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March 09, 2010

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Brian

Albert, for me it was more a reminder than an exact comparison-- when I read Glenn's post that's what I flashed on, the peculiar mixture of openness, arrogance, attack and request that that particular letter from Godard displays. My comment was one I wrote quickly and almost as an aside, rather than a fully thought-out thesis, and you are right to note the complexities and contradictions, the mixtures of the personal, the aesthetic and the political that existed in the friendship and rupture between Godard and Truffaut (and, as you also note, the period as a whole). I have great respect and admiration for the work of both men-- it's not an exaggeration to say their films changed my life, actually--and the comparison I wanted to make was more one of tone in those exchange than a one-to-one, "White=Godard" equation. I apologize if my dashed-off message gave the impression I felt otherwise-- whatever his qualities as a critic (and the personal details of his attack on Baumbach, which I didn't know about, are reprehensible), White is never going to touch me the way PIERROT LE FOU or a dozen other Godard movies do (and however much Godard's statements and postures might annoy me, they're never going to completely wipe out how I feel about his work). I'm not sure the "Tradition of Quality" comparison works for me-- I think I see where you're going, but whatever its merits or problems, that's a gorgeously wrought piece of writing that Truffaut worked and reworked under Bazin's watchful eye, while the email Glenn posted seems much more dashed-off and ill-prepared (as various posters here have detailed).

Anyway, I wanted to respond to your thougtful response, but also feel like I've ended up taking up more space in Glenn's comments section than I ever intended. So I will, henceforth, vamoose.

White

As reader of New York film reviews in the 90s, I remember the “feud” between Armond White and Georgia Brown and research produced this letter exchange from the Village Voice in 1996. I cut and pasted it on to the comments on IFC blog about this, but thought you and your readers might be interest too:


Should I have let a sleeping dog lie? Georgia Brown's January 9, 1996 accusation that I misquoted her in my book The Resistance: Ten Years of Pop Culture That Shook the World needed correction. (She specifically asked for it.) So I sent one letting her know she was referring to the wrong review and requesting a retraction.
Since none was ever printed, this letter is my only recourse against Brown's privilege to make whatever false statements she pleases in her movie column. Ego means never having to say you're sorry, tasteless, and racist.

For the record: Brown indeed expressed "antipathy to and impatience with films about people of color" (The Resistance, page 121). In The Village Voice of May 23,1989, she wrote: "Product of a very Old Realism, For Queen and Country brings apocalypse to a London housing project. Predictable from the titles on, all this film requires of viewers is that they sit still and endure the inevitable. Recent movies I winced and squirmed through with a similar mounting desire to flee the theater were Salaam Bombay! and Chocolat... [T]he premise remains the same: Watch the handsome, brooding, dark-faced hero be done in by inexorable social forces... "

Brown insults the editors of Film Comment (where my essay first appeared) and my publisher, The Overlook Press, by claiming that my reference to her was false. Here's the truth in black and white. Snide self-defense follows.

ARMOND WHITE Manhattan


GEORGIA BROWN REPLIES:
White accuses me of "false statements" yet never supplies one. I didn't say he "misquoted" me; I objected that he did not quote me. This is his original offensive passage: "When the once 'liberal-' Village Voice recently printed film reviewer Georgia Brown's blithe admission of her antipathy to and impatience with films about people of color, it's clear that our film culture is mired in barely understood racism. Brown instead glossed over The Last Crusade's political themes to make knee-jerk accusations of sexism-the only ethical issue most white critics seem to care about." (No wonder l thought he referred to my review of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.) Six months later, White sent me out-of-context sentences from my For Queen and Country review, which, in fact, show impatience only with three specific movies that use race and people cheaply or sadistically. I wrote back suggesting he use the Voice letter forum. Every sentence of White's defense is devious. The Overlook Press seems aptly named.


Within a year, White would “review” Noah Baumbach’s 1997 film Mr. Jealousy by claiming that anything favorable written about it or any of Baumbachs films was just a favor to the filmmaker’s mother by her critic friends. Instead, he said the film called for “retroactive abortion.”

Ok, this may not be Watergate but something stinks. It seems stupid to ban Armond White from screenings and give him the attention he desires and the ability to use it to suggest he has the moral high ground, but it also seems highly unethical for The New York Press to publish any reviews of, or commentaries on, Baumbach’s films by this guy.

It’s one thing to be a provocateur and contrarian trying to shake up cultural consensus and it’s quite another to disguise seething resentments and personal animosity as cultural criticism.


PS My real name really is White but no relation.

Anonymous

Oh, it was all so stupid to begin with. Georgia Brown identified what she took to be an unfortunate tendency in three films about race, which Armond White inflated into "antipathy to and impatience with films about people of color." It's not a matter of whether she was right or wrong about this or that movie - I like CHOCOLAT myself, and I guess I sort of like SALAAM BOMBAY - but the fact that she was speaking very precisely and that White falsified her position. She simply did not say what he claims she said. He has an addiction to drawing lines in the sand.

He really should exempt himself from reviewing Noah Baumbach movies.

Mike D

The "politics" of "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade"? WTF?

Joe

Every time one of these dust ups happens it makes me laugh because the publicists are not even remotely occupied with this type of fallout after they've made such a decision - which may or may not (often not) carry over to the next film or the many to come after, which they are already working on.

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