Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Seeing motion pictures is a matter of perception; understanding them is the perception of that perception. For the American motion picture industry, the spring of 1947 was the season certain perceptions changed.

The box office receipts that peaked in 1946 began their exorable decline. Charlie Chaplin, the world’s most popular man, reintroduced himself as a serial killer in Monsieur Verdoux; the House Committee on Un-American Activities went to Hollywood to look for Communists; Darryl Zanuck bested Jack Warner for control of the title The Iron Curtain, script to follow. And in the spring two books were published that, each in its way, put the beleaguered medium on the couch and would permanently alter the way people saw it: Parker Tyler’s Magic and Myth of the Movies and Siegfried Kracauer’s From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film.

The two books were bracketed in The New York Times Book Review. Favorably considering both, albeit with certain caveats, reviewer Eric Bentley summarized their overlapping theses: “The film is the most popular art of this or perhaps any age.”


  1. “in spite of its emptiness, Teddie’s output appears to be concrete and substantial. This semblance of fullness probably results from his aesthetic sensitivity.”

    ^^^This is pretty shrewd, I think. It's too extreme -- TWA can be momentarily genuinely acute (another way of saying his sensitivity can be trusted?) before he barters it away into the Grand Philosophical Coles Notes Shortcut for People Who Fear Art/Music/Cinema blah blah.

  2. "the semblance of fullness"

    T.J. Clark says the same thing about Picasso. And see Griel Marcus on Sinatra and the Stones.
    The problem of formalism and the 20th century.
    Poetry in an age of Platonism and materialism is rhetoric for rhetoric's sake.

    I laughed when I read it but it didn't stay with me. It is now.


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