Trechos de um debate sobre Farber:
IN HIS 1957 ESSAY “Hard-Sell Cinema,” Manny Farber talks about “the businessman-artist”: someone who “has the drive, patience, conceit, and daring to become a successful non-conforming artist without having the talent or idealism for rebellious creation.” Farber names Dave Brubeck and Stan Getz in jazz, Larry Rivers and Franz Kline in painting, Salinger, Bellow, and Cheever in the novel, Paddy Chayefsky, Delbert Mann, and Elia Kazan in movies. It’s one of many pieces in Negative Space where you get the idea Farber was in a bad mood pretty much from the beginning of the ’50s to the end.
In particular Farber talks about New Yorker short-story writers. And he goes on and on and on until he gets to a phrase about “ideas impossible to understand because they come through a fog of stupidity.” When I first read that sentence in 1971 or 1972, I found it absolutely terrifying. I found a lot of Negative Space terrifying.
One of the things that I found scariest were the pieces in which Farber went through the work of a particular person, like Howard Hawks, in three or four pages. Just like that–boom, boom, boom, in and out. Like somebody walking through a room and looking around, going in one door and out the other.
The idea, the arrogance, the sense that there were only a certain number of things that really needed to be said and that I, Manny Farber, know what they are, and here they are, and out the door. That was terrifying. It seemed like half of what he wrote was in a five-minute vein, even if it took seven minutes to read.
“Ideas impossible to understand because they come through a fog of stupidity.” It’s scary for a writer to come across a sentence that so plainly says what it means, in which the prose is so exquisitely balanced, and you take pleasure in the way the words are put together, and you worry that you’ve written things about which something like that could be said over and over and over again.
Walter Benjamin once said that an author who teaches a writer nothing teaches nobody anything. One thing that I think happens for many writers reading Farber is that they feel themselves on trial. They feel this same scrutiny that’s brought to bear on actors, on directors, on painters, on musicians, on comic-strip artists. Maybe they feel lucky that Manny Farber has never read them and therefore doesn’t have an opinion on them.
THERE’S BEEN A LOT of talk about Manny’s desire to nail things. The first time we ever met was in the hotel where he and Patricia stay when they come to New York. And we sat down to talk. And there was a woman playing a harp in the background. God knows why at two o’clock in the afternoon on a Saturday there was a woman playing a harp in the middle of the hotel, which was deserted.
But we’re sitting there having our coffee and talking. And every once in a while Manny would stop in the middle of a sentence and say something like, “Gee that harp, the way that it drags. It’s like she’s one note behind the melody, and she’s really supposed to be there”–and he kept working at it throughout the conversation until he finally nailed what it was about this harp player that was driving him bananas.
WHEN YOU START TO READ one of Manny Farber’s pieces, you have no clear sense of where he’s going to take you. He jumps right into the surface of a movie, and you’re looking around to see where he is going to pop up next, to see what he is going to come up with. He comes up with dazzling arguments and delightful turns of phrase. It’s constantly surprising.
I think that sense of surprise is matched by few critics. The other critic who shares that quality is Farber’s friend and colleague Pauline Kael, but he is even more freewheeling and wild in the way he makes connections. That’s probably why his work feels so fresh, even today.
WHEN YOU’RE READING Jean-Luc Godard’s film criticism and he’s talking about, say, a camera movement in a Sam Fuller movie, you’re thinking, well, it’s not a surprise that this guy would go on to become a director and, in fact, use camera movements exactly like that. What Manny did, by contrast, was to actually describe the movie. So if you’re reading his pieces from the ’60s, like “Cartooned Hip Acting” or “The Decline of the Actor,” he’s describing the changes that were seeping into the way movies were being made and the way things were being visualized–the differences in acting, the way that the actor was used in film in the ’30s and ’40s as opposed to the ’60s, when, as he says of Antonioni, or of the John Huston movie Freud, the actors are reduced to patches of light hacked out of the overall darkness of the frame.
