THE NATIONAL SOCIETY OF FILM CRITICS ON MOVIE COMEDY by Stuart & Elisabeth Weis--Eds. Byron

THE NATIONAL SOCIETY OF FILM CRITICS ON MOVIE COMEDY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The National Society of Film Critics, an organization made up of regular reviewers for general-interest periodicals, was, like many of us, having financial difficulties, so Chairperson Penelope Gilliatt of The New Yorker came up with the idea of compiling a selection of members' writings; the happy result is this volume, which examines film comedy from Allen (Woody) to Zeppo (Marx), with stops at Chaplin, Lubitsch, Brooks, Simon, Renoir, Wertmuller, Lester, and many, many more. Attempts to dissect comedy can result in a cadaver on the operating table, but no malpractice need be alleged here. First, as the editors point out, the selections represent immediate responses and as such tend to avoid the moribund intellectual theorizing that afflicts so much of the work of film scholars, who take their comedy very seriously indeed. Second, they represent a wide range of opinion, and no single selection is long enough to become tedious (with the possible exception of Molly Haskell's humorless analysis of sexism in silent comedy, which isn't that long but manages to be tedious nevertheless). Third, the level of writing and analysis is consistently high yet suitable for the nonexpert. Four stars to Ms. Gilliatt for her moving interview with Buster Keaton, aged 68, two years before his death, which tells us more about the nature of Keaton's special brand of comedy than a score of doctoral theses. Let's hope that solvency doesn't prevent the Society from turning out more studies like this one.

Pub Date: Jan. 19th, 1976
Publisher: Grossman/Viking