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Introducing: The Moviegoer

Introducing: The Moviegoer

The Library of America, which published the essential anthology “American Movie Critics: From the Silents Until Now,” and a collection of James Agee’s film criticism, continues its devotion to the critical art form with The Moviegoer, a newly launched web publication that will feature biweekly essays from critics on movies with literary connections. As they explain, “In this biweekly column, top writers champion memorable films to watch or watch again, all inspired by or related to classic works from the Library of America. The hero of Walker Percy’s novel ‘The Moviegoer’ writes that he’s ‘quite happy in a movie, even a bad movie.’ But his favorite moments usually come from great entertainments like ‘The Third Man’ and ‘Stagecoach’ ‘The Moviegoer’ salutes movies of that caliber. We hope these choices make you, too, quite happy.”

The maiden essay by Michael Sragow, who edited the LoA’s Agee volume, focuses on Michael Mann’s “The Last of the Mohicans,” adapted from the novel by James Fenimore Cooper. He writes:

“Mann packs so many levels into the action that he often introduces it with impassioned tableaux: cannoneers slowly haul their heavy artillery while French soldiers dig trenches that will bring these big guns within close range of the fort; a thick red line of British soldiers march through a forest trail without realizing that Hurons are waiting to surprise them on either side. The action ensues with startling clarity. There isn’t a wasted slash or shot, so each one carries the impact that an entire fusillade would in a lesser film.””But this movie is more than a vigorous exercise in kinetic style. It’s also a triumph for Mann’s iconic and iconoclastic sensibility. Mann considers Cooper’s novel a ‘cartoon’ vision of frontier life in 1757. In his view, it depicts ‘nice’ Native Americans like Chingachgook and Uncas as “noble savages” who are “inefficient stewards” of their land and thus not worthy of its ownership. And, Mann reminded me, Cooper’s father was Judge William Cooper, the founder of Cooperstown, New York, who, according to Cooper biographer Stephen Railton, ‘claimed to have been responsible for settling more acres of American forest than any man of his time.’ Mann sees the book as ‘a whitewash of land grabs and cultural imperialism.'”

Here’s a schedule of future “The Moviegoer” installments.

2/10 • Carrie Rickey on The Age of Innocence

2/24 • Michael Sragow on The Maltese Falcon

3/9 • Terrence Rafferty on The Innocents

3/23 • Farran Smith Nehme on Little Women

4/6 • Michael Sragow on Billy Budd

4/20 • Harold Schechter on True Crime in American cinema

5/4 • David Denby on The Heiress

5/18 • Charles McGrath on The Thin Man

6/1 • Michael Sragow on Member of the Wedding

6/15 • Megan Abbott on Laura

6/29 • Wendy Lesser on Purple Noon

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