Kracauer was all that and more


Kracauer published his magnum opus, Theory of Film: The Redemption of Physical Reality, in 1960. This speculative treatise on “the intrinsic nature of photographic film” was respectfully received, at least initially; it was written up in The New York Times by both the paper’s Hollywood business reporter, Murray Schumach, and its lead critic, Bosley Crowther. The latter would subsequently cite one of Kracauer’s most flavorsome passages on the photographic qualities of the street (“the arena of fleeting impressions and chance encounters”) in writing about the use of Paris as a location in nouvelle vague films. Theory of Film was not, however, universally acclaimed. Novelist and former film critic Wallace Markfield pilloried Kracauer (and Tyler) in Commentary, once Kracauer’s prime venue, and it is fair to say that Kracauer’s reputation never quite recovered from Pauline Kael’s populist takedown, “Is There a Cure for Film Criticism?”, published in the British film journal Sight and Sound in 1962, a year before her celebrated attack in Film Quarterly on auteurism and Andrew Sarris.

more from J. Hoberman at The Nation here.