MOVIES AS POLITICS by Jonathan Rosenbaum


Email this review


 A spirited, frequently tendentious, collection of essays and reviews dissecting some of the more notable films of the last 20 years. While most film critics tend to hide their ideological biases behind the Oz curtain of objectivity, Rosenbaum (Moving Places, 1980, etc.), a film critic at the Chicago Reader, freely confesses his numerous ideological inclinations. This can lead to a distracting emphasis on autobiography, but it also allows us to see how and why Rosenbaum arrived at some of his more iconoclastic opinions: Movies today ``are designed to splinter and isolate us from one another, not draw us together. Apparently someone figured out that more money could be made that way.'' He has a real talent for deconstructing movies, elucidating their subtler meanings, exposing the xenophobic impulses behind Star Wars, for example, or the radical, democratizing impulse behind the compositions in Jacques Tati's Playtime. Yet Rosenbaum rarely falls into the traps of shrill polemicizing or academic esotericism awaiting those who snub the mainstream. He has a buff's genuine love of movies and seems to have seen almost everything (his analysis of the seven versions of Orson Welles's Mr. Arkadin is particularly revealing). But his relentless resistance to ``pure,'' nonpolitical aesthetic values, particularly in Hollywood films, seems unnecessarily limiting. His left-leaning politique des auteurs stance anchors his criticism, it also means his aesthetics tend to echo the old Marxian preoccupation with social utility--a work of art's real worth resides in its political attitudes. Typically, he writes of forcing himself to resist his gut-level enjoyment of Forrest Gump in order to focus on its political failings. The slippery-slope danger here, of course, is that art becomes valued only as propaganda. First-rate film criticism labored by second-rate social analysis.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-520-20614-2
Page count: 343pp
Publisher: Univ. of California
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1997


IndieTHE DIGITAL WOMAN by Orit  Fussfeld Cohen
by Orit Fussfeld Cohen
NonfictionZONA by Geoff Dyer
by Geoff Dyer