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December 03, 2013


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Earlier this week, I read The New Republic's tribute to Stanley Kauffmann, in its November 11th issue, which consisted of reprinting several of his reviews over the decades. I wonder who selected them, perhaps Wieseltier, since praising WAG THE DOG, and being more dismissive LAST YEAR IN MARIENBAD, LOLA MONTES, THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG and TWO OR THREE THINGS I KNOW ABOUT HER does sound like what a professional neoliberal moralist would choose. I think the giveaway is the review of LA CHINOISE, where Kauffmann says "But the impression grows and persists that Godard is congenitally a bootlicker of young boots." That was never true, and everything after WEEKEND shows someone quite uninterested in compromising his vision for popular acclaim. But it's the kind of statement that someone (like Wieseltier) who knew little about cinema but disliked left-wing Frenchmen might think was clever.

James Keepnews

Kauffmann was an old-school humanist liberal whose connection to the theater was perhaps fatal for his film criticism, making him a little more forgiving of a superficial theatricality in, e.g., Hal Hartley than prepared to engage the aesthetics of provocation that inform every Godard. That said, he deserved a better homage than the meagre reprinting TNR/Lee Weasel permitted. And Film Socialisme is surely the work of the youngest mind in the room and its stature is sure to increase. Said it before, permit me to say it again: ALL subtitles are in "Navajo"! I.e., subtitling is inevitably an act of compression and elision, offering just a little bit of the facts logocentrically as a film sculpts its way across time. Has any other director ever leveraged this fact to such a formal imperative ONLY in the non-French speaking countries in which FS is shown? I suspect cinephiles in Cote d'Ivoire wonder what all the "Navajo" fuss is about, since they understand what the main characters are saying without them.

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