Cinema Station

Observations on Cinema by Andrew Sarris | July 14, 2012

After hearing of Andrew Sarris’ recent death and reading J. Hoberman’s remembrance of the important critic, I decided to get a copy of Sarris’ book The American Cinema. It is a comprehensive (as of 1968) list and dissection of American film and its directors, judged by the auteur theory to which Sarris was devoted. It’s a fun read for any movie goer as it provides plenty of opportunity to agree, disagree, and discover more about cinema. Here are some of my favorite excerpts from the book:

“Ford had more in common with Welles than anyone realized at the time. Ford was forty-six when he made How Green was my Valley and Welles was only twenty-five when he made Citizen Kane, but both films are the works of old men, the beginnings of a cinema of memory.”

“Howard Hawks is good, clean, functional cinema, perhaps the most distinctively American cinema of all.”

“Hawks has stamped his distinctively bitter view of life on adventure, gangster and private-eye melodramas, Westerns, musicals, and screwball comedies, the kind of thing Americans do best and appreciate least.”

“The Fordian hero knows why he is doing something even if he doesn’t know how. The Hawksian hero knows how to do what he is doing even if he doesn’t know why. The Walshian hero is less interested in the why or the how than in the way. He is always plunging into the unknown, and he is never too sure what he will find there.”

“Welles is concerned with the ordinary feelings of extraordinary people and Hitchcock with the extraordinary feelings of ordinary people.”

“George Stevens was a minor director with major virtues before A Place in the Sun and a major director with minor virtues after.”

“Cecil B. De Mille may have been the last American director who enjoyed telling a story for its own sake.”

“Richard Brooks has a bad habit of saying what he means without showing what he feels.”

“Perhaps more than any other director, Michael Curtiz reflected the strengths and weaknesses of the studio system in Hollywood.”

“It is too early to establish any coherent pattern to Allan Dwan’s career, but it may very well be that Dwan will turn out to be the last of the old masters.”

-TM

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