When I wrote a few months ago that I intended to continue writing after I began my new career as a special education teacher, I was grossly underestimating how much time outside the classroom I’d have to devote to teaching. I’ve spent much of the last two months planning lessons and completing sundry other paperwork. I find all this fascinating, though time-consuming. (There’s also the Chicago teachers’ strike, which is still going on as I write this and which has proved almost as time-consuming as teaching.) As a result I’ve thought less about movies than I have in years, if not decades. I’m confident that someday I’ll strike a proper balance between teaching and writing, but for now I think I need to cut out some of the latter to hone my skills in the former. This will be my last regular contribution to the Reader for a while.
I’ve written for the Reader for almost a decade, and I’m grateful to this publication for letting me pursue my interests as a critic while providing me with the best editors and coworkers I could have asked for. I’ve learned so much from being edited by J.R. Jones, Tal Rosenberg, and Aimee Levitt; and I’ve enjoyed getting to know everyone else I’ve met here. I never studied movies formally (I got my undergraduate degree in literature), but I gained much of my film education by growing up on Jonathan Rosenbaum’s writing in the Reader and by exploring Dave Kehr’s old Reader capsule reviews. From the Reader’s film section I gained a deep excitement for a wide range of movies, and I’ve felt honored to contribute to a publication that’s hosted Kehr, Rosenbaum, Jones, Fred Camper, Andrea Gronvall, Pat Graham, Lisa Alspector, and Ted Shen. These writers encouraged me through their work to embrace movies outside the contemporary U.S. mainstream and develop my sense of film history, avant-garde filmmaking, and new currents in international cinema. More importantly these writers taught me to approach film criticism as a form of literature, to never be content with turning in a mere review. Their influence has been as crucial for me as that of Andre Bazin, Susan Sontag, Manny Farber, or Raymond Durgnat.
In keeping with a theme of farewell, this week’s Movie Tuesday spotlights five capsules from the Reader archives of masterpieces that are also their director’s final features. I could have also included Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Querelle