks. I found his wife, Molly Haskell, through reading him. I began to drift to the New York Times for more reviews. I began to see how some people wrote seriously, and others rehashed the plot and then said whether the film was any good or not. This led to thumbs up and thumbs down, which is what we pretty much have today. I remember reading B. Ruby Rich and being absolutely fascinated by her feminist spins. I remember hating Georgia Brown, because she seemed so simple, until I realized she was quite strong. I fell in love with J. Hoberman because he was so knowledgable and so sensible. I began to love the critics as much as the movies because, to me, some of them packed the same emotional and intellectual impact as the films they were writing about. The dialogue about film was written by those with fiercely intelligent views and passion for the art. Now, a chain publisher called New Times has gone in and pretty much raped the Village Voice and set up its puppet government. New York, when you visit now, has pretty much become a playground for the rich and an outlet center for retail giants. The city is most famous for its one constant — change — but the organic humanity has been ripped out and replaced with something sponsored by something. The working class, the bohemia, the art, the crazies, the entire street life that made it so thrilling for so many, many decades is just plain gone. The hangouts aren’t for the flowering of ideas, but for the empty-headedness of the pickup. CBGBs is gone. Just about everything is a cartoon memory of what came before. Only Wall Street remains and maybe the doorman district, because even though money changes everything, money, itself, never changes. This new guide by the great Village Voice writers now becomes a tombstone, not a living, breathing extension and completed chapter in an ongoing story of criticism. The Village Voice you see in New York now is one of 17 publications in a miserable chain, and some of the critics — including, apparently the film editor — aren’t even based in New York, but, rather, writing for all the rags. So, I would say take this away and enjoy it, learn from it and find new films. When in New York, don’t pick up the Voice and think you are reading something of the city, anymore, though. It, too, is a hollow facade.
A must-have guide for any cinemaphile. Readers will devour 150 reviews of classic films by renown contributors Jay Hoberman, Michael Atkinson, Jonas Mekas, Georgia Brown, Andrew Sarris, Amy Taubman, and several by Dennis Lim. The Village Voice remains the foremost alternative newspaper in the country. You’ll find a distinct difference in approach and opinion rendered by Village Voice contributors than say by contributors to the SF Chronicle or other mainstream media. Village Voice film reviews take an entirely different intellectual spin.
In this collection,you’ll discover a notable review and letter exchange between critic Jonas Mekas and the late John Cassavettes about SHADOWS. Mekas championed Cassavettes original version of SHADOWS screened in 1958 and basically panned a reshot/recut version completed in 1959. Jay Hoberman contributes a review in June 2003 due to a restored version of SHADOWS which was premiering at Anthology’s Jonas Mekas Theater. The next update from Hoberman comes in 2004 with the rediscovery of the original 1958 film he refers to as “ur-Shadows.” Interestingly, this original “ur-Shadows” film was “turned down by Sundance” and premiered at Rotterdam Film Festival. Hoberman says that the 1959 film “is not a virtual remake” as Mekas suggested when he disowned the film. These pages leave you wanting more about the story-behind-the-story of this “lost”version of SHADOWS—and its ur-Sudden reappearance.
This volume contains some of the best examples in film criticism by some of the most important and influential American critics of the past 50 years. It covers not only the recent films of its day but includes reviews of all the retrospectives of classic films. A must-have for film buffs, film historians, and film writers…