Manny Farber’s criticism was art in itself.
Feb 8, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 20 • By SONNY BUNCH
Farber’s occasional lapses into reactionary vitriol are all the more delicious since he was a man of the left, having applied for membership in the Communist Party in his twenties and serving as film critic for publications like the New Republic and the Nation. Refusing to get swept up by a film’s message is a lost trait he shared with other giants of the period: Andrew Sarris and Pauline Kael would occasionally betray a similar contempt for moralizing at the movies—a far cry from modern critics who heap praise on James Cameron’s Avatar explicitly because of its overt left/liberal/religio/environmental silliness.
In an age when criticism has come to be seen as an expendable luxury—it’s pleasant to recall the age of Manny Farber, when a challenging writer was encouraged to treat popular culture with the seriousness it deserves.
Sonny Bunch writes on culture and politics at the blog Conventional Folly.