On What Makes A Great Critic?

I suspect that the veneration of Pauline Kael, with her endearing fetish for the trashy and perverse, propels the false distinction in this piece between critical edge and the mere freight of learning. Kael's sharp prose and forceful personality go a long way, but the surprise of her judgments wears off when they turn out to be products of sensibility and not thought. What makes Andrew Sarris age better (to choose a well-trodden comparison) is that his systematic approach often produces results that seem every bit as spontaneous as Kael's gut reactions. The objective critics give us the added twist of the parallax view, a perspective that can be learned and tried because it's made of ideas and not impressions. The feeling of spontaneity in criticism, when it means anything, is that uncanny moment before a surprising judgment settles into its rationale.

Posted on August 17, 2011 at 2:36 pm 0