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Film critic Stanley Kauffmann dies

2013-10-10 08:54
stanley kauffmann
New York - Stanley Kauffmann, the erudite critic, author and editor who reviewed movies for The New Republic for more than 50 years, wrote his own plays and fiction, and helped discover the classic novels Fahrenheit 451 and The Moviegoer, died on Wednesday. He was 97.

Kauffmann died of pneumonia at St Luke's Hospital in Manhattan, said Adam Plunkett, assistant literary editor at The New Republic.

Kauffmann started at The New Republic in 1958 and remained there — except for a brief interlude — for the rest of his life, becoming one of the oldest working critics in history. He wrote during a dynamic era that featured the rise of the French New Wave and the emergence of such American directors as Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg. He was among the last survivors of a generation of reviewers that included The New Yorker's Pauline Kael and the Village Voice's Andrew Sarris, idols of the "Film Generation," so-called by Kauffmann himself.

"I think it is the end of an era, and the passing of an extraordinary writer who had seen silent films as a boy and kept up with the most advanced pictures of the 21st century," David Thomson, a fellow film critic at The New Republic, wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "He was a superb critic and a very kind and generous man.

"But I know he would have said: 'End of an era? What nonsense. We advance!'"

Favourite films

Never as famous as Kael or Sarris, Kauffmann still had a dedicated following, with admirers including Susan Sontag and Roger Ebert, who once called him "the most valuable film critic in America". He received an Emmy in 1964 for his commentary on WNET-TV and a Polk Award for film criticism in 1982. His theatre reviews brought him a George Jean Nathan Award in 1974.

The kind of critic who preferred the word "film" to "movies", Kauffmann was far more skeptical of popular culture than was Kael, with whom he (and so many other reviewers) occasionally feuded. He did not share her passion for The Godfather ("an aggrandised gangster film") or Nashville ("a superior book-club novel").

In recent years, he didn't bother with Avatar or other blockbusters, reasoning that they would manage fine without him. He did spread the word about such foreign-language releases as the Russian musical Hipsters, a documentary about German painter Gerhard Richter and the Israeli family drama Footnote.

When the American Film Institute was compiling a list of the 20th century's best movies, Kauffmann declined to participate, worrying he would be "trampled under the thundering herd" of opinions with which he disagreed.

His favorite films included Citizen Kane, Fellini's and Carl Theodor Dreyer's La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc ("The Passion of Joan of Arc"). He also kept up on cinema from Africa, Asia and the Middle East. His review in 2012 of the Japanese documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, about a dedicated and ageless restaurateur, seemed to capture some of Kauffmann's feelings about his own work.

"Devotions differ, from the monumental to the personal; but whatever it is, so long as it is not antisocial, we generally feel good when we see it in practice," Kauffmann wrote. "It seems to be what each of us should have for completion but what not everyone is lucky enough to find."

Kauffmann married Laura Cohen in 1943. They had no children.

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