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New Republic Film Critic Stanley Kauffmann Dies at 97, Critics Write Tributes

New Republic Film Critic Stanley Kauffmann Dies at 97, Critics Write Tributes

The New Republic announced Wednesday that the magazine’s five-decade critic Stanley Kauffmann had died of pneumonia complications in New York: Noam Scheiber wrote: “RIP Stanley Kauffmann. A sad day for the cinephiles out there, and the TNR family.”  

It’s easy to say that this is sad news but the man was 97 years old. We should all be so lucky to last so long–he filed his last column in August, reviewing “Our Nixon,” “Israel: A Home Movie” and “Museum Hours.” However it is disturbing that the older critics in Gerald Peary’s 2009 documentary “For the Love of Movies” are dropping, one by one, from Roger Ebert to Andrew Sarris. 

Kauffmann was a key contributor in the culture wars of the 60s and 70s–along with other critics of his generation such as Sarris and Pauline Kael–to pushing movies and criticism into being taken seriously. In fact Kauffmann coined the phrase the Film Generation. He particularly boosted French New Wave auteurs such as Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard. New Yorker critic David Denby writes:

“Stanley electrified educated people with the news that movies had become one of the high arts again, and that there were contemporary works—by Bergman, Truffaut, Antonioni, and many other directors—the equal of the masterpieces of the silent era.”

A New York tribute is planned for Kauffmann, who wrote several film books and started his career as an editor at Knopf, where as Andrew Beaujon from Poynter Online pointed out, “he discovered Walker Percy’s ‘The Moviegoer.’”  

TNR’s runs tributes from Denby, James Wollcott and David Thomson. Here’s the NYT.  The Los Angeles Times obit is here. 

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Kauffmann was simply one of the greats of his field. Smart, savvy and never mean-spirited – all things few critics rarely maintain for such a long and fruitful career.
Over the past decade or so, Kauffmann foreswore reviewing most mainstream big budget films in favor of indies, foreign and documentary features. In other words, the very kinds of films that this website was made for.
I highly highly recommend that serious film fans seek out the several collected volumes of his reviews that are in print.

Chris L.

Blessings to all of Mr. Kauffmann's friends and loved ones, and may he rest in peace. Few can compare with his brand of erudition and even-handedness.

Since this post mentions Peary's documentary, I can't help but flash back to April of this year, on the occasion of Roger Ebert's passing, when Peary took it upon himself to post a "contrarian view" of Ebert's life work – belittling the deceased's critical acumen and blaming him for dumbing down the profession. (Peary's editor then chimed in with some like-minded smears, and proceeded to shut down all attempted responses from commenters.)

The whole thing seemed to emerge from a personal grudge of Peary's dating to the filming and promotion of the documentary, so I suppose Mr. Kauffmann's memory will not be in for the same kind of trampling. But it sticks in my craw (and a few others', I would imagine), and so I vent. Delete if you feel you must.

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