Project Status Report 2: Finding More Contemporary Film Reviews

2009 August 20
by Zachary McCune

In the futher adventures of finding film reviews, I have been helped tremendously by Brown Librarian All-Star Rosemary Cullen who has got me back on the hot trail to finding all of the Film Reviews of my dreams.

First, Rosemary pointed me to the Josiash subject heading “Motion Pictures- Reviews” which is loaded with goodies. Also of great interest is an online, international database of reviews called This database brought results that I had missed, including the New York Times review (by my hero Vincent Canby) of “Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion”.

New Sources of Note

- “May ‘68 and Film Culture”

An incredible volume published by the British Film Institute, this text is most special because it contains a number of of contemporary film reviews/essays that compliment the struggle of the students and cineastes in May ‘68. Most helpful is a “History” translated from Cahiers du Cinema, and a 1972 article from Le Monde that traces the interdependence of French Lefist Politics and Film Journals.

- “Grierson on the Movies”

John Grierson was an early film critic and documentary filmmaker. He gets a lot of credit for being the first person to bring “Battleship Potemkin” to the US. In this anthology, we find a great deal of his reviews including a really strong section on Russian Cinema. He has a wonderful essay on “Man With a Movie Camera” in which he discuss the transformative power of Vertov and how “for year’s” he has seen filmmakers come back from seeing the Kino-Eye with a “wild-eyed look.” (Essay on Pages 139-145).

- “Something to Declare, Twelve Years of Film from Abroad”

- Because most of this course’s filmography falls into that prodigious period of cinema that lasts from the mid sixties to the late seventies, this anthology is truly invaluable. While it does represent an American critical perspective (alas that I cannot escape the US) the critic, John Simon, is from Eastern Europe, and his range of reviews is amazing. In this volume there are reviews fo:

— Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion

— The Conformist

— The Sorrow and The Pity

— The Spirit of The Beehive

— 1900

All of these reviews, I believe, were published in New York Magazine.

- “Movies into Film, 1967 - 1970″

1967 - 1970 is the real epicenter of the course, so it comes with great appreciation that John Simon has given us this much  material. In this gem of an anthology, the Yugoslav born, New York bred film critic deals with:

— Teorema - Opening Line of the review, “If Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Teorema is not the worst film ever made, you can’t blame it for not trying.”

— Zabriskie Point

— La Chinoise

— Sympathy for the Devil (Which he HATES)

— Loves of a Blonde

— Closely Watched Trains

So What’s Missing?

In a phrase, an international perspective. Currently, I have been constrained by a certain anglo-american gravity that continually pulls me back into the orbit of the British and American film criticism collections. At best I can manage a few French articles, but beyond that, forget about it. Hopefully some knowledgable Professors in the Italian department can get me some sources, and I will feel content.

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