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San Diego Film Critic Manny Farber’s Essays Reissued

Manny Farber: Vitalizing Space

San Diego Film Critic Manny Farber's Essays Reissued


Robert Polito, editor, "Farber on Film: The Complete Film Writings of Manny Farber"

Alex Juutilainen, filmmaker, "On Detour with Manny Farber"


A collection of essays by one of the most influential film critics of the twentieth century has come out in paperback.

"Farber On Film" includes the complete essays of San Diego's own Manny Farber. He is among a handful of film critics whose work is still referenced after their deaths, including such luminaries as Pauline Kael, James Agee and François Truffault.

Farber spent much of his later life concentrating on painting and visual art. He was a visual arts professor at UC San Diego, along with his wife, Patricia Patterson, also a renowned painter.

Farber's film critiques set the standard for a generation of artists and critics, including Pauline Kael and Susan Sontag, who called Farber, "the liveliest, smartest, most original film critic this country has ever produced."

"There was his astonishing range," said Robert Polito, editor of "Farber on Film: The Complete Film Writings of Manny Farber."

His best-known essay is perhaps "White Elephant Art vs. Termite Art." White elephant art is big, splashy, bloated. Think Elizabeth Taylor's "Cleopatra." Termite art may be a performance, perhaps even by John Wayne, or a film made by a lesser-known filmmaker, but it burrows under your skin and is not only memorable, it is art.

This NPR essay explains Farber's eye for and appreciation of termite art, but apparently (and amusingly) contains a couple of mistakes. Scroll to the bottom for Patricia Patterson's spirited response.


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