Below filmmaker/writer Peter Bogdanovich (who heads his own blog on Indiewire) reflects on the passing of Andrew Sarris, the famed film critic responsible for introducing the auteur theory to America. Sarris died June 20 in New York.
The passing of Andrew Sarris brings to a close an entire era in film culture. It was largely through his efforts and writings that the French New Wave viewpoint on American directors came to our shores. Mistranslated as “the auteur theory,” the position of the French was hardly a theory, it was a political statement. And when Andy came out with his first blast, the famous Spring 1963 “American Directors” issue of Film Culture magazine, it had a tremendous impact on picture criticism in the United States. Even though Pauline Kael in The New Yorker attacked Sarris and his opinions, the resulting controversy only intensified the debate. Then, in 1968, Sarris published an expanded, amended and definitive version of his position: "The American Cinema: Directors and Directions 1929-1968," and this encyclopedic work became our country’s most influential piece of picture criticism: eventually, all film critics essentially embraced the so-called “auteur theory,” and pretty soon everyone was an auteur. Through his extensive writings in The Village Voice, and later, The New York Observer, as well as in other books he published, and his teaching at Columbia University and other notable institutions, Sarris’ influence continued to hold its primary place in U.S. film criticism.