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Manny Farber, 1917 - 2008

Posted August 25, 2008

Manny Farber (1917 - 2008)

Manny Farber

As blogs and journalists decry the death of film criticism, one real film critic died this week. On Monday 18 August, Manny Farber died at home at the age of 91. Farber was one of the original iconoclastic film critics, whose prose was often more fueled by passion than reason. Faber loved that same energy and intuition in his film, often promoting overtly popular filmmakers over art directors. Starting off as an painter, Farber turned to criticism to explore his and other's creative adventures. His style was quirky, personal, and truly unclassifiable. True to his renegade nature, he published his work in journals as diverse as Artforum, The Nation and soft-core porn rag Cavalier.

In recent days, many fans have stood up to note his passing. William Grimes, writing for the New York Times, quotes Film Society of Lincoln Center Kent Jones: "He was up there in the Clement Greenberg category as a critic, but operating on a wavelength so unusual that he was hard to peg, which is how he wanted it." But perhaps the sweetest and most comprehensive comes from Move City Indie's Ray Pride. Remembering his initial identity as an artist, Pride writes, "Farber's work is so rich with a love of the artist's process-"process-mad," he says-of the yeasty, yawping potential of rhetoric and style that it seems cheap to point out that the values he champions in the work of others shines like a beacon from almost every sentence he's put to page." Equally impassioned The Village Voice's J. Hoberman remembers how Farber shaped his own identity: "I'd like to say that I discovered him in the third-rate men's mags for which he wrote in the mid '60s-but it was actually a few years later, in the tonier pages of Artforum. In any case, I was totally hooked. Who was this guy? How did he learn to write like that? (On Siegel: "What is a Don Siegel movie? Mainly it's a raunchy, dirty-minded film with a definite feeling of middle-aged, middle-class sordidness.")"