It doesn’t matter whether you agree with what Manny has to say. I like some Antonioni movies and I like plenty of white elephant movies. But the point is, the description is the most important thing, as opposed to the value judgment.
THERE ARE TWO THINGS that stand out for me in Negative Space and have for over thirty years now. One is a passage where Farber is talking about the best films of 1951. The last one he mentions is “a Chuck Jones animated cartoon–the name escapes me,” and he goes on and describes it. He doesn’t even bother to ask somebody what it was called, let alone make a phone call or look it up. Just what the hell.
The other is where Farber is complaining about some movie, and he says, “It isn’t sustained.” Then there’s a parenthetical that says, “But how many movies since Musketeers of Pig Alley have been sustained?” What was really scary to me about that line, and it’s scary today, is that never having seen Musketeers of Pig Alley, I didn’t know if this was a joke or if, in fact, it’s the only movie in eighty years that’s been sustained. I still don’t know. So you can dive into this book, and, if you are like me, you will never get out.
Arquivo da categoria: Crítica
Trechos de um debate sobre Farber:
Farber, meu crítico de cinema favorito, morreu ontem. Tinha 91 anos e não escrevia desde 1977, mas seguia com sua carreira de pintor.Aqui um link para um artigo do Jonathan Rosenbaum sobre sua relaçaõ com Farber, e abaixo republico uma sério de excertos que já tinha postado aqui no blog:
A director who made at least twenty box-office gold mines since 1926 is going to repeat himself, but the fact is that Howard Hawk’s films are as different as they’re similar. In each action film, he’s powerfully interested in the fraternal groups that he sets up, sticking to them with an undemonstrative camera that is always eye level and acute on intimate business, and using stories that have a straight-ahead motion and develop within a short span. The point is that each picture has a widely different impact: from the sulphurous lighting and feverish style of Scarface to the ignorant blustering of John Wayne in a soft Western that doesn’t have any pace at all.
Chaga de Fogo (51)
Question: Could misanthropic filmmakers peddle this nonsense without a Douglas – or, before him, a Widmark, or, before that, a Muni – to serve as chief huckster?
But it plays the same hoax on its audience, transforming a sordid locale with full-color effects that seem so wrong one suspects a writer and director of selling out everything they know in order to dislodge the spectator’s eyeballs – and reason.
Don Siegel (69)
Siegel has a way of suggesting chains of rapport and intimate knowledge, from a police commissioner down to the pimp and teenaged thrill addict in the hinterlands of Brooklyn. Much of the interest comes from the swift connection between weirdly separated types. A Tough Manhattan prostitute walks into the hotel room of a just arrived Phoenix cop: “Hi, sugar, will you zip me up?” The opening of Coogan’s Bluff is a slambang parody of Kubrick’s 2001 start: space-devouring images, a sheriff’s jeep whipping across the desert floor, and a revaged-faced Indian hopping around hills, setting up his arsenal to destroy the world as the jeep approaches. The first line of dialogue has a funny intimacy that establishes the sheriff’s snide antihero character in seven small words: “Ok chief, put your pants back on” and the pants fly into the shot, landing at the feet of a most eccentric Apache – very stocky, battered face, hair cut with a tomahawk.
Samuel Fuller (69)
Fuller is typically enthralled by material that George Stevens or Capra would consider hopelessly drab. He makes great scenes out of an aged woman¿s talk about her fatigue. A conventional scene of spies questioning an unwitting accomplice becomes the meanest hotel scene, reminiscent of Diane Arbus’s camera eye, her obsession with pickin-up the down side of American life.
Federico Fellini (66)
Fellini is the only enthusiast for old Hollywood Muzak who doesn’t believe in syncopation or its absence. A sort of mentholated accordion sound (like rain with dead raindrops) is bent forward and moved fast, but it doesn’t have any beat.
