A long and thoughtful review of Thom Andersen’s book “Slow Writing” appears in the curent issue of Cinema Scope Magazine (CS73), and can be read online by following this link.
Sean Rogers writes :-
“… Slow Writing, the new collection of Andersen’s writings on cinema, is like his films: measured, political, a little bit ornery, striving to bring forward similarly obscured meanings (historical, formal, ideological, personal) from a likewise diverse body of sources. Compiling Andersen’s trickle of program notes and unpublished essays from 1966 to 1994, as well as the comparative deluge of post-Los Angeles Plays Itself work from 2005 on, Slow Writing evinces a remarkably consistent set of concerns across the 50 years of its author’s thinking about cinema. As in Andersen’s films, his subject matter is eclectic and catholic, ranging from sexploitation flicks to Ozu Yasujiro, with stops at Andy Warhol, the blacklist, and Phil Spector along the way. When his topic is narrative films, Andersen describes in detail what they’re about; when it’s avant-garde films, he explains precisely what they do. He manages to be evocative and exacting, as alert to a film’s social implications as he is to its form.”
Sean Rogers, “Hollywood, Read: Slow Writing: Thom Andersen on Cinema”, Cinema Scope, Issue 73.
Jordan Cronk of Acropolis Cinema spoke to Thom Andersen about “Slow Writing” for the Los Angeles Review of Books. The interview is a wide-ranging discussion of film criticism and Thom’s personal approach to writing. Read it online at the LARB.
“In general people don’t talk enough about chemistry when they talk about film. The essential discovery that made motion pictures possible didn’t have anything to do with devices for simulating motion or reproducing motion. They had to do with chemical processes, creating a flexible film base. That’s why I said Muybridge wasn’t an inventor of modern cinema. It was basically George Eastman. And it was a by-product of military development, another thing that should be emphasized more if you’re talking about the origins of film. Gun powder. Cellulose is gun powder, which is why it was so dangerous. ”
Thom Andersen interviewed by Jordan Cronk, Los Angeles Review of Books, 2o17
The Verso Books blog has posted online the complete text of Thom Andersen’s essay “Reagan at the Movies”. The article was originally written for Artforum magazine in 1984 but feels particularly pertinent to the current political climate. The essay remained unpublished until its recent inclusion in “Slow Writing: Thom Andersen on Cinema.” An excerpt is below, and the full article can now be read online at Verso Books.
“Some would say the problem isn’t that Ronald Reagan still likes movies, it’s the movies that he likes. But I think the commentators who find Reagan’s support of Rambo unbecoming have missed the point. Reagan’s special genius as a politician has been his ability to make ressentiment seem virtuous and respectable. People like him because he makes them feel good about their anger. This is no small achievement. He succeeds so well because the rage and frustration he expresses is felt sincerely. He managed to keep his own sense of ressentiment alive against all odds. At the height of his fame and fortune as a movie star, he was able to feel passionately and keenly the injustice of the progressive income tax (and his apparently quixotic forty-year crusade against it has finally ended in a remarkable victory — a happy ending more improbable than Jimmy Stewart’s triumph in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington). When he ranted about welfare chiselers, you knew he meant it. Her could count the dollars they were stealing from him.”
(Thom Andersen, Reagan at the Movies, 1984)
The first review of “Slow Writing: Thom Andersen on Cinema” has appeared in the October 2017 issue of Frieze, and is authored by Nick Pinkerton. Frieze subscribers can access the review online.
“Because he has never made a living as a writer, Andersen has been free to pursue a criticism of enthusiasms, though one gets a sense of how much in commercial cinema fails to meet his standards. There is a stern loftiness in his authorial voice that makes me want to quibble with his conclusions even when I happen to agree with them. Yet, Andersen’s killjoy persona is hard to square with the man who, in The Thoughts That Once We Had, pays tribute to Maria Montez in Robert Siodmak’s South Seas fantasia Cobra Woman. Andersen rebuts one reviewer’s judgement of his film’s ‘tiresomely doctrinaire; and ‘quaint’ Leftism by noting that the audience at its public screening was a young one, and I think there’s much evidence that overtly ideologically grounded criticism of the sort Andersen practises is far from dated. […]
“In his review of the 2004 book The Whole Equation: A History of Hollywood by David Thomson – a figure identified in the voice-over of Los Angeles Plays Itself of loving ‘everything about America except what’s worth loving’ – Andersen states that Thomson’s books ‘are fun to argue with.’ This is high praise of a kind that Slow Writing deserves. Andersen’s book is periodically brilliant and rarely less than absorbing; even, or perhaps especially, when you’re thinking about booting it across the room. It makes for a fine companion – and a worthy, vigorous opponent.”
—– Nick Pinkerton, Frieze, No. 190, October 2017
The October 2017 issue of The Brooklyn Rail includes an except from our recently published book “Slow Writing.” Thom Andersen’s essay on David Lamelas’ 1974 film The Desert People is reproduced in full, alongside a new introduction by Mark Webber. The complete article can also be read online on the Rail’s website.
Thom Andersen explains some of the background to this curious article in the introduction to “Slow Writing” :-
“Occasionally I did feel like writing something about one of our shows—program notes that were sometimes written afterward and never published. I wrote for myself, in a style that would now be called ‘snarky.’ Maybe the words came easy for once; all I had to do was take dictation from my unconscious. I did manage to get a review of The Desert People by David Lamelas published in the student newspaper at SUNY Buffalo, despite an evident conflict of interest. I took advantage of the connections some students in the university film society had with the newspaper, and of course I used a pseudonym. My namesake, Aurora Floyd, was the protagonist and ostensible author of a middling Victorian novel. Although I loved The Desert People and I wanted to write about it, I thought a positive review was not appropriate, given the conflict of interest, and a seemingly hostile review might attract more students to the show. It didn’t.”
(Thom Andersen, Why I Did Not Become A Film Critic, 2017)