david ehrenstein

How did you get started as a film critic?

I started writing in 1965, interviewing Andy Warhol at the old Silver Factory for “Film Culture” magazine.

 

What was your first meaningful moviegoing experience?

Singin’ in the Rain at Radio City Music Hall in 1952. It was the first movie I had ever seen.  It’s been downhill ever since.

 

What was your first published review?

Room Service(The Chelsea Girls)” Film Culture, 1966

What movie would you have liked to review had you been a critic upon its initial release?

The Palm Beach Story

 

What movie are you embarrassed to admit you love?

Thank Your Lucky Stars

 

Name a film you think everybody should see.

Good News (1947)

 

What’s the most common question you’re asked when someone discovers you’re a film critic?

“Have you ever met {insert name of popular actor or actress]?

 

What’s the most controversial review you’ve written?

The Last Temptation of Christ. I got death threats -- including one from Pat Boone.

 

Is there a genre or era you have a particular affinity for?

The 1930’s. It was the best era for filmmaking world-wide, and in Hollywood the studio system hadn’t yet turned filmmaking into an identikit assembly line. Therefore innovative films like Working Girls, Sylvia Scarlett and Love Me Tonight (to name three) were possible. 

 

What is your process in approaching a review?

Just getting the first paragraph written.

 

Do you like to discuss a movie with other critics immediately after a screening or before writing a review?

I’ll talk about films with anyone, anytime, anywhere.

 

What other film critics, past or present, do you admire?

Raymond Durgnat, Michel Mourlet, Manny Farber, Jacques Rivette, Graham Greene (his review of Wee Willie Winkie is the single greatest piece of film criticism ever written.)

 

What’s the worst film you’ve ever seen?

Without question Looker by Michael Crichton.

 

Is there a classic film you’re embarrassed to admit you’ve never seen?

Can’t think of any offhand.

 

If I weren’t a film critic, I’d be a…

Novelist.

 

In the age of digital media and blogging, where is film criticism going and where should it go?

That’s the $64,000 question. Don’t have the answer as yet.

 

To the public at large, what purpose does a professional film critic serve?

None. “That’s just your opinion,” they all say -- to which I reply “And your opinion ain’t worth shit.”

 

What’s the best part of being a film critic and the worst part of being a film critic?

The best part are the screenings. The worst part is the pay.

 

Name the worst sequel ever.

Godfather III

 

What’s the biggest misconception people have about film critics?

That all we provide are “opinions.”

 

What would you say to the old saw that critics are frustrated artists, punishing those who do for doing?

“Go fuck yourself. And I say that with love.”

 

Are movies better because of film critics?

Some of the greatest filmmakers who ever lived began as film critics. The overwhelming importance of Godard, Truffaut, Rohmer, Rivette and Chabrol speaks for itself.

 

In your opinion, have you ever written something that had a measurable impact?

See my answer to the question about the most controversial review above.

 

What advice do you have for aspiring film critics?

Avoid fan boy cinema. Try to see more silents. You must see everything you possibly can by Ozu,  Dorothy Arzner, Jacques Rivette and Patrice Chereau.

 

Has social media changed how you interact with your readers and has social media made the job of film critic easier or harder?

It hasn’t really changed very much, and the job is always hard.

     
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