Kent Jones, critic and Associate Programmer for the Film Society of Lincoln Center, has assembled a twelve day tribute to the painter and critic Manny Farber. This past August, I read Ray Pride’s Movie City Indie and was sad to learn of Farber’s death . Although Farber was unsentimental and lived into his 90’s, it felt at the time as though cinema had lost something, but something indelible; Farber was one of the best writers and cinematic thinkers we’ve ever produced. Leave it to a painter, a visual artist, to get inside the process of a film, to show us the richness of feeling (and the depth of failure) that can spring forth when you wrestle with yourself as much as with the movie itself. My writing on this blog is a minor failure on so many levels; I write when I’m rushed, always eager to bring a personal point of view, always trying to be relevant in the massive rush toward the looming deadline (the end of the festival, the release of the film, the on-line tsunami of critical response that I am dying to read). Farber, for me anyway, provides both a corrective to my own 21st century cinephilia, where the speed of consumption is as important as the quality of it, and an inspiration to be better; to sit down and write in order to understand a movie and myself. Take your time, be precise, say what you really mean and, most importantly, know what you’ve seen.
I am very excited that Kent Jones and the Film Society are taking Farber’s body of work (both as a painter and a critic) and giving moviegoers the chance to put it in its proper context. The series, Manny Farber, 1917-2008, begins this Friday November 14 and ends on Wednesday November 26, and features not only some of the films that Farber championed as a critic but also a rare chance to see Paul Schrader’s document of Farber’s work as a painter, Untitled: New Blue., on the big screen (with Schrader in attendance, naturellement). There are some truly exciting films among the bunch, including Robert Bresson’s Mouchette (one of the cinema’s greatest achievements), two films from the 1960’s by Jean-Marie Straub (Not Reconciled or Only Violence Helps Where Violence Rules and The Bridegroom, the Comedienne and the Pimp, which I can’t wait to see), Alain Renais’ 1963 Muriel, and one of Farber’s favorite filmmakers, Raoul Walsh, here represented twice with 1939’s The Roaring Twenties and 1932’s Me And My Gal.
Raoul Walsh’s Me And My Gal
One of the great things about this series is how, on any given day, the program yields diverse, untold riches. I forsee some serious time at the Walter Reade in my future. In preparation for the series, a few links (and lots of reading) to get you in the mood, but no matter what, take some time to check this program out. Grab your copy of Negative Space and engage.
Rouge Magazine Online Appreciation of Manny Farber
GreenCine’s Gathering of Remembrances
A large preview of Farber’s Negative Space, at Google Books (Hint: be choosy)