Tag Archives: David Denby

Noted: Anthony Lane on reviewing

The New Yorker’s Anthony Lane, on the perils of reviewing:

On a broiling day, I ran to a screening of Contact, the Jodie Foster flick about messages from another galaxy. I made it for the opening credits, and, panting heavily—which, with all due respect, is not something that I find myself doing that often in Jodie Foster films—I started taking notes. These went “v. gloomy,” “odd noir look for sci-fi,” “creepy shadows in outdoor scene,” and so on. Only after three-quarters of an hour did I remember to remove my dark glasses.

Where's dat canary?

Lane began writing for The New Yorker in 1993, recruited from the “squalling pit of London journalism,” where “most newspapers are ideally read as a branch of experimental fiction,” by the magazine’s former editor, another Brit, Tina Brown. I feel sorry for his reviewing colleague, the excellent David Denby, because Lane is so funny he makes Denby’s smart reviews look turgid. Lane can provoke my helpless laughter (see his quip in another Noted about the sex life of Grace Kelly).

His highlighted bon mot and the quotes above come from his introduction to Nobody’s Perfect: Writings from The New Yorker. In it, he says, “movies deserve journalism.” His, anyway. In his corner of the pop culture merry-go-round, he poses any adult’s eternal question—how to take seriously Hollywood movies?—with the answer that, by and large, one of course doesn’t.

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Narrative needs backstory

from David Denby’s review of State of Play in the April 27 New Yorker:

“State of Play,” which was directed by Kevin Macdonald, is both overstuffed and inconclusive. As is the fashion now, the filmmakers develop the narrative in tiny fragments. Something is hinted at—a relationship, a motive, an event in the past—then the movie rushes ahead and produces another fragment filled with hints, and then another. The filmmakers send dozens of clues into the air at once, but they feel no obligation to resolve what they tell us.”

“Recent movies like “Syriana,” “Quantum of Solace,” and “Duplicity” are scripted and edited as overly intricate puzzles, and I’ve heard many people complain that the struggle to understand the plot becomes the principal experience of watching such films.”

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