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Andrew Sarris: Director Categories from “The American Cinema: Directors and Directions ” [Published in ]. “The American Cinema is more than . The American cinema: directors and directions, Responsibility: by Andrew Sarris. Edition: 1st Da Capo Press ed. Imprint: New York: Da Capo Press . Andrew Sarris. · Rating details · ratings · 16 reviews. “The American Cinema is the Citizen Kane of film criticism, a brilliant book that elevated American.

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Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Directors and Directions, by Andrew Sarris. Sarris’s The American Cinemathe bible of americaan studies, is a history of American film in the form of a lively guide to the work of two hundred film directors, from Griffith, Chaplin, and von Sternberg to Mike Nichols, Stanley Kubrick, and Jerry Lewis.

In addition, the book includes a chronology of the most important American films, an alphabetical list of over films with their directors and years of release, and the seminal essays “Toward a Theory of Film History” and “The Auteur Theory Revisited. Paperbackpages. Published August 22nd by Da Capo Press first published To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about The American Cinemaplease sign up.

Lists with This Adnrew. Aug 27, Jarvo rated it really liked it. This is a book based around two straightforward but powerful ideas. Secondly that this is as true of the output of the Hollywood studio system is it is of European arthouse or world cinema.

Andrew Sarris – Wikipedia

That these ideas are widely accepted now is partly a measure of the book’s success, neither idea was mainstream in American film crit This is a yhe based around two straightforward but powerful ideas. That these ideas are widely accepted now is partly a measure of the book’s success, neither idea was mainstream in American film criticism in the sixties.

The book is topped and tailed by two essays on the underlying theory, but its guts is an analysis of the work of hundreds of directors. Somewhat ammerican these are divided hierarchically beginning with a pantheon containing the best of the best, and various categories of near misses, over and under rated, also ran etc.

You can doubt the utility of such a canonical approach, but I’d argue that those in the pantheon are rightly considered elite and that Sarris’ description of their work is wonderfully insightful.

Some of the other categories are enjoyably provocative – for example I’d agree that Stanley Kubrick is overrated, but would big to differ regarding Billy Wilder or Carol Reed. Moreover as you work through directors in the lesser categories your eyes begin to glaze over. One or two paragraphs on directors you have never heard of, lists of films you will never see.

This is clearly a Herculean effort by a professional reviewer who has seen many thousands of films. So it remains an indispensable reference. A few unrelated observations. The book re-enforces that it is difficult to say where ‘American’ cinema ends or begins. The book includes some British directors largely on the basis of their British films, but had very little on American independent or avant garde film.

More interesting is the treatment of the many directors whose careers began outside of America but was continued within, which has been a staple of Hollywood since almost the beginning. This makes it clear that nationality in film is a very fluid concept.

Would Jean Renoir andrwe Max Ophuls earn a place in the pantheon on the basis a,erican their American films alone? In a couple of places the book, tantalizingly, raises the issue of the limitations of auteur theory.

The American Cinema: Directors and Directions, 1929-1968

It would be interesting to see this pursued further. Put broadly we might be happy to accept that some combination of Hitchcock, Hawks, Ford et al represent the pinnacle of American cinema not all of the most important American films were directed by the great or even the very good. This raises interesting questions about film as a collaborative medium and the te of the producer in Hollywood. The book stops at and there are some significant ways in which it has dated.


Finally there is a rather dismissive section on women directors, which, thankfully, hopelessly inadequate.

Aug 27, Hugo rated it really liked it. If part of Bazin’s “What is Cinema? It has also one the most convincing arguments for the analysis of Hollywood without falling into its homogenization xmerican of ideology, statistics, tropes and even genre analysis; what If part of Bazin’s “What is Cinema? It has also one the most convincing arguments for the analysis of Hollywood without falling into its homogenization critique of ideology, statistics, tropes and even genre analysis; what Sarris calls cinmea of the forest”.

It is his own concept of the film director, whom he says that anrdew go completely unnoticed in most cases, but could define the art of the film in some miraculous exceptions, that makes most of his comments on the lesser names rather dull The beauty of those brief essays is that, without engaging in detailed analysis, Sarris manages to describe the essence of each author by uniting a frequent technique or style with a worldview or philosophy.

Every essay on those two categories is a wonderful work of film criticism. Nov 03, Cinemike rated it it was amazing. What can one say about a book that inspired a generation of cinephiles? The American Cinema is one of those reading experiences that illuminate its subject so clearly that the subject has a ‘before’ and ‘after’ in the consciousness. From a scholarly perspective, Sarris’ method is outrageous – the dividing of film directors into wacky categories like ‘Less than meets the eye’ and ‘Strained seriousness’ – but in spite of just a few judgments that, in the course of time have been shown to be andrww What cniema one say about a book that inspired a generation of cinephiles?

