Influential film critic Andrew Sarris, who helped introduce a generation of American moviegoers to Europe’s new wave of directors in the 1960s and ’70s, died last week at the age of 83. His works greatly heightened awareness of the role of the film director. In his famous 1962 essay “Notes on the Auteur Theory,” he bought the term “auteur” (originated by the pioneering French critics of Cahier du Cinema into the American vernacular). His 1968 book, “The American Cinema: Directors and Directions 1929-1968,” brought attention to American studio directors and discovered the authorship of their works (a theory that never had been put forward before, since they were mainly employed as directors for hire). With contemporaries like Pauline Kael, with whom he famously feuded in print about a number of films, he championed such international directors as Federico Fellini and Ingmar Bergman, and Hollywood veteran directors such as Howard Hawks, John Ford and Alfred Hitchcock. He also helped champion a new generation of filmmakers in the 1970s, including Robert Altman and Martin Scorsese.
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