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Let us think of a fitting image for John Simon. The boy in class who always raises his hand when teacher asks a question? The magisterial nitpicker? Or one of the few critics left for whom art really matters? No doubt Simon would assent to the latter description, as does this reviewer after reading Simon's devastatingly grumpy attack on the Godard vogue. Andrew Sarris, for instance, links the French director with Stravinsky, Picasso, Joyce, and Eliot, a ludicrous genealogy indeed, and Simon admirably responds: ""About the only place where Godard's position might be comparable to that of the other four is on the toilet seat."" However, Private Screenings, a collection of pieces on the cinema most of which were originally published in The New Leader magazine, offers enough instances of pedantry, know-it-all chatter, and pretentious puns (""So yesterday and yesterday and yesterday creeps in this petty pace, signifying nothing"") or barbarous examples of elegance (""a trickle of homosexualized Antonionification""), to make one sympathize with the earlier mentioned images. Basically, Simon is best when dealing with subjects at some length (the dissection of Blow-Up, the valentine for Alfie) or when he describes the work of directors in an older, wiser tradition, such as Lean, Wyler, Bergman, or the earlier Welles and Fellini. In any case, an embattled conservative worth reading in a McLuhanite age.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1967
Publisher: Macmillan