By James Agee
James Agee dropped at endure all his ethical strength, slashing wit, and boundless interest within the feedback and journalism that tested him as one of many commanding literary voices of the USA at mid-century. In 1944 W. H. Auden referred to as Agee's movie stories for The kingdom "the such a lot impressive commonplace occasion in American journalism today." these columns, in addition to a lot of the motion picture feedback that Agee wrote for Time via lots of the Forties, have been accumulated posthumously in Agee on movie: experiences and reviews, absolutely the main influential writings on movie via an American.
Whether reviewing a Judy Garland musical or a wartime documentary, assessing the impression of Italian neorealism or railing opposed to the compromises in a Hollywood version of Hemingway, Agee consistently wrote of flicks as a pervasive, profoundly major a part of sleek lifestyles, a brand new paintings whose classics (Chaplin, Dovzhenko, Vigo) he respected and whose betrayal within the pursuits of trade or propaganda he usually deplored. If his widespread disappointments may be registered in acid tones, his enthusiasms have been expressed with passionate eloquence. This Library of the US quantity supplementations the vintage items from Agee on movie with formerly uncollected writings on Ingrid Bergman, the Marx Brothers, Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat, Vittorio De Sica's Shoeshine, and a wealth of alternative cinematic matters.
Agee's personal paintings as a screenwriter is represented by means of his script for Charles Laughton's distinct and haunting masterpiece of Southern gothic, The evening of the Hunter, tailored from the radical by means of Davis Grubb. This assortment additionally comprises examples of Agee's masterfully probing reporting for Fortune-on topics as different because the Tennessee Valley Authority, advertisement orchids, and cockfighting-and a sampling of his literary reports, between them appreciations of William Faulkner, Virginia Woolf, S. J. Perelman, and William Carlos Williams.
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Additional resources for Agee: Film Writing and Selected Journalism (Library of America)
A proper delaying of the ultrapredictable can of course be just as funny as a properly timed explosion of the unexpected. As Lloyd approaches the end of his horrible hegira up the side of the building in Safety Last^ it becomes clear to the audience, but not to him, that if he raises his head another couple of inches he is going to get murderously conked by one of the four arms ofa revolving wind gauge. He delays the evil moment almost interminably, with one distraction and another, and every delay is a suspense-tightening laugh; he also gets his foot nicely entangled in a rope, so that when he does get hit, the payoff of one gag sends him careening head downward tlirough the abyss into another.
Now he tried it just once and never again. He was by his whole style and nature so much the most deeply "silent" of the silent co medians that even a smile was as deafeningly out of key as a yell. In a way his pictures are like a transcendent juggling act in which it seems that the whole universe is in exquisite flying motion and the one point of repose is the juggler's effortless, uninterested face. Keaton's face ranked almost with Lincoln's as an early American archetype; it was haunting, handsome, almost beau tiful, yet it was irreducibly funny; he improved matters by top ping it off with a deadly horizontal hat, as flat and thin as a phonograph record.
That my own judgment, and yours, is that of an amateur, is only in part a handicap. It is also a definition. It can even be an advantage, of a sort, in so far as a professional's preoccupation with technique, with the box-office, with bad traditions, or simply with work, can blur, or alter the angle of, his own judg ment. I would talk to even so good a director as John Ford, for instance, with deep respect for him as a technician and as a se34 THE NATION 35 rious man, but I might at the same time regret ninety-nine feet in every hundred of The Grapes of Wrath^ and be able to spec ify my regret; and it would be a question entirely of the matu rity of my judgment, and not in the least of my professional or amateur standing, whether I were right or wrong.
Agee: Film Writing and Selected Journalism (Library of America) by James Agee