Daily Archives: February 5, 2019

Redirecting the Canon

From the Chicago Reader (August 9, 1996). — J.R.

Red Hollywood

Rating *** A must see

Directed and written by Thom Andersen and Noël Burch

Narrated by Billy Woodberry.

By Jonathan Rosenbaum

When Peter Wollen wrote about canon formation in the English film magazine Sight and Sound three years ago, he conceptualized “a motley set of cultural gate-keepers and taste-makers.” Archivists come first, determining which films to acquire, preserve, and screen; then come the academics and critics, singling out the touchstones and masterpieces; they’re followed by filmmakers and, finally, the audience. As Wollen notes, “The process of cultural negotiation among these many gate-keepers of taste results not only in the surface phenomena of lists and programs, but also in the crystallization of an implicit aesthetic paradigm at a deeper level.”

I can think of several sources critical to the formation of my own canon. When I was in my early teens, the only sources I could find were library books like Arthur Knight’s The Liveliest Art, which is useful as a beginner’s survey, and Agee on Film, which is hampered by its limited coverage. During my freshman year in college I purchased my first film magazine: the Winter 1961-’62 issue of Sight and Sound, which contained the results of an international poll of critics about the ten best movies ever made; I resolved to see as many movies on the composite and individual lists as possible.… Read more »