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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: April ::
Re: Critical Encounters of the Negative Kind
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0711  Friday, 11 April 2003

[1]     From:   David Crosby <
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        Date:   Thursday, 10 Apr 2003 12:03:28 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 14.0697 Re: Critical Encounters of the Negative Kin

[2]     From:   Claude Caspar <
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        Date:   Thursday, 10 Apr 2003 14:11:12 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0697 Re: Critical Encounters of the Negative Kind


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Crosby <
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Date:           Thursday, 10 Apr 2003 12:03:28 -0500
Subject: 14.0697 Re: Critical Encounters of the Negative Kind
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.0697 Re: Critical Encounters of the Negative Kind

A propos the recent arguments about the relative merits of professional
and academic reviewers, the question whether there can be such a thing
as constructive criticism, and the assertions about the need to uphold
standards, I would like to offer the following excerpts from a film
review by A.O. Scott of the NY Times. Admittedly he is reviewing a
non-Shakespearean film, but I believe the point I am trying to make by
quoting his review is germane to the list: it is possible to write
criticism which is direct, opinionated, informative, and supportive of
standards of excellence, without resorting to churlishness and
pontification.

The film Scott is reviewing is "Fellini: I'm a Born Liar," a documentary
directed by Damian Pettigrew. He says, in part:

"In a posthumous appreciation in The New Yorker, Clive James wrote that
Fellini's 'individuality resided in his being able to see what was
universal about himself,' and that his ability to reflect his country
and his personality through the bright lens of his art made him 'one of
the great men of the modern world.'

"There are those who would quarrel with that assessment, and who might
even deny that Fellini should be counted among the great postwar Italian
filmmakers. I am not one of them, and neither, from what I gather, is
Damian Pettigrew, the director of 'Fellini: I'm a Born Liar,' which
opens today at Film Forum. Mr. Pettigrew's affection for Fellini and his
films animates this documentary and limits its appeal. Aficionados will
be enthralled by the master's ramblings and ruminations, thrilled at
behind-the-scenes glimpses of his working methods and delighted to
sample snippets of his movies, ones famous and obscure.

"But for skeptics and novices, the experience will be less than
satisfying: familiarity with Fellini's life and his oeuvre is assumed.
There is no biography beyond the restatement of some well-known facts:
he grew up in Rimini, the Italian seaside resort, and was married for
many years to Giulietta Masina, who starred in many of his pictures. The
film clips and interview subjects seem to have been selected
haphazardly, and are identified only at the end. Mr. Sutherland and
Roberto Benigni may be easy to recognize, but even the most passionate
devotees of Italian cinema may find it hard to identify Fellini's
off-camera collaborators--like the screenwriter Tullio Pinelli or the
cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno--by sight.

"Their contributions are nonetheless fascinating, and 'Fellini: I'm a
Born Liar' is best understood not as a biography but as a kind of master
class, a seminar in aesthetics conducted by Fellini, with ample and
intelligent footnotes supplied by Mr. Pettigrew. Fellini, impish and
eloquent, tends to explain his art either through abstractions or
discussions of technique. The art itself, however, is peerlessly,
magically sensual, and when we hear him talk about memory, dreams,
sexuality and fear it is helpful to see how these ideas have taken shape
in his movies.

"In addition to scenes from Fellini's movies, Mr. Pettigrew revisits
some of the locations where they were shot, as if to show the alchemical
transformation that Fellini's camera visited on his native landscape.
'I'm a sort of magician,' Fellini remarks--and also, he suggests, a
puppeteer, a scientist, a painter and a deity. After seeing this film,
you may not be content to take him at his word. Luckily, though, his
films supply the proof."

This kind of reviewing strikes me as admirably useful to a reader. It
may not satisfy those looking for polemics that fulminate for or against
a particular artist or interpretation we admire or hate, but it provides
me with a basis for judging whether or not I might want to see the film.
And though I am no great fan of Fellini (the only film I have ever
walked out on in disgust is "Fellini's Satyricon" and I did that twice),
the review gave me some appreciation for why others might see him
differently.

I wish reviews of Shakespearean productions might be so helpful, whether
written by academics or professionals, partisans or skeptics.

Cheers,
Dave

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Claude Caspar <
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Date:           Thursday, 10 Apr 2003 14:11:12 -0400
Subject: 14.0697 Re: Critical Encounters of the Negative Kind
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0697 Re: Critical Encounters of the Negative Kind

>>It appears that there are stories, and then there are Stories.<<

An interesting Proposition.  That said, and I only mention being in
Paris since this french keyboard is as annoying as anti-Bardolators, I
am reading an amazing book by Jan Assmann, a world-class Egyptologist,
"Moses the Egyptian- the memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism."  No, he
does not put forward the proposition that Moses wrote King John.  But,
for those with an interest in how, philosophically, history & memory
compete, & what survives, Assmann's first chapter, Mnemohistory & the
Construction of Egypt," with masterly footnotes, to which I graft
Naratology, reveals the nature of why & how tales, myths, persist &
appeal...

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