Sunday, June 24, 2018

Stanley Cavell

It has been a couple days, but I want to say something about the death of Stanley Cavell. He was, as I have said before, near and dear to my film loving heart. He was formative for me, along with Sarris and Ray Carney and Audie Bock, one of the critics who formed how I looked at and thought about films. But he was also probably definitive - one of the critics who became a constant touchstone for how I thought about film - Cavell and Bordwell, Burch, Kracauer, Pasolini.... Everything I saw, I filtered through Cavell - every comedy and melodrama at least, and those are, in the end, my favorite types of films. He was an inspiring critic, and he was a superb writer. A philosopher and a film writer, an academic - that can lead into some dark corners in the world of prose - but Cavell was very readable, without sacrificing any of his ideas. He makes sense of films he talked about in a way almost no other critics did.

Also part of one of those fun days you get in places like Cambridge. There was a night, a dozen years or so ago, when the Harvard Film Archive showed three Laura Mulvey shorts, with Mulvey speaking - and the Brattle was showing a Barbara Stanwyck double bill, Baby Face and Night Nurse, and Cavell was in the audience. Ah, the missed opportunities, I thought then.... I am lucky, too, that I did hear Cavell speaks couple times - an essay on O Brother Where Art Thou, for instance, a film he properly believed was a masterpiece. Well.

Cavell was one of the best. I will miss him, and continue to treasure his work.

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