We were all very sad when the great Expressionist painter and film critic Manny Farber died this summer, but it gave many of us the impetus to revisit (or look for the first time at) his enduring, protean film criticism, with its deeply felt sense for film as a primarily visual medium, sharp ear for truth and phoniness in little bits of business, and rambunctious, frequently assaultive evalutions. He had the kind of iconoclastic lists of likes and dislikes that’re only possible from somebody who’s really thought through his personal feelings about what movies do and how, but man did he call some winners in the air. As you can tell, of course, from the tribute series that starts tonight at the Walter Reade, organized by his friend and protege Kent Jones.
It’s a varied series consisting of movies you should really see if you haven’t — he loved the easy talk of Hawks, the unpretentious atmosphere of Walsh and Ray, and the efficiency of their heir Don Siegel; the “freshness” and turbulent humor of Looney Tunes; the life within the high-cult constructions of Resnais and Roeg; all-American Sturges and in-the-moment truthful Ozu and Bresson and Scorsese. This series is the first time I’ve ever seen D.W. Griffith paired with Michael Snow; from the program — and from the Farber-on-Farber doc Negative Space with Untitled: New Blue, Paul Schrader’s film about the Farber painting he owns — you can get an idea of the fearsomely intuitive movie mind we’re dealing with here.