Thursday, April 04, 2013

Roger Ebert, 1942-2013

Story here.
Open Thread. Memories, favorite writing, anything welcome.

The last two paragraphs of his "Great Movies" essay on Fellini's La Dolce Vita. Says more about life than the film, as all criticism should aspire:

"Movies do not change, but their viewers do. When I saw "La Dolce Vita'' in 1960, I was an adolescent for whom "the sweet life'' represented everything I dreamed of: sin, exotic European glamour, the weary romance of the cynical newspaperman. When I saw it again, around 1970, I was living in a version of Marcello's world; Chicago's North Avenue was not the Via Veneto, but at 3 a.m. the denizens were just as colorful, and I was about Marcello's age.

When I saw the movie around 1980, Marcello was the same age, but I was 10 years older, had stopped drinking, and saw him not as a role model but as a victim, condemned to an endless search for happiness that could never be found, not that way. By 1991, when I analyzed the film a frame at a time at the University of Colorado, Marcello seemed younger still, and while I had once admired and then criticized him, now I pitied and loved him. And when I saw the movie right after Mastroianni died, I thought that Fellini and Marcello had taken a moment of discovery and made it immortal. There may be no such thing as the sweet life. But it is necessary to find that out for yourself."


Justin said...

I just read this, and I think it exemplifies everything his writing was about and everything I valued him for: "'Kindness' covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out."

Andreas said...

I started reading a lot of Roger Ebert back in high school: his Great Movies series, Awake in the Dark, his books of pans, anything I could get my hands on.

Of course he introduced me to a lot of masterpieces, but more than any single opinion it was his style, his sensibility that I enjoyed. Sincere, lucid, and like you said up there, reaching for something beyond the movie at hand.

I remember disagreeing with him a lot, sometimes vehemently. But that couldn't matter less, because his lifetime of accomplishments goes so far beyond an individual thumb up or down.

He established the film criticism atmosphere that everyone my age grew up with. His love for and optimism about movies defined my understanding of what makes a good critic. For that, I'll always be grateful.