In the early 1960s, when I was an undergraduate, I first began reading Stanley Kauffmann in The New Republic, and I got pulled into his eloquent enthusiasms for the exciting new art coming to the States from Italy, France, Sweden, Japan, and Eastern Europe. “There was a masterpiece almost every week!” I heard him exclaim about ten years ago—a little hyperbolically, perhaps, but it felt that way at the time.
Stanley Kauffmann and I went way back together, without ever having met. The New Republic was the first magazine I subscribed to as a high school teen, and Kauffmann the first film critic I regularly read. He was my introducer to Ingmar Bergman, Francois Truffaut, Claude Chabrol, and, for me the crowning name, Yasujiro Ozu. At that avid, foraging stage in my self-education, I barely registered that there were other critics sitting in their cockpits feasting on the images whooshing by, apart from the phrase-snapping stunt pilots at Time and Newsweek, w
Among the duties that new Back of the Book assistant editors find on their roster when they first arrive at The New Republic: Go to New York—particularly, the penthouse of a West Village apartment building. It was there that Stanley Kauffmann lived for many years, and where he would welcome, every few years or so, the culture pages’ newest recruit, serving slightly warm apple juice and candied pecans, or, if the hour had passed a certain, sliding point in the afternoon, white wine. These appetizers were nothing, though, compared to what he had to offer in conversation.
The New Republic mourns the death of our beloved film critic, Stanley Kauffmann
Abraham Zapruder had gone to work that morning without his Bell & Howell 8mm movie camera. He was 58, the owner of a clothing company, Jennifer Juniors, so he couldn’t remember everything. He was Russian and Jewish, born in Kovel in 1905. Then someone in the office reminded him, “Oh, Mr. Zapruder, you should get your camera.” So he went home and retrieved it, a Zoomric Director Series model, 414PD, a spiffy job for November 22, 1963.
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A thursday afternoon, late in August, in southwestern Colorado. It has rained and it will rain again. That “it” here, the weather, has a mind of its own, generous but perilous, too, because it can change so fast. The mud is dusky red. The air is thick and sour, like horseradish. Outside the small town, in hay meadows, a man is exercising two black Labrador dogs. They stretch out in the light like race horses before Muybridge had proved the tucking up of legs in animal locomotion, and then they turn over and roll in the damp grass.
On the highways where 55 mph prevails, where drivers must wear safety belts, not use a cell phone, not be intoxicated, must not be having sex with anyone in the front seat, must have a license, insurance, not to mention a parking spot, here we go with Rush (Ron Howard’s new film). In that one word, all the discipline is sucked out in the slipstream, and reckless excitement is worshipped yet again. Driving is as practical and mechanical as it should be, hedged in by legality, carbon footprints, staying one side of the road or another, and GPS.
About forty minutes into the picture, my wife whispered, “I think I’m leaving.”“You are?” I asked with envy or admiration.“It’s ridiculous and revolting,” she said.“That’s being gentle,” I said.She reminded me that she is gentle and asked if I was coming too.“I can’t,” I hissed. “I’ve got to write about it.”“If only they knew, you’d be so much kinder if you didn’t have to see it.”
Director Haifaa al-Mansour insists Wadjda, her movie about a Saudi girl who marches to the beat of her own drum, which opens in the U.S. Friday, isn’t a “feminist film.” That may be why it’s such a good one.
The real reason people go to Telluride.