Saturday, June 26, 2004


I can't believe it took me this long, but I finally own James Agee's collection of film crit Agee on Film. What's great about Agee--who wrote about film from 1942-1948 for both Time and The Nation--is that his writing is usually more remarkable than the film he's covering. Pauline Kael was lucky and got to write about profoundly great films. Agee was often covering bland WWII pictures. But the man can write.

I especially love this excerpt from an essay on John Huston. (OK, so he wasn't always covering blah films.) Agee might be explicitly addressing Huston and his work, but it seems to speak to all great filmmaking.

"Most movies are made in the evident assumption that the audience is passive and wants to remain passive; every effort is made to do all the work--the seeing, the explaining, the understanding, even the feeling... Huston's pictures are not acts of seduction or of benign enslavement but of liberation, and they require, of anyone who enjoys them, the responsibilities of liberty. They continually open the eye and require it to work vigorously; and through the eye they awaken curiosity and intelligence. That, by any virile standard, is essential to good entertainment. It is unquestionably essential to good art."


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