From a scholarly perspective, Sarris’ method is outrageous sarrs the dividing of andfew directors into wacky categories like ‘Less than meets the eye’ and ‘Strained seriousness’ – but in spite of just a few judgments that, in the course of time have been shown to be dubious, it works! But Sarris, who was film critic in chief of Village Voice safris the time it was written, was at an intellectual level far beyond that of most film academics and he used his chatty, hip style to make his undiluted and penetrating analysis accessible to all.

The American cinema : directors and directions, in SearchWorks catalog

The book commences with “The woods and the trees”, one of the most brilliant analyses of the nature of film art in the era of the Hollywood Studio system. It asks all of the most difficult questions relating to the nature of creativity in that environment, and answers most of them with aplomb. The bulk of the book, however, is dedicated to mini-analyses of virtually every major director who ever made a film in Hollywood.

Each director is given a one- to two-page pen picture with a filmography that indicates the most important works. It sounds more like an encyclopaedia than a book to read, but Sarris’ style is so beautiful and his insights so breath-taking that few people I know treated it as anything but a virtually un-put-downable companion, which is returned to again and again.

It is not just that one likes to be reminded of Sarris’ views on this or that director or film, but it is wonderful to share the clarity of his vision in trying to put these great and not so great works into perspective. Finally, there is a chronology in which the major works of each year in American film history are listed in quasi-ascending order of importance.

SearchWorks Catalog

It is not necessary to agree with all of his judgments, but if your assessment of any of the films he really rates is greatly at odds with his, you would do well to go back and re-view the work a few times, because, like as not it will be you that has missed something important, not Sarris who has over-estimated In summary, this is the greatest work of the greatest English-speaking film critic who ever lived.


For anyone seriously interested in the art of the cinema it is indispensable. Jun 29, Keith Brinkmann rated it liked it.

It’s a good book for info on the “Pantheon” directors and for info on lesser known films, but his criticisms are usually cienma on “decency” and the necessity for films to directly address issues and ideas This is evidenced in his criticism of David Lean.

In fact, I enjoy a lot of his reasoning for praising directors, but when it comes to critiques, I feel like I am turned off by his tone. I love the films he loves, but I also love the films he hates– Lawrence of Arabia is one of my favori Dated.

I love the films he loves, but I also love the films he hates– Lawrence of Arabia is one of my favorites, for example. Also, americcan critique of Billy Wilder is weak, as well. Finally, Stanley Kubrick won in the end, in that the generation after the writing of this book was influenced greatly by his work. On one hand, he criticizes “Literary” critics for missing the mastery of the image displayed by his pantheon directors, and then is angry at Lean and Kubrick for their privileging of the image over the narrative meaning.

I’m not sure they do what he accuses them cinfma anyway. Wilder is also Canonical at this point, and his films have aged far better than most of the films from his era. The Preface to the book is killer Apr 10, Drahcir rated it it was amazing Shelves: A maerican in amerkcan yet still relevant. The most readable overview of directors – didactic but full of humour.

When you read other s film criticism this stands as a beacon. Remarkable how relevant it still is – and so much more illuminating and entertaining as a canon to be aware of than the slipshod likes of ” films to see before you die”. Oct 13, Thw Stamper rated it it was amazing. The foremost American proponent of the auteur theory, Sarris has a lot to say about which directors are over-rated and under-rated. His overall view, shared by Manny Farber, that genre films are ignored in favor of forgettable prestige movies resonated with anerican.

I can appreciate any critic that sees Howard Hawks in the upper echelon of film makers. Andred 23, Eric rated it it was amazing Shelves: Best book ever written! No other piece of writing has had such a profound impact on my life.

Nov 26, Stephen rated it it was amazing. The most efficient and learned sarrid on film I’ve ever read, Sarris’ supreme intellect shines through this collection of fiercely focused evaluations of American film’s most iconic directors.

Jul 05, Paul Secor rated it it was amazing Shelves: This was my bible when I was young and beginning to realize what films were about and what they could be. Andrew Sarris is my favorite film critic.

Mar 24, Andy rated it liked it Shelves: This greatly simplified the task of writing about film history, as it funneled the act of evaluation toward a single figure. Now the issue of credit could be set cinemw in favor of a more personal accounting: Plenty of American critics granted the adrew privilege of place, of course prestigiously, James Agee, prolifically, Manny Farber, not to mention the lively writings of Pauline Kael, who, though she considered Sarris a misfit, was basically doing what he described herein.

But I guess it was Sarris who put it all down, strove to authenticate it, and demanded that film be seen as equal to the highbrow. Little of the above is questioned today, although the age of the franchise film and decentralized production demands more exacting standards and judicious selectivity on the part of viewers.

The films that stand out today are as personal as before—no period that allows for an Inside Llewyn Davis can be that bad—but the cosmos feels more constricted, the pool of great directors shallower.