Much of the film talk that circulated the web yesterday was justly focused on the passing of Andrew Sarris, who, over the course of his 83 years, put together a reputation and a body of work that few film critics can so much as hold a candle to. Despite having written an essay on Sarris’s enormously influential “Notes on the Auteur Theory,” his 1962 essay that orchestrated the movement of the director-as-author mindset into the United States, back in December — and also having researched much more of his writings in other spaces — I still feel as if I’ve only scratched the surface on a career that I’ll probably grow more and more familiar with throughout the years.
I haven’t, to put it in other words, reached that point of dissection and exposure where discussing a person’s lifelong output feels like second nature, and that’s why I’m resisting the thought of putting together a more extended obituary in the man’s favor. Rather, I’d like to single out those few pieces that brought me to that place of recognition — that place where you feel Sarris’s own spirit emanating from the words. By no means, however, have I turned through them all, so if you’ve encountered any worth-reading pieces, do share them below.
First is the opening graph of Todd McCarthy‘s very heartfelt write-up, which communicates that touching notion of admitting an icon’s role in one’s own carved path:
“Andrew Sarris was the man who taught me how to do what I do. Without him, I would never have experienced the cinema in the way that I have or been provided with such an inspiring road map to pursue what, for all of us in the critical and historical film world, is the endless quest for discovery of little-known works and artists.”
Then there’s the conclusion of Roger Ebert‘s piece, because he always seems to know just the right way to put a stamp on things. As lovely an anecdote as anyone could hope to have written about them:
“I remember him the year ‘Apocalypse Now’ was being premiered at Cannes. A half-dozen American critics were invited to visit Francis Coppola on his yacht and talk about his film. That was the fateful night he expressed his doubts about its ending. Coppola told us he considered Cannes his ‘out of town try-out.’ Sarris asked, ‘Where’s town?’”
Also notable is Michael Powell‘s New York Times piece, which, though a much less personal endeavor, remains wonderfully informative:
“Mr. Sarris’s book ‘The American Cinema: Directors and Directions 1929-1968′ stands as his magnum opus. If Ms. [Pauline] Kael more often won points as the high stylist, Mr. Sarris was cerebral and analytic, interested always in the totality of a film’s effect on its audience and in the sweep of a director’s career.”