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Sight and Sound (2002) - Raymond Durgnat




Film critic Raymond Durgnat died on May 19 2002. Durgnat is profiled.


American critic Andrew Sams once said there were only two British film critics of note, Raymond Durgnat and O.O. Green - a pointed compliment since 'O.O. Green' was Durgnat's pseudonym. And yet it's salutary to realise that many readers of even this magazine may be unfamiliar with this extraordinary writer. Unlike Pauline Kael, to whom so many tributes have been paid in recent months, Durgnat had no outlet in the mainstream press and did not aspire to be an opinion-former. Yet the body of work he produced is arguably unsurpassed by any film critic or academic of his generation.

What is most striking about Durgnat's writing is its range. He published 12 books between 1966 and 1975. They include appreciations of a canonical director (Renoir, 1974) and of two arthouse experimentalists (Franju and Bunuel both 1967) as well as a seminal study of Hitchcock (The Strange Case of Alfred Hitchcock, 1974). There were also two explorations of cinema and sexuality (Eros in the Cinema, 1966; Sexual Alienation in the Cinema, 1971) in addition to pioneering accounts of British cinema (A Mirror for England, 1970) and Hollywood comedy (The Crazy Mirror, 1969).

Another kind of range is evident too. In Films and Feelings (1967) and a series of subsequent essays, Durgnat described the cinema in general aesthetic terms, theorising the interrelationship of film, spectator, environment and industry. He never saw a film as merely a text, divorced from its audience. Indeed he said th...

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