Guide Essential Cinema: On the Necessity of Film Canons

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Rosenbaum, J. Baltimore and London: John Hopkins University. Schrader, P.

Essential Cinema: Buy Essential Cinema by Rosenbaum Jonathan at Low Price in India |

Szaniawski, J. Den Tandt ed. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang Publishing. Histoire du cinema. Bloom, H. New York: Harcourt Brace. Corliss, R. Gazda, J. Uwagi o ankiecie.

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Pietrasik, Z. Sadoul, G.

Netography all sites were accessed on What is most impressive about Rosenbaum's writing is his adeptness at handling discussion of all the varied aspects of film. Equally comfortable in aesthetic discussion as he is delineating the social or moral problems posed by a specific work, Rosenbaum is able to effortlessly call on a vast historical knowledge to reinforce his points, but is equally at ease engaging in a casual address to the reader. Not afraid to insert himself into his reviews, Rosenbaum is also the most honest of film critics.

Sight & Sound and the (Arguably) Ossified Canon

If every critic necessarily brings his own biases to his writing, Rosenbaum argues, it is better for the critic to foreground these biases by taking a candid approach and, rather than pretending to speak objectively, inform the reader of his unique background which has shaped his attitudes towards film. Active in criticism since the s, Rosenbaum had refined his critical approach by the s, resulting in a perfect mix of academic and popular writing that is not afraid to bring in comparison to literary masters like Faulkner, but is always written in clear, straightforward prose that, even when used in the service of complex arguments, is as easy to follow as the most simplistic of mainstream capsule reviews.

His discussions of individual films bring in a wide variety of historical and extra-textual perspectives and are always filled with perceptive analysis.


Although well versed in theory, Rosenbaum never allows these analyses to spill over into academic buzzspeak. This refinement of his approach, which filtered out some of the academic indulgences that tended towards overrepresentation in his past writings, marks Essential Cinema as his finest work, a collection of the best of his mature criticism.

Among the best pieces in the book is a discussion of Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver which considers the contributions of the work's four "auteurs" in shaping the morally problematic film.

1881 Essential Films Canon

Interestingly, Rosenbaum includes composer Bernard Hermann among these auteurs along with Scorsese, screenwriter Paul Schrader, and star Robert DeNiro , a figure not normally considered an important factor in the film's creation but who, Rosenbaum shows, was as influential as the other four in shaping audience reaction to the work. Rosenbaum's discussion of the film's score is one of the best analyses of film music in recent memory, canny in its understanding of the different threads of Hermann's work and the different effects they have on the viewer's understanding of the film.

Rosenbaum's skilled analyses of four aspects of the cinematic art, composing, directing, acting, and screenwriting and his understanding of how these often contradictory forces contribute to the shaping of the final work, create a unique and unusually perceptive reading of an important, but problematic film. Rosenbaum shows how Paul Schrader's original script, which portrays the Travis Bickle character DeNiro as a highly questionable protagonist is glossed over by the romantic score, the arty direction, and the charismatic star performance which transforms a racist, misogynistic serial killer into a hero.

The film's ending which portrays Bickle in this heroic light may be intended as ironic, but the contributions of Hermann and DeNiro tend to obscure this ironic intention, an irony lost on many viewers who tend to view the charismatic Bickle with admiration. Although Schrader may be the least willing of the four "auteurs" to let Bickle off the hook, he too contributes to this whitewashing of the character by putting all the racist sentiments that Bickle obviously feels in the mouths of supporting characters.

Rosenbaum's perceptive analysis is one of the best pieces ever written on the film and illustrates both the work's problematic moral program and accounts for the lasting appeal of the Travis Bickle character, an appeal most evident in the continuing popularity of his famous and much imitated "you talkin' to me" speech. Many of Rosenbaum's other pieces deliberately spotlight such lesser-known but important cinematic figures as Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Edward Yang, and Joris Ivens.

Long a proponent of an inclusive view of world cinema, Rosenbaum's writings represent an important antidote to the increasingly myopic cinematic view of American criticism.

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An early champion of Taiwanese and Iranian film, Rosenbaum's repeated efforts to promote these national cinemas have gone a long way towards making cinephiles aware of two of the world's most creative film centers. Not afraid to take what he calls the "media-industrial complex" to task, Rosenbaum has in the past most notably in his book Movie Wars exposed the institutions the major studios, film distributors, mainstream newspapers and magazines that have prevented the works of these filmmakers from achieving wider recognition in America.

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In this work, he largely refrains from the sort of invective rightfully directed at these institutions, but serves a similarly admirable purpose by promoting these lesser known works many of which are unavailable on video in the US and including them in his canon. Needless to say, any reader will make his own share of discoveries by reading Rosenbaum's work; both the author's vast knowledge of all forms of cinema and his enthusiasm for many lesser known films means that even a knowledgeable reader will encounter much that is foreign to his cinematic worldview.

This process of discovery is one of the true pleasures of cinephilia, a pleasure in which Rosenbaum delights and imparts to the reader on every page of his remarkable book.

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