Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Manny Farber: “Garrulous animality and resentful wailing walls”

I clicked over to Mr. Wolcott’s this mourning to learn of the passing of Manny Farber, one of the last century’s great, most distinctive writers on movies.

Besides the general affinity a lover of film, and fine art, feels when she encounters Farber’s work for the first time, the collection of his essays in Negative Spaces has a special, quiet space on my bookshelf: Steed brought me a copy of the Studio Vista Limited London edition, 1971, back from a business trip to LA one year. He had run across it in a used bookstore between appointments. It’s not something he did often, picking up books for me, but that’s how important Manny Farber is.

This is from Farber’s introduction to Negative Spaces:

"If there were a textbook on film space, it would read: 'There are several types of movies space, the three most important being: (1) the field of the screen, (2) the psychological space of the actor, and (3) the area of experience and geography that the film covers.' Bresson deals in shallow composition as predictable as a monk’s tonsure, whereas Godard is a stunning de Stijlist using cutout figures of American flag color asymmetrically placed against a flat white background. The frame of The Wild Bunch is a window into deep, wide, rolling, Baroque space; almost every shot is a long horizontal crowded with garrulous animality.

"Jeanne Moreau, always a resentful wailing wall, works in a large space, which become empty as she devastates it with scorn."