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David Bordwell: How 1940s Critics Changed American Film Culture

Jun 24 — Jun 26, 2016

The Rhapsodes, the new book by David Bordwell, America’s preeminent film scholar, looks at the pioneering work of four film critics—James Agee, Manny Farber, Otis Ferguson, and Parker Tyler—who radically transformed the way that films were discussed. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, they honed the sort of discussion that would be made popular later by Pauline Kael, Andrew Sarris, Roger Ebert, and others. James Agee, who went on to become a screenwriter, wrote lyrically and passionately. Manny Farber, trained as a painter, brought an idiosyncratic pictorial intelligence to his film reviews. Otis Ferguson revealed Hollywood cinema as an engaging, adroit mode of popular storytelling. And the surrealist Parker Tyler treated movies as collective hallucinations that can be viewed with subversive pleasure. Bordwell’s book takes a lively tour through their work.