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The bible of film criticism...
on September 20, 2007
If you don't know this book, buy it immediately. It takes American film criticism up to about 1970 and coincides with the time Sarris was involved with the (real) Village Voice, Jonas Mekas, American Cahiers,and the founding of the NY Film Festival and the national society of film critics. It took me about five years of reading his reviews until I finally got it - Sarris had understood that the most profound thoughts and themes were played out with style and panache by genre filmmakers with personal obsessions and ideas that did not require Western Union to spell it out.
There's some things to quibble about (I never could see why he thought so highly of Blake Edwards, but I keep trying because I trust his insight. Even Sarris can change his mind as he did on Billy Wilder a few years back).
If you are a film buff and have not discovered his work (also recommended:
Confessions of a Cultist; The John Ford Mystery Book; You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet are among the best) start here. That goes double if you experience guilty pleasure and see things no one else does in people like Anthony Mann, Michael Powell, Sam Fuller, Max Ophuls, Budd Boetticher or James Whale. I have often given this book as a gift to film loving friends. It opens a world of discovery and rapport when a friends "gets it" and suddenly, you both have a shared sensibility and frame of reference.
Also, check out his website for yearly top ten lists and also the work of his wife Molly Haskell (especially good on Howard Hawks).