Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Flickers #6: R.I.P., Manny Farber

Manny Farber, recognized by the New York Times as one of the most gifted painters of his generation, also was a vastly influential film critic.

Farber's rangy reviews, which appeared in The New Republic, Artforum and other major publications, emphasized visual analysis, as longtime Village Voice critic J. Hoberman writes in a piece memorializing Farber, who died Aug. 18 at age 91.

He went his own way, as Hoberman points out: "Marching to the beat of his own drum, Farber was among the first American critics to appreciate Hollywood genre artists Howard Hawks and Don Siegel as well as European modernists R.W. Fassbinder and Chantal Akerman."

Hoberman's story includes his May 2006 profile on Farber. Arts critic Richard Woodward, writing about Farber in today's Wall Street Journal, calls him "a maddening original."

William Grimes, in a piece in the New York Times,calls Farber "a painter whose spiky, impassioned film criticism waged war against sacred cows like Orson Welles and elevated American genre-movie directors like Howard Hawks and Sam Fuller to the Hollywood pantheon."

Of course, as Grimes notes, Farber also attacked the likes of Hitchcock and Welles for creating work that was "art-infected." True, but I'd argue that those films benefited from that "infection."

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