Acclaimed film critic Stanley Kauffmann, whom the late Roger Ebert called “the most valuable film critic in America,” passed away from pneumonia earlier today. He was 97.
As Variety notes, Kauffmann may not be the most famous of the “Film Generation” critics (who include Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris), but his wit, insight and erudition – not to mention the assured manner with which this author of several novels and plays wrote euphonic, prose-like reviews – has earned him the mantle of cult favorite. His career included a stop as chief drama critic for The New York Times and a long-held, beloved position as film critic for The New Republic. Kauffmann initially started off as an editor at Bantam Books, however. It wasn’t until he read a film review by William Tory of The Nation during the early 1930s that Kauffman came to appreciate the literary possibilities of film criticism. The realization that movies were as legitimate an art form as theater or books and so worthy of serious criticism was a revelation.
“I’m not sure that my jaw actually dropped, but that’s the feeling I remember,” Kauffmann wrote.
To cull through and annotate the very best of Stanley Kauffmann’s extensive film oeuvre would be a Sisyphean, though worthy, task. In the interests of remembering this accomplished forerunner of the work we love – film reviewing – however, we have compiled a brief if eccentric list (admittedly skewed toward my own tastes) of several of his reviews.
The following is a sampling of Kauffmann’s opinions on both famous and smaller works spanning the 1960s to the present day:
8 ½ (The New Republic, 1963)
My Fair Lady (The New Republic, 1964)
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (NYT, 1966)
The Departed (The New Republic, 2006)
Amour/Barbara/Beasts Of The Southern Wild (The New Republic,
Do you have favorite Stanley Kauffmann pieces of your own? We'd love to hear - and post! - your top reviews.