Anthony Lane Doesn’t Read Movie Reviews

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01/14/2009 5:00 PM |

Mind you, anybody who goes to a double bill of "Che" expecting a handsome survey of his life, as I did, will be surprised by what’s not there.

From the adorable Anthony Lane’s review of Che, in which he goes on to explain that Che is a biopic-by-omission, comprised of two compare-and-contrast war movies, and leaves out a lot of political stuff, and biographical complications, in favor of process.

Che was perhaps the most-discussed film of last year’s Cannes and New York Film Festivals. Anyone who read even a cursory account of the movie — even if you’re the kind of person who avoids reading other critics until after filing a review, lest they cloud your own perspective — would know this, about this movie.

Yes yes he’s orienting his readership, which probably doesn’t read any movie critics except Anthony Lane — he’s the favorite film critic of people who don’t care about film criticism. (Though this doesn’t explain why his review doesn’t attempt to engage with the movie — which I should say, to clarify my motives her, I didn’t particularly like — on its own terms. But that’s not what I’m particularly irritated about, I’m particularly irritated about this:) He’s the favorite film critic of people who don’t care about film criticism, apparently, because he doesn’t really care about it, either. If you’re interested in movies, you engage in the discussion around them. If it’s your job to be interested in movies… Whatever, he’s a clever guy, a cute writer, a good guy to have on your side in an argument. But he’s a belle-lettrist who writes about movies, and I wish people who talk about my profession would dissuade themselves of the notion that it’s the same profession he’s in.

4 Comment

  • Absolutely, and this is no new realization. I’ve always seen Anthony Lane as less of a film critic and more of a cultured cocktail party host serving “bon mots.” His prose is certainly fluid, but occasionally he’ll deliberately misunderstand a film in order to deliver a punchline.

  • I think it was one of the best film critics in this fair city who once said of Anthony Lane: “He’s a stand-up comedian. And not a very good one.”

  • Maybe he should have waited 50 years to write the review?

  • Love Anthony Lane, and no, he’s not the only critic I read. Why do I love him? Partly because he *is* a pretty funny comedian, actually, and partly because even though he will stop fifty feet out of his way for a joke, he also frequently nails the heart of a film. To distill something to its essence in humorous form is no mean feat. “Biopic-by-omission?” Spot on, and hilarious.

    Yes, other types of film criticism are also very important, and yes, Lane only does his Lane thing, but the acerbic wit