Crit­i­cal ac­claim for a true orig­i­nal

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - News - Don­ald Clarke on film

Ever since David Thom­son aban­doned him­self to the full-time ado­ra­tion of Ni­cole Kid­man, the ti­tle of world’s great­est film writer has been up for grabs. Sadly, many wise peo­ple’s favourite for the job, the patho­log­i­cally iras­ci­ble, cre­atively per­verse Jonathan Rosen­baum, has just writ­ten his last col­umn for the dis­tin­guished freesheet, the Chicago Reader.

Rosen­baum, the child of cin­ema own­ers, grew up in Alabama and honed his ec­cen­tric taste while work­ing as an as­sis­tant to Jac­ques Tati, the great French di­rec­tor, and as a re­searcher in the Bri­tish Film In­sti­tute.

When he vis­ited Dublin a few years ago to pro­mote his book Movie Wars: How Hol­ly­wood and the Me­dia limit what Films we can see, he en­thu­si­as­ti­cally de­rided the stan­dard of much con­tem­po­rary film jour­nal­ism.

“Well, if one is se­ri­ous as a critic, one should be say­ing: ‘How does this fit in with the his­tory of cin­ema?’” he told me. “Of course, if you’re not aware of the his­tory of cin­ema, then you can’t do that.”

Rosen­baum has never been back­ward in declar­ing his dis­likes – Mi­ra­max, Cannes, Sun­dance, vir­tu­ally ev­ery film writer of any promi­nence – but his writ­ings are most no­table for pro­mot­ing un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated films from all cor­ners of the world. He was an early cham­pion of Ab­bas Kiarostami and Hou Hsiao-Hsien, but was happy to tell me that one of his favourite films of the 1990s is still Joe Dante’s Mati­nee.

Hap­pily, al­though he has van­ished from the Reader, Rosen­baum’s mus­ings are still widely avail­able on the in­ter­net. To get some sense of his sin­gu­lar in­cli­na­tions, have a glance at his list of 1,000 es­sen­tial films. Frank Tash­lin gets four nods, but Martin Scors­ese gets just one (for The King of Com­edy). Hur­rah for orig­i­nal think­ing.

View Rosen­baum’s 1,000 at www.al­so­like life.com/FilmDiary/ rosen­baum.html

King of crit­i­cism: Jonathan Rosen­baum

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