Richard Burton em Quem Tem Medo de Virginia Woolf? (66)
That the all-important George name is screamed, belched, panted at a non-George shows once again that movies must not be read as stories. The mangled name (even Miss Taylor yowls or jowls it, seeming not to know who it belongs to) is never acted by its supposed owner, a cyclonic acting-machine named Richard Burton. Burton is pleasing, but the emerging character is not Albee’s, or Martha’s, George. This is not to say that Burton, who is far ahead of his co-workers in this movie, doesn’t add up to intensely absorbing , complex terrain. Alongside the mushy Taylor performance, Burton is without self-consciousness as a drinker, and, unlike his wife, who moves like a three-dimensional playing card, he fills a scene with body, talk, face. Everything flows around Burton, though at no point is he a masochistic, mediocre ultimate in soft, ineffectual husbands.
Meu Ódio será tua Herança (69)
What is unique in The Wild Bunch is its fanatic dedication to the way children, soldiers, Mexicans looked in the small border towns during the closing years of the frontier. An electric thrill seems to go through the theater when Lucien Ballard’s camera focuses on groups of kids: two pale blonde children, straight and sort of stiff, holding on to each other in the midst of a gun holocaust. There are others crouched down next to buildings, staring out and crying. It’s remarkable enough to focus on kids in shoot-en-up, but the Ballard-Peckinpah team, without condescending to the Amishlike children, get this electricity with positions, the coloring of hair, hats. These rough Pershing uniforms have being in westerns like Rossen’s Cordura, but here there is a crazy fanaticism woven into the cloth and shapes.
Sem Destino (69)
The film is voyeurish, fondling showcase for two new beautifully tanned nonactors, a nice unpretentious boy, and a blonde slim animal who barely accompanies her clothes through a whitewashed Antonioni island.
Jean-Luc Godard (69)
As always, Godard’s soundtrack is distinctive: sporadic, unsettling, and, as with the visual material, apt to issue from any source. Does anyone else use sound as totally filmic weapon?
Jean-Marie Straub e Danielle Hulliet (75)
In the past, this forbiddingly austere filmmakers – who have found a way in films to illustrate the conflict between the necessity to understand one’s own time in social and economic terms, and the infinity of silence toward which great art tends – have made the soundtrack the major element in their films. The delicious and joyful Moses and Aaron, however, is a very sensual experience, from its voluptuous 360-degree pan around the oval shaped Roman arena in the Abruzzi mountains to the Cezanne-like sculptural insistences which make every crack in the arena’s walls seem extraordinary, a physical reality that reverberates in the mind.
Taxi Driver (77)
Taxi Driver is always asserting the power of playing both sides at the box-office dollar: obeisance to the box-office provens, such as concluding on a ten-minute massacre, a sex motive, good guys vs. bad guys violence, and casting the obviously charismatic De Niro to play a psychotic racist nobody. On the other coin side, it’s ravishing the auteur box of sixties best scenes, from Hitchcock’s reverse track down a staircase from the Frenzy brutality, though Godard’s handwriting gig flashed across the entire screen, to several Mike Snow inventions. One thing that stands out is that many of the new demons in Hollywood are flourishing inside a Bastardism. They are still deep within the Industry and its Star-Genre hypocrisies, and at the same time they have been indelibly touched by the process-oriented innovations which began with Breathless. The result: a new hybrid film that crosses a mythcized genre film with a mushroomed aestheticism which (while skimping the material of psychosis, prostitution, taxi work, the celebrity urge) shows a new sophistication about pace, camera, and organizing. It’s revealing that the Taxi Driver political scenes – from the office comedy between Shepard and Albert Brooks to the speech in Columbus circle – are very bland and stock. Why should a movie that is so anti-American go so dull when it hits a glib phony populist running for President? Busy building the old loner character who never asks for anything, NYC as a dead sea of garbage in the Fritz Lang manner, the girl-boy gag charm from the screwball era, the crew’s mind comes up empty one the film’s one area that rises above the working-class milieu, that is free of the city as sewer metaphor. Empty politics are more of an US tragedy than the lone assassin. Why is all the attention going toward the De Niro charm as displaced country boy who is out of his depth, unless the authors are obsessed by Industry staples?