The birth and near demise of film

The birth and near demise of film
The vision of Alexander Bakshy

R. J. Cardullo (2021)

A Russian Jewish émigré who spent most of his life in England and the United States, Alexander Bakshy (1885-1949) began writing on cinema in 1913 and, working for The Nation from 1927 to 1933, became one of America’s first full-time professional film critics. Bakshy was known for his prescience in standing up, in 1929, for the future of sound film, and thus was among the more progressive cultural critics of the years between the world wars. A man who did his part in easing the movies toward acceptance as an art form, Bakshy was also an innovative theorist who applied to motion pictures the discourse of self-reflexive modernism. The film scholar R. J. Cardullo presents here a selection of Alexander Bakshy’s writing, edited, arranged, introduced, and annotated for readers of all levels. Bakshy was a “seer,” and Cardullo has seen how vital this critic was, and is, to the history—as well as future—of motion pictures, the movie industry, and visual culture itself. Accordingly, in The Birth and Near Demise of Film, he offers Bakshy’s thoughtful pieces on such significant, if not timeless, movies as Chaplin’s City Lights, Eisenstein’s Ten Days That Shook the World, Dreyer’s Passion of Joan of Arc, Clair’s Sous les toits de Paris, Pabst’s Kameradschaft, Kinugasa’s Slums of Tokyo, and Milestone’s All Quiet on the Western Front. The reader is also presented with Bakshy’s penetrating insight into influential directors like Hitchcock, Capra, Renoir, Lubitsch, Murnau, Cukor, Pudovkin, and Hawks. Bakshy was nothing if not forward-looking in his criticism (foreseeing, for example, the rise of the director-as-superstar), and this aspect of his work, as well as many others, is made all the more comprehensible, even compelling, by Cardullo’s able commentary throughout. Alexander Bakshy has been called the first important film critic, and Cardullo, himself a critic, finally gives him in this book the recognition—and respect—he deserves.

About the author: For twenty years, from 1987 to 2007, R. J. Cardullo was the regular film critic for the Hudson Review in New York. He is the author, editor, or translator of a number of books, including Teaching Sound Film (Brill, 2016), Soundings on Cinema (SUNY Press, 2008), In Search of Cinema (McGill-Queens UP, 2004), and Bazin at Work (Routledge, 1997). Cardullo took his doctoral degree from Yale and taught for four decades at Tulane, the University of Michigan, Colgate, and NYU, as well as abroad. A native of New York City, he grew up in Florida and now lives in Scandinavia.

ISBN (paper): 978-1-954623-01-9
Imprint: CDG Books
Place of Publication: New York
Number of Pages: 248
Language: English
Primary Field: Film & Television
Publication Date: 16 February, 2021 (available